Black women have been a source of inspiration throughout American history.
Their contribution to history is important, and their stories are always told to inspire, motivate, and empower generations.
The story of black female singers leaving their mark on the music scene isn’t new.
These artists have made a remarkable impact on the music landscape, paving the way for future generations.
Some were renowned activists and philanthropists, with roles extending beyond the studio.
Below, we look at the 30 best black female singers firmly at the heart of music history.
Table of Contents
- 1. Alicia Keys
- 2. Rihanna
- 3. Beyoncé
- 4. Aretha Franklin
- 5. Andra Day
- 6. Cardi B
- 7. Diana Ross
- 8. Brandy
- 9. Jennifer Hudson
- 10. Etta James
- 11. Chaka Khan
- 12. Monica
- 13. Donna Summer
- 14. Jill Scott
- 15. Aaliyah
- 16. Ashanti
- 17. Ciara
- 18. Megan Thee Stallion
- 19. Dionne Warwick
- 20. Anita Baker
- 21. Natalie Cole
- 22. SZA
- 23. Tina Turner
- 24. Nicki Minaj
- 25. Mariah Carey
- 26. Whitney Houston
- 27. Janet Jackson
- 28. Erykah Badu
- 29. Ella Fitzgerald
- Best Black Female Singers – Final Thoughts
1. Alicia Keys
Alicia Keys is one of the best black female singers today.
She has multiple Grammy-winning songs, including “Fallin,” “No One,” and “Girl On Fire.”
Alicia’s soulful lyrics touched millions of hearts around the globe.
Apart from her music career, she is an accomplished actress and philanthropist.
Rihanna is a Barbadian singer, songwriter, actress, and businesswoman who rose to prominence with her 2006 album, A Girl Like Me.
The album spawned seven top 10 hits, including “SOS” and “Umbrella.”
Throughout her career, Rihanna has released numerous hits, including “We Found Love,” “Diamonds,” and “Work.”
She is now a fashion icon and mogul who owns several businesses, including Fenty Beauty and Savage X Fenty.
You can’t talk about the most influential black female singers without mentioning Beyoncé.
Beyoncé Knowles, or Queen Bey as she’s famously nicknamed, is one of the most popular and successful black female singers in history.
She rose to fame as part of the R&B girl group Destiny’s Child and has sold over 118 million records worldwide, making her one of the best-selling female artists of all time.
Her unique blend of pop and R&B elements is matchless.
Beyoncé’s songs often express strong messages about empowerment and self-acceptance, inspiring many people across the globe.
4. Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin was a powerhouse singer and songwriter known for classics like “Respect,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” and “Think.”
She won 18 Grammy awards throughout her career and is regarded as one of the greatest black female singers ever.
In 1987, Aretha became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
5. Andra Day
Everybody loves an underdog story.
And that’s true for Andra Day, a lesser-known but equally talented black female singer who rose to prominence against all odds.
She released her debut album (Cheers to the Fall) in 2015 and has since recorded multiple chart-topping singles, such as “Rise,” “Forever Mine,” and “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free.”
6. Cardi B
Talk about the black female singers who made it against all odds, and a certain uncompromising, Grammy Award-winning female rapper comes to mind.
Belcalis Marlenis Almanzar Cephus, commonly known as Cardi B, is an American rapper and songwriter who burst onto the scene with her 2017 single “Bodak Yellow.”
Her story is the epitome of resilience, having started her career as a Vine and Instagram influencer.
From 2015 to 2017, Cephus was a cast member on the famed reality show Love & Hip Hop: New York, sharing her music ambitions.
In 2018, Cardi B released her first studio album, Invasion of Privacy, debuting at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart.
She collaborated with Megan Thee Stallion on their hit single “WAP,” debuting at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
7. Diana Ross
Diana Ross is an iconic American singer, songwriter, and actress whose career spans decades.
She is known for being a founding member of The Supremes, Motown’s most successful girl group during the 1960s.
The group had twelve number-one singles on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, making them one of the most successful girl groups ever.
Ross launched a successful solo career after her time with The Supremes, becoming famous with hits like “I’m Coming Out,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and “Endless Love.”
Brandy is an R&B/soul singer, songwriter, and actress who made waves with her self-titled 1994 debut album.
The album was 4x platinum-certified and spawned two top 10 singles: “I Wanna Be Down” and “Baby.”
The following year, she released her second studio album, Never Say Never, becoming even more successful and pushing Brandy to stardom.
The singer has sold over 30 million records worldwide, earned four Grammy nominations, and won three Soul Train Music Awards.
9. Jennifer Hudson
Jennifer Hudson is an award-winning American singer and actress who rose to fame after appearing on the third season of American Idol in 2004.
Her breakthrough came when she starred in the 2006 musical film Dreamgirls.
She sang the Academy Award-winning single “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.”
Hudson’s powerful vocals and emotion-filled performances make her one of the greatest black female singers.
10. Etta James
Etta James was an American singer and songwriter best known for her blues, R&B, soul, rock and roll, and jazz work.
Her powerful and distinctive voice spanned a four-octave range.
She rose to fame in the 1950s with her hits “At Last” and “I Just Wanna Make Love to You.”
Etta released 30 studio albums throughout her career
11. Chaka Khan
You remember the voice.
You know the hairstyle.
And you recall the beautiful smile.
Chaka Khan is an American singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist whose work spanned multiple genres, including funk, R&B, jazz, pop, and soul.
She is famously known as the “Queen of Funk” and one of the most decorated black female singers with hits such as “Ain’t Nobody,” “I Feel for You,” and “I’m Every Woman.”
Chaka has won 10 Grammy Awards throughout her career, securing a place in music history as a funk icon.
Monica is an American singer-songwriter, record producer, and actress from Atlanta, Georgia.
Her unique sound blends hip-hop, rhythm and blues, and gospel music.
Throughout her career, she has produced hit singles such as “Don’t Take It Personal (Just One of Dem Days),” “The Boy Is Mine,” and “So Gone.”
Monica is one of the most successful black female singers in contemporary music history, having sold over 15 million records worldwide.
13. Donna Summer
Let’s talk about the undisputed “Queen of Disco.”
Donna Summer was an American singer, songwriter, and record producer widely known as the face of the 70s disco era.
She released a string of hit singles between 1975 and 1984, including “Love to Love You Baby,” “Hot Stuff,” “She Works Hard for the Money,” and “On the Radio.”
Her music was heavily influenced by funk and R&B, and she sold over 130 million records worldwide throughout her career.
14. Jill Scott
Jill Scott is a neo-soul powerhouse and one of the last two decades’ most popular black female singers.
She has released critically-acclaimed albums, with Who Is Jill Scott? and Beautifully Human, becoming staples of contemporary R&B.
Her passionate, expressive singing and thought-provoking lyricism have established her as a true talent and earned her numerous accolades, including 3 Grammy Awards.
She’s also received critical praise for her humanitarian work and philanthropic endeavors.
She had to be there.
Aaliyah Dana Haughton, best known as Aaliyah, was an R&B sensation who tragically passed away in 2001 at only 22.
She released two studio albums that achieved multi-platinum status during her brief yet prolific career.
Her second and final album, Aaliyah, was highly acclaimed and featured the chart-topping single “Try Again.”
Despite her relatively short career, Aaliyah is credited with reshaping contemporary pop, hip hop, and R&B, nicknamed the “Queen of Urban Pop” and “Princess of R&B.”
Ashanti rose to fame in the early 2000s with her self-titled debut album, which spawned several successful singles like “Foolish” and “What’s Luv?”
Since then, she has released several albums, finding success with her danceable R&B and hip-hop-infused music.
Apart from her music career, Ashanti has excelled in acting and is slated to appear in a few upcoming movies.
Ciara is a Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter famed for her soprano vocals.
She’s renowned for her R&B and hip-hop-inspired tracks such as “Goodies,” “1, 2 Step”, and “Like a Boy.”
The singer also incorporates hints of EDM, pop, and soul into her music, giving her a unique and contemporary sound.
Ciara was the first artist signed to a major label that produced only dance music, making her a genre pioneer and the queen of crank & b music.
She has collaborated with some of the biggest names in the music industry, such as Missy Elliott, Justin Timberlake, and Nicki Minaj.
18. Megan Thee Stallion
Megan Thee Stallion became an internet sensation when her free-styling rap videos went viral on social media.
She is a celebrated black female rapper from Houston, Texas, with a unique blend of trap music, rap, and southern hip-hop.
Megan has released a series of successful mixtapes, such as “Tina Montana” and her platinum-certified debut album, Fever, that pushed her to stardom.
Thee Stallion has worked with various artists, including Cardi B and Nicki Minaj, and the hit single “Savage” recently went 4x Platinum.
Her debut compilation album, Something for Thee Hotties (2021), spawned the Grammy-Winning hit single “Thot Shit.”
Her magnetic presence, iconic fashion style, and inspirational lyrics have made her one of the most popular black female rappers.
19. Dionne Warwick
Dionne Warwick is one of the best-known black female singers in music history.
She launched her career with hits such as “Walk On By, “Do You Know The Way To San Jose,” “I Say A Little Prayer,” and “Alfie,” featuring her sisters Cissy and Dee Dee.
Dionne has cemented her legacy in the music industry with 6 Grammy Awards and over 100 million sales worldwide.
20. Anita Baker
Anita Baker is a celebrated R&B singer-songwriter and one of the best black female singers from the 80s.
She excelled with hit singles “Sweet Love,” “Caught Up In The Rapture,” and “Giving You The Best That I Got.”
Her soulful voice and ability to write songs that convey strong emotions make her one of the most beloved artists in black music today.
Anita’s most successful release was her 1986 double platinum album Rapture, featuring commercial hits like “Same Ole Love (365 Days A Year)” and “Just Because.”
In 2013, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, making her the second female R&B artist to achieve that feat, Aretha Franklin.
21. Natalie Cole
Natalie Cole was a legendary black female singer-songwriter who rose to fame in the 70s and 80s with her jazz-infused R&B sound.
She released several hits such as “This Will Be,” “Miss You Like Crazy,” and “Inseparable.”
She won 9 Grammy Awards, including a posthumous award for her iconic album Unforgettable…With Love.
Natalie was also the first African American artist to win Album of the Year in 1975.
SZA is one of the most talented black female vocalists right now.
Her blend of neo-soul and alternative hip-hop has gained widespread recognition and critical acclaim.
Her debut album Ctrl earned her five Grammy nominations, while her second album, Z, earned her two more nods.
She’s collaborated with megastars like Kendrick Lamar and Travis Scott, becoming one of the most popular black female vocalists.
SZA’s raw emotion and heartfelt lyrics make her one of the most celebrated black female singers.
23. Tina Turner
Tina Turner is an icon of rock ‘n’ roll.
Her high-energy performances and unmistakable voice have won her the adoration of fans worldwide.
She’s sold over 200 million records, becoming one of the best-selling female artists ever.
Her career spanned decades, with hits like “Proud Mary,” “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” and “The Best” becoming timeless classics.
24. Nicki Minaj
Okay, my bad.
The self-proclaimed “Queen of Rap” should have been the first name on this list.
Nicki Minaj has undoubtedly secured her place in music history with her attention-grabbing verses and outrageous fashion choices.
She’s been a creative force in the entertainment world since her 2007 debut, with successive hit singles and occasional controversies that have kept all eyes on her.
Her discography includes several hit songs, such as “Super Bass,” “Starships,” and “Anaconda.”
She’s collaborated with all the famous artists you might think of, from Drake to Eminem and Ariana Grande.
Nicki’s incredible flow and clever lyrics endeared her to many hip-hop lovers, making her one of the best black female singers ever.
25. Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey is a legendary singer-songwriter and one of the best black female singers from the 90s with her signature five-octave vocal range.
Her iconic hits “Vision of Love,” “Emotions,” and “Fantasy” made her an international superstar and earned her numerous awards, including 5 Grammys.
Mariah has sold more than 200 million records worldwide and holds the record for most number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100 by a solo artist.
26. Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston is another legend of pop and R&B music.
Her soft voice and soaring ballads like “I Will Always Love You” made her one of the biggest female stars of the 1990s.
Whitney Houston was the only artist to chart seven consecutive US No.1 singles with her 1987 hit, “Where Do Broken Hearts Go.”
She is an undeniable musical genius whose legacy lives on in modern pop and R&B culture.
27. Janet Jackson
Janet Jackson is a powerful black female vocalist who has dominated the charts since the early 80s.
Her hits, like “Rhythm Nation” and “That’s The Way Love Goes,” became instant classics, and she still releases bangers to date.
Janet is best known for her sexually provocative songs and energetic stage performances.
She has sold over 160 million records and won 6 Grammy Awards and 4 Emmy Awards.
28. Erykah Badu
Erykah Badu is one of the most iconic female singers of the modern era.
Her unique soul, jazz, and hip-hop blend have influenced many artists.
She rose to fame in the late 90s with her debut album Baduizm, earning her the “Queen of Neo Soul” nickname.
Badu has demonstrated her flexibility over the years, releasing countless projects that have influenced a generation of artists.
Her mesmerizing vocals and eclectic sound have made her one of the most influential figures in modern R&B.
29. Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald was an iconic jazz singer and one of the best black female singers of the 60s.
Her crystal-clear voice and melodic improvisations earned her the title “First Lady of Song,” with 14 Grammy Awards.
Her best-known songs include “Dream a Little Dream of Me” and “Mack the Knife.”
She is one of the most influential vocalists ever and is often cited as a major inspiration for modern black female singers.
Best Black Female Singers – Final Thoughts
Black women have had a significant impact on all facets of society.
Their selfless contribution to music deserves recognition.
The 29 best black female singers on this list left their mark on the music scene.
They broke boundaries, defied odds, and laid the foundation for future generations.
Some redefined the music scene and will be remembered for their remarkable efforts in shaping the industry.
A few are still active, going toe to toe with their male counterparts while writing their chapter in history books right before our eyes.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our list of the best black female singers in history and even found new favorites.