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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. Many great musicians and performers started their careers in Cincinnati. With national and international fame, these artists credit Cincinnati as their place of production. This playlist of the finest singing, songwriting, and performing artists will become a new musical obsession.

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Listen from your cell phone or computer without downloading. These recordings are the perfect playlist to listen to in your car on the drive to work or while cleaning your house. Genres include hip-hop, rap, and pop music. Whatever you choose, you will not be disappointed.

Cincinnati now has a Black Music Walk of Fame. Admission is free, and the attraction is located at 190 W Mehring Way, Cincinnati, OH 45202 (The Banks). It features artists such as Bootsy Collins and Midnight Star. Huge congrats to Hamilton County Commissioner Alicia Reece for making it happen!

Cincinnati Black Musicians

Bootsy Collins

William Earl “Bootsy” Collins is an American musician, singer, and songwriter from Cincinnati. He rose 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, which won the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album in 2005. In October 2010, Bass Player Magazine awarded him a Lifetime Achievement Award 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:

Mel Carter

Mel Carter is an American singer from the Motown era best known for his ballads. The Top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hit “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me” reached Number 8 in 1965 and was Carter’s biggest success. Carter’s single sold over one million copies and received a gold disc award.

Midnight Star

Midnight Star was formed as a self-contained group at Kentucky State University in the 1970s by Reggie Calloway, Belinda Lipscomb, Melvin Gentry, Kenneth Gant, Bill Simmons, Bo Watson, and Jeff Cooper.

In 1983, the funky band released their fourth album, No Parking on the Dance Floor, which 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 chart, and it went double platinum in the US Its first single, “Freak-A-Zoid,” went to No. 2 on the U.S. Black Singles chart.

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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 “LA” 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).

Shalamar – Gerald Brown

Shalamar is a Grammy-award-winning American R&B and soul music vocal group that has been active since the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. Gerald Brown joined Shalamar from The Soul Train Gang singing group in 1978 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.

Snap! – Penny Ford

Snap! formed in 1989 as a German Eurodance group and has undergone several line-up changes over the years. Its members include American singers, songwriters, and rappers Thea Austin, Turbo B, and Penny Ford. Their best-known ballad is “Rhythm Is a Dancer,” 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.

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The Crusaders – Randy Crawford

The Crusaders were an American jazz group that was successful from the 1960s to the 1990s. The Crusaders were comfortable playing a wide assortment of genres, from straight-ahead jazz to urban R&B, R&B-based jazz, and 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.

The Isley Brothers

The Isley Brothers are an American musical group originally from Cincinnati, Ohio. In the 1950s, they started as a vocal trio consisting of brothers O’Kelly Isley Jr., Rudolph Isley, and Ronald Isley. 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 have been 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 Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Antonio “LA” Reid, Carlos “Satin” Greene, Darnell “Dee” Bristol, Stanley “Stick” Burke, and Kevin “Kayo” Roberson.

A single from their third 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 was 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.

Wilbert Longmire

Wilbert Longmire was a versatile guitarist who dabbled in gospel, jazz, blues, and rock. He is a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Cincinnati Area Pop Music Awards. During his long career, Longmire had the privilege of performing with Nancy Wilson and recording with Herbie Hancock. His music has recently resurged overseas, and this Cincinnati native has taken over the charts.

Otis Williams and the Charms

Alumni of Withrow University High School, Otis Williams and the Charms were discovered by Syd Nathan of King Records at a talent show. Known for their doo-wop style of singing, the Charms topped the R&B charts with hits such as Hearts of Stone and Ling, Ting, Tong. Otis Williams separated from the charms in 1956 and recorded his own hits, such as Ivory Tower. Later, Williams would return to group singing with a new Charms group in the 1990s and performing with the Coda band in Cincinnati in 2007.

Philippé Wynne with the Spinners

Raised in the New Orphanage Asylum for Colored Children, Wynne joined his brother in Detroit to begin his career as a gospel singer. He then switched to R&B and ended up joining the Spinners as one of the lead singers. Wynne recorded hits such as One of a Kind (Love Affair) and Sadie. He eventually left the Spinners and recorded three solo albums in addition to performing with George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic. Wynne continued his career and appeared on songs such as (Not Just) Knee Deep and Whip It. In 2023, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the Spinners.

Related Article: Enjoy the nightlife in Cincinnati with these Black-owned nightclubs.

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!

Written by: Crystal Kendrick

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 postings, 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.

Cincinnati Black Musicians information sourced from Wikipedia and the Cincinnati Black Music Hall of Fame

Cincinnati Black Musicians Photo created by The Voice of Black Cincinnati

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Written by Crystal Kendrick

Crystal Kendrick is the publisher of The Voice of Black Cincinnati. With a vision to educate, recognize and create opportunities for African Americans in the region, Crystal oversees all content creation and publication, ensuring each piece aligns with the outlet's mission to inform, engage, and inspire. A lifelong advocate for community engagement and empowerment, Crystal's leadership steers The Voice of Black Cincinnati toward being a pivotal platform to find community resources, local Black-owned businesses, culturally relevant events, jobs with equal opportunity employers and scholarship for higher education. Connect with Crystal on LinkedIn to explore her experiences and contributions to Cincinnati's media landscape.