03 / JUNE / 2020

How Black Culture influenced music evolution

Blues led to the rise of Rock N Roll, Jazz inspired generations of electronic DJs, and Hip-hop transformed the entire landscape of modern pop music. Black culture has contributed and endowed the music industry for a long time.

In some shape or form, it has touched almost all music genres and created many of them. The article highlights only few of the musical achievements the black community has contributed with to the evolution of our music heritage.


In 1973 DJ Kool Herc started recreating in New York the sound system parties he grew up with in Jamaica. Playing carefully selected records by James Brown, Booker T. and the MGs and others, he invented a technique he called the “Merry-Go-Round” — switching between breakbeats played on two turntables — that would mark the origin of hip-hop as we know it today.

In 1988 N.W.A. and Public Enemy started releasing tracks about life on the streets of Campton, a genre they would call reality rap but would become known in mainstream media as gangster rap. Many of hip-hop’s early stars used their amplified voices to protest the prison-industrial complex, the ongoing race disparity in America and other social issues, and the practice continues today.

In 1995 Tupac turns hip-hop into poetry. Having studied at a school for art, the rapper brought a poetic  sensibility to the genre obsessed with toughness.

In 2018 Kendrik Lamar becomes the first pop musician to be honored with the Pulitzer Prize for his studio album, DAMN


In 1927 Louis Armstrong’s ‘Hot Fives and Sevens” sessions are marked as the ones that revolutionized jazz. New Orleans’s native jazz began its transformation from the ragtime of the early 20th century to the instrumental, solo-based art form we still recognize today.

In 1950 Miles Davis launches the ‘cool jazz’ movement by putting together a nine-piece ensemble that countered the frenetic instrumentation of bebop with an introspective style influenced by classical music.


As a young girl, Sister Rosetta Nubin was a child prodigy, performing with her mother, dubbed “singing and guitar-playing miracle”. She began her recording career in 1938, when she went into a studio with Lucky Millinder’s orchestra to cut her first four songs, including “Rock Me.”  The “Godmother of Rock ’n’ Roll” went on to inspire Elvis Presley, Little Richard and many more.

 In 1956 Chuck Berry would perform first of many rock’n’roll classics, being a great influence on bands such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.


In 1936 Robert Johnson is producing some of his landmark recording as a blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter. He has inspired many of rock music’s most  influential guitarists, from Muddy Waters to Eric Clapton and Keith Richards.



In 1967 the Queen of Soul was signed with Atlantic Records becoming the Aretha Franklin we all know and love. Before dominating the pop charts with her beautiful soulful music, her vocals were used on B-side tracks that didn’t catch much attention.

James Brown exploded soul music — stretching it out, emphasizing rhythm over melody and adding layers of syncopation. In 1989 The Godfather of Soul, James Brown, becomes the most sampled artist of all time.


Bob Marley’s career started in 1963 and he quickly made reggae music and Jamaican culture known and adored worldwide.

In 1978 he was living in London because of assassination attempt in Jamaica in 1976. Jamaica was unstable because of politically controlled assorted street thugs and enforcers, but upon learning of plans for a concert intended to bring calm to a tense political climate he returned to Jamaica. Dubbed the “Third World Woodstock,” the show featured sets by Marley’s former band mates Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, as well as the unlikely occurrence of the fierce opponents Manley and Seaga shaking hands together with Bob Marley.


In 1959 the single of R&B band Fats Domino, ‘Be My Guest’, singlehandedly inspired the Jamaican R&B known as ska. Jamaicans had been listening to big-signal radio broadcasts from the Crescent City and Miami, which came in loud and clear on the island and were inspire by it.

Psychedelic rock

In 1966 the first psychedelic rock song by Byrds, ‘Eight Miles High” is released with the band members admitting that they have been listening to a lot of jazz saxophone master, John Cotrane, while recording it. The exotic sounds on his albums My Favorite Things (1960) and A Love Supreme (1964), the latter influenced by the ragas of Shankar, were source material for guitar players, even Jimi Hendrix, and others looking to improvise or “jam”

Speaking of, in 1967 Jimi Hendrix marked the birth of rock music when he ended his Monterey Pop Festival show by lighting his guitar on fire.. Artists as diverse as Miles Davis, Prince and Stevie Ray Vaughan were all deeply influenced by Hendrix’s astounding ability to treat his instrument like it was an extension of his subconscious mind.


In 1970 Nigeria native Fela Kuti developed the style of music ‘Afrobeat’ inspiring generations of international musicians, from Talking Heads to Antibalas and Tune-Yards.


In 1971 George Clinton, with his two groups Parliament and Funkadelic, took the sound of James Brown’s soul to another realm that we now call funk music. Other groups, like the Ohio Players, Earth, Wind & Fire and Kool & the Gang, helped put funk on the pop charts.


In 1973, as a competitor of Motown, Philadelphia International Records was formed by songwriters Kenny Gamble. Their label band, MFSB (Mother Father Sister Brother), created a style of dance music that combined slinky rhythms with lush orchestration. With the O’Jays, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes and others, the “Philly soul” would become a foundation of the new music known as disco.

In 1978 Gloria Gaynor records the all-time disco-era classic ‘ I will Survive”, which by march 1979 was No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100. VH1 named it the greatest dance song ever and the Library of Congress added it to the prestigious National Recording Registry in 2016.


In 1961 Motown becomes the sound of young America with singles by the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, the Marvelettes and others.

In 1983 Michael Jackson was the first person of color to break MTV’s color barrier. “Music Television” took off right from the first notes of its opening video, broadcast on August 1, 1981, but didn’t play any black artist music until 1983 when CBS Records threatened to pull his other acts from the airwaves if MTV continued to ignore Michael Jackson.

In 1992 Whitney Houston’s version of ‘ I Will Always Love You” stayed at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for a then-record 14 weeks, and the album went on to sell more than 40 million copies worldwide, making it one of the top five best-selling albums of all time.


In 1982  Frankie Knuckles was already a famous New York DJ for over a decade, but it was in Chicago that he started adding a drum machine to his repertoire of disco, rare soul and European avant-garde, creating a new style of four-to-the-floor music he called ‘house’, after the name of the club he was playing it in ‘Warehouse’.


In 1980 techno technically began in Germany, however it is hard to pin point if Detroit Techno was right before or right after. What is widely accepted is that Detroit Techno is an important part of Techno and that has been there from the beginning and influenced its evolution along the way.