Black culture is the backbone of modern music

The history behind the music we love today and black culture’s influence is discussed to close out Black History Month


Arizona Lee

We need to acknowledge the part Black cultural music has played in getting us to where we are today in the music industry.

Samantha Cordero, Writer

Black culture has impacted the majority of music today, even if some don’t realize it.

Music is listened to by almost everyone, nearly everyday. What some don’t realize, however, is that the majority of modern day music stems from one place: Black culture. Music is all heavily influenced by African American culture. Today, some of the most impactful musical projects have been created by Black artists, some of which include Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Tupac Shakur’s Greatest HitsKendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city, Childish Gambino’s “Awaken, My Love!”, and Billie Holiday’s Billie Holiday.

The evolution of music can be traced all the way back to the 17th century when slavery was at it’s peak. This music began the development of genres, but blues was most prominent at the time. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that this soulful music made its way into mainstream culture. Blues evolved into jazz, which became swing, which then transitioned to rock and roll. These work chants were the beginning of music as we know it, and the themes of the chants are still prevalent in many black musicians’ lyrics today.

In the early 20th century when blues and jazz began to gain traction, there was push back from white Americans. Of course, at this time many were not open to something so ingrained in Black culture to become popular with all Americans. But the harder people seemed to push it away, the more the music grew in popularity.

A difficult beginning was followed by a century of influence. Mocking them made them more popular.

As much as history tries to hide the history of the music we love today, it is influenced by the souls and hearts that were sung out everyday during the hard times of slavery. No one in the 17th century could have possibly known that the chants the slaves sang would bring about some of the most important aspects of modern American culture. 

During the American Civil Rights Movement, songs sung by activists brought people together. They created new lyrics daily and revamped songs considered traditional. A lot of these songs were important to the Freedom Riders, a group of activists who kept challenging the segregation laws on public transportation through May 1961 to Dec. 10, 1961. Songs and music united everyone during this movement, regardless of race. Soul music was commonly used to get the idea of equality, pride, hope, courage, and struggle across. 

Someone everyone knows, Elvis Presley, was inspired by the genre of blues and jazz, forming his reputation as the “king of rock and roll”. African American gospel music is also found sampled in lots of modern music, such as Father Stretch My Hands Pt 1. by Kanye West. Nearly every musical genre has a root connecting to the early days of field work. Pop music, hip hop, rock, jazz, and blues are all the genres that stemmed from the chants and shouts and rhythms protesting the inequalities in daily life. 

Today, hip hop is arguably the most popular genre among our generation. African American music has caught the attention of all races and pushed the evolution of music for the last 100 years.