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Cincinnati Black musicians have made their mark in American music.


Take a listen to your favorite Cincinnati Black musicians and some of Ohio’s finest talent in the music industry on YouTube. Cincinnati is a breeder of great music artists and performers that are known nationally and internationally. This playlist of the finest singing, songwriting and performing artists will become a new musical obsession.

No download is necessary to listen from your cell phone or your computer.  These recordings are the perfect playlist to listen to in your car on the drive to work or cleaning your house. Genres include hip-hop, rap, and pop music. Whatever you choose, you will not be disappointed.

Thanks to Hamilton County Commissioner Alicia Reece, a Black Music Hall of Fame will be built near the Icon Music Center in downtown Cincinnati. Local musicians will be honored first on the Walk of Fame. Until then, honor these Cincinnati Black musicians by listening to the music in this article!


Bootsy Collins

William Earl “Bootsy” Collins is an American musician, singer and songwriter from Cincinnati.
Rising to prominence with James Brown in the early 1970s, and later with Parliament-Funkadelic, Collins’s driving basslines and humorous vocals established him as one of the leading names in funk. He is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, inducted in 1997 with 15 other members of Parliament-Funkadelic.

Collins appeared with Toots & the Maytals on the album True Love that won the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album in 2005. In October 2010, he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by Bass Player magazine at the Key Club in Los Angeles.



Tony Cottrell, better known as Hi-Tek, is an American rapper and record producer from Cincinnati, Ohio. He is best known for his work with Talib Kweli. His father is singer Willie Cottrell of the Willie Cottrell Band, whom Hi-Tek featured on his second album, Hi-Teknology.


John Legend

John Legend is a soulful singer, songwriter and pianist from Springfield, Ohio with millions of listeners worldwide. Overall, Legend has won 33 awards from 88 nominations:

  • In 2005, Legend received fifteen nominations and won two, including Best New Artist at the BET Awards and Best R&B Act at the MOBO Awards.
  • In 2006, Legend received ten nominations and won five, including Best R&B Male Vocal Performance for “Stay with You”, Best R&B Album for Get Lifted, Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards; Best R&B/Soul Album Male for Get Lifted, Best R&B/Soul Single Male for “Ordinary People” at the Soul Train Music Awards.
  • In 2007, Legend received six nominations and won three, including Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group for “Family Affair”, Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for “Heaven” at the Grammy Awards; Best R&B/Soul Single Male for “Save Room” at the Soul Train Music Awards.
  • In 2017, Legend was the recipient of Smithsonian Magazine’s American Ingenuity Award for Performing Arts.
  • In 2018 Legend became the first Black male to officially achieve an EGOT with his Emmy win for “Jesus Christ Superstar”.


Mel Carter

Mel Carter is an American singer in the era of Motown most known for his ballads. His biggest success was the Top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hit “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me,” which reached Number 8 in 1965. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.


Midnight Star

Midnight Star was formed in the 70s at Kentucky State University by Cincinnati native trumpeter Reggie Calloway, vocalist Belinda Lipscomb, guitarist/drummer/vocalist Melvin Gentry, bassist Kenneth Gant, multi-instrumentalist Bill Simmons, keyboard player/vocalist Bo Watson and guitarist/keyboardist Jeff Cooper, as a self-contained group.

The funky band’s fourth album, No Parking on the Dance Floor, was released in 1983, and proved to be their breakout. Featuring a mix of R&B, disco and funk with vocoder vocals, the album hit No. 2 on the Billboard magazine Top Black Albums chart and No. 27 on the Billboard Top LPs & Tape and it went double platinum in the U.S. Its first single, “Freak-A-Zoid”, went to No. 2 on the U.S. Black Singles chart.


Pure Essence 

Pure Essence was an American R&B band from Cincinnati, Ohio, originally consisting of Steve “Tuck” Walters, Jerome “Mouse” Richmond, Toby Rivers, Tony Coats, Dwight Trible, Larry Middleton, Antonio “L.A.” Reid, and Kevin “Kayo” Roberson.

The band released only one record, in 1976, and achieved limited regional fame during their tenure. But they received wider attention and acclaim three decades later after one of their songs, “Third Rock”, was sampled by producer/musician RJD2 on the track “Clean Living” (2004).



 Things for African Americans to do in Cincinnati including concerts,  symphony orchestra performances, art exhibits and more!



Shalamar – Gerald Brown

Shalamar is a Grammy award-winning American R&B and soul music vocal group active since the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. Gerald Brown came to Shalamar from The Soul Train Gang singing group in 1978, coming on board to formalize the group.


Sheila E.

Sheila Cecilia Escovedo better known under the stage name Sheila E., is an American percussionist, singer, author, and actress. She began her career in the mid-1970s as a percussionist and singer for The George Duke Band. After leaving the group in 1983, Sheila began a successful solo career. She started with her critically acclaimed debut album, which included the career-defining song, “The Glamorous Life”. She sings and is also commonly referred to as The Queen of Percussion.

Though neither are from Cincinnati, on January 20, 1985, Prince recorded several demo tracks for “A Love Bizarre” and “Dear Michaelangelo” in downtown Cincinnati for Sheila E’s second album, Romance 1600, at Fifth Floor Studios. Prince supposedly chose the space because it was where pioneering ’80s funk happened.


Snap! – Penny Ford

Snap! is a German Eurodance group formed in 1989 that has been through several line-up changes over the years, including American singers, songwriters and rappers Thea Austin, Turbo B, and Penny Ford. Their best-known ballad is “Rhythm Is a Dancer”, both of which took the No. 1 spot in multiple countries.

Penny Ford is an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, and Walnut Hills High School graduate. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, she rose to fame in the 1980s after signing a recording contract with Total Experience Records and releasing her debut solo album Pennye. The album spawned the singles “Change Your Wicked Way” and “Dangerous”, which were produced and written by Ford.


The Crusaders – Randy Crawford

The Crusaders were an American jazz group that was successful from the 1960s to the 1990s. The group was known as the Jazz Crusaders from their formation in 1960 until shortening their name in 1971. The Crusaders were comfortable playing a wide assortment of genres, from straight-ahead jazz to urban R&B, to R&B-based jazz, to even blues.

Street Life is a studio album by the American jazz band The Crusaders. It was a top 20 album on three Billboard charts and represents the peak of the band’s commercial popularity. The title track, featuring singer Randy Crawford, was a Top 40 pop single and became the group’s most successful entry on the soul chart. The Macon native spent her adolescent years in Cincinnati. This is where she got her start singing with Bootsy Collins and the jazz-funk group Dee Felice Trio.


The Isley Brothers

The Isley Brothers are an American musical group originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, which started as a vocal trio consisting of brothers O’Kelly Isley Jr., Rudolph Isley and Ronald Isley in the 1950s. With a career spanning over seven decades, the group has enjoyed one of the “longest, most influential, and most diverse careers in the pantheon of popular music”. The Isley Brothers have won two Grammys, including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Two of their songs are inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.


The Deele

The Deele is an American band from Cincinnati, Ohio. They achieved success in the 1980s with such hit singles as “Body Talk” and “Two Occasions”. When the group began recording in the early 1980s, the lineup consisted of Indianapolis native Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds along with Cincinnati musicians Antonio “L.A.” Reid, Carlos “Satin” Greene, Darnell “Dee” Bristol, Stanley “Stick” Burke, and Kevin “Kayo” Roberson. In 2007, Bristol, Greene, Roberson & Burke reformed the group with several new members.

The group would record three albums in total during the 1980s, scoring several hit singles. Street Beat album was released in 1983, and the following year, a single from this album, “Body Talk” became The Deele’s first hit, reaching #3 on the R&B chart and #77 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart. 


Zapp & Roger

Zapp & Roger is an American funk band that emerged from Dayton, Ohio, United States, in 1977. Particularly influential in the electro subgenre of funk, Zapp were known for their trademark use of the talk-box effect. The original line-up consisted of four Troutman brothers and 6 non-Troutman family members.





Get your groove on with these beats! If there are more Cincinnati Black Musicians that we have missed, let us know at The Voice of Black Cincinnati. We can add to this playlist as much as you like. You never know what Cincinnati artist we will put up next!


Cincinnati Black Musicians information sourced from Wikipedia

Cincinnati Black Musicians Photo created by The Voice of Black Cincinnati

The Voice of Black Cincinnati is a media company designed to educate, recognize and create opportunities for African Americans. Want to find local news, events, job posting, scholarships and a database of local Black-owned businesses? Visit our homepage, explore other articles, subscribe to our newsletter, like our Facebook page, join our Facebook group and text VOBC to 513-270-3880.

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Written by Crystal Kendrick

President of The Voice of Your Customer and founder of The Voice of Black Cincinnati.


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