Celebrating black musicians’ cultural impact

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It’s hard to think about today’s musical landscape without the influence of black musicians and producers. Black musicians have had their hands in numerous genres and aspects of the music business dating back to the 1930s, and they continue to innovate and impact the culture we live in.

In recognition of these artists’ impact, June is recognized as African-American Music Appreciation Month. Although President Jimmy Carter first proclaimed June as Black Music Month back in 1979, Barack Obama later changed the name to African-American Music Appreciation Month. No matter the name, the cause for celebration and appreciation is exactly the same.

From the beginning of jazz with Louis Armstrong, the exploration of rock with Chuck Berry, the unifying sounds of Bob Marley and the popularization of music videos by Janet Jackson, to the innovative mindsets of today’s hip-hop moguls — Jay-Z, Beyonce, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper and many others — black musicians have advanced the music landscape and helped it reach new heights.

Senior journalism major, and aspiring hip-hop journalist Jequcory Davis said the importance of black musicians in our culture is understated. “This month should be more publicized than it is because I didn’t even know about it,” said Davis.

While it’s easy to recognize the influence black musicians have had on majority-black genres — hip-hop/rap, R&B and soul music — their advances are often overlooked in genres that are predominantly white, such as rock ‘n’ roll, electronic, folk and pop. Roman Stokes, a freshman studying media and information, believes we wouldn’t have a lot of the music we do today without black musicians. Not only have black musicians influenced nearly every genre we can think of, they’ve also been able to seamlessly blend genres together to create something new.

“When people invent new styles and stuff like that, I think it’s always cool. It always seems to have a domino effect and everybody wants to do it,” Davis said.

Other prominent rappers have also been influential in areas outside of the actual music-making. Chance the Rapper is one present-day rapper who fits this bill. Not only is Chance’s continued independence from record labels inspiring younger artists to do the same, his most recent donation of $1 million to Chicago Public Schools (CPS) further exemplifies the rapper’s positive contributions to music’s culture and his local community.

“He’s showing people you can be black and successful, and help your community. Stuff like that, that’s priceless,” said Davis.

Music can unify people in a number of ways. It can lead to a better understanding of just how influential and important black artists are to the growth of our society. Join us this June in celebrating and appreciating how black musicians have and continue to impact and improve our culture.