The early 2000s marked a unique shift in music, especially with the rise of music file sharing services like Napster. And that uniqueness certainly trickled down to the talents of various black male singers of the 2000s, as well. So without further ado, here are some of our favorite singers that made a name for themselves at the dawn of the 2000s.
Black Male Singers of the 2000s
Let’s begin with the talented John Legend.
1) John Legend
John Legend is an actor, producer, songwriter, pianist, and singer who focuses on the R&B and soul-pop genres. Growing up, John Legend was musically gifted and took piano lessons, and sang in the church choir. He first came to fame by playing the piano on songs for Lauryn Hill, Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, and Kanye West. His first big claim to fame was when he released his 2004 album, Get Lifted, which went on to get gold certified by the RIAA.
John Legend is a versatile collaborator who is highly sought after and was the first black man and youngest artist ever to achieve the four major North American Entertainment Awards (EGOT: Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony). John Legend accredits his success to his drive to make the world a better place. In an interview with Forbes, John Legend mentioned, “And I believe it’s part of what we do as artists, to tell the truth, and reflect what’s going on in the world.”
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Ne-Yo is a producer, dancer, actor, songwriter, and singer in the R&B and hip-hop soul genres. Both of his parents were musicians and his mother raised him in Las Vegas, where he eventually joined the R&B group Envy. In 2004, Ne-Yo released his song, “Let Me Love You,” this single had such success that it led to Jay-Z signing him to Def Jam.
In 2006 he released his album In My Own Words, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and is certified platinum, making him one of the most sought-after singers. His vocal capabilities and songwriting skills put him at the top of the list in the R&B industry.
Ne-Yo discusses his viewpoint on autotune music with Vibe saying, “I use it as a safety net as opposed to wings. I need the emotion; I need the passion to be felt in whatever it is I’m saying.” He puts forth so much emotion and passion into his music that it represents the era of music he grew up in and lets his musical talents shine.
If you’re looking for one of the greatest African American male singers of the 2000s in R&B music, you’ve definitely found him in Ne-Yo.
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3) Musiq Soulchild
Musiq Soulchild is a singer and songwriter who effortlessly blends R&B, funk, blues, jazz, gospel, and hip hop styles. Musiq hails from Philly and released his 2000 debut album Aijuswannaseing, the album’s lead single was “Just Friends (Sunny).” And his second single “Love” lasted 22 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.
In 2002 he released his Juslisen album, which reached platinum sales. To date, Musiq has released eight albums and multiple released singles. Musiq has a soul-piercing voice that pulls on all of your heart’s strings.
Shaggy, nicknamed after Scooby-Doo’s pal, is a Jamaican-American reggae singer, musician, and DJ. He has been nominated for seven Grammy Awards, the Brit Award for International Solo Artist, and won twice for Best Reggae Album. Shaggy is best known for his songs “Oh Carolina”, “Boombastic”, and “It Wasn’t Me”.
The appeal to “It Wasn’t Me” was not immediately seen by the label executives. Shaggy told Complex magazine, “My manager never liked it. He tried everything not to put it on.” The song eventually blew up and helped to make Shaggy’s records timeless, “It Wasn’t Me” instantly takes me back to the nostalgia of the early 2000s. The appeal to Shaggy is his soothing, funky, and earthy vibe.
5) Sean Kingston
Sean Kingston is an American-Jamaican singer and rapper, who got his love of music from his iconic reggae producer grandfather, Lawrence Lindo. Sean Kingston came to fame during the early YouTube days and was one of the first singers to get discovered on YouTube by a producer. He quickly rose to fame when he opened for Gwen Stefani and Beyonce during their tours and for the songs “Fire Burning” and “Beautiful Girls.” His “Beautiful Girls” song was iconic and everyone I knew was recording it on their phones for their ringtone or buying his ringtones off of iTunes.
Kingston was a huge reggae-pop sensation that was being played all over the radio in the mid-late 2000s. He quickly rose to fame during a huge music transition period, just before the club craze music, and was largely marketed as a teen idol. Sean Kingston has a voice that sounds just as great live as it does recorded, and he had amazing crowd work for his concerts.
6) Bobby V
Bobby V, originally known as Bobby Valentino, is an American R&B singer who rose to fame in the mid-2000s with his multiple collaborations and radio-friendly hits. In 2005, Bobby V released his first solo single, “Slow Down”, which made it on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and was certified gold by the RIAA.
He recorded his famous collaborations with Lil Wayne “Mrs. Officer,” Ludacris’ “Pimpin’ All Over the World”, and Nicki Minaj’s “Sex in the Lounge.” Bobby V is a rhythm and blues crooner who adds smooth R&B vocals to rap songs.
Bobby V makes R&B music that is reminiscent of the work of Babyface and also incorporates club music into his sound. In the mid to late 2000s, anytime you saw Bobby V on the track you knew it was going to be a great song.
7) Trey Songz
Trey Songz is a songwriter, producer, actor, and R&B singer who possesses a tenor vocal range. Trey Songz collaborated on over 75 songs with big names before the launch of his first album, including Lil’ Kim, Snoop Dogg, and Trick Daddy. He then progressed in his music career until the biggest moment happened for him, he opened for Jay-Z on the ‘Fall Tour’ in 2009.
Trey Songz’s talent has allowed him to sell over 25 million records worldwide. Trey Songz’s concerts were huge in the mid to late 2000s and he has performed over 650 concerts. His music makes you feel calm, with his slow and emotional singing, but at times has upbeat melodies that are more cheerful.
Omarion is a dancer, actor, and R&B singer best known as the lead singer of the boy band B2K. During his time with the band, they made five Top 20 R&B/Hip-Hop hits, one platinum-selling album, and one gold-selling album. Omarion became popular as a solo contemporary R&B artist and became a Grammy-nominated singer.
He has worked with some of the best producers and songwriters like Timbaland, the Neptunes, and Tank. Omarion is a great dancer as well as a singer, which makes him great to see in concert. When attending his concerts, I would say you are there for the performance that he gives, as well as hearing him sing.
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Usher has had an amazing career that has spanned decades. And yet, when you think about Usher, you still probably imagine an artist that’s in his twenties or thirties.
Well, despite Usher recently entering into forties, there’s no doubt that he was ripping up the R&B charts in the early 2000s. His album “Confessions,” which dropped in 2004, featured awesome collaborations with the likes of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, as well as the talented Jermaine Dupri.
The song “Confessions Part II” sets that album apart from many of Usher’s competitors, but the jam “Yeah!” (Featuring Lil’ Jon and Ludacris) was so ubiquitous that there’s no doubt it was as popular at clubs and proms nights as it was at birthdays and bar mitzvahs.
You simply can’t write the story of 2000s R&B without the name Usher.
10) Pleasure P
Pleasure P is an R&B singer-songwriter, who was a part of the group Pretty Ricky before he started his solo career in 2007. His 2009 album The Introduction of Marcus Cooper was nominated for Best Contemporary R&B Album at the Grammy Awards, which aired in January of 2010.
Pleasure P is most famous for his cross-over to contemporary rhythm and blues; giving it his unique sound while still maintaining the founding origins of that genre. Pleasure P can hit a range of vocals and can switch up his rhythm and style to accompany the sound he is trying to achieve.
Mario is an R&B singer who mesmerized the music industry with his hits “Braid My Hair” and “Just a Friend 2002” from his debut album 2002. His song “Let Me Love You,” written by Ne-Yo, propelled him even further into the spotlight and labeled him as a star, leading him to win two Billboard Music Awards.
At the end of the 2000s, Billboard ranked Mario at No. 98 on the “Artist of the Decade” list. He has given his fans some great music over the last twenty years and has released five studio albums to date. Mario is famous for his slow sensual songs and his accompanying dance moves.
12) Glenn Lewis
Glenn Lewis is a Canadian neo-soul singer and songwriter who debuted in 2002 on Epic Records, World Outside My Window. His hit single, “Don’t You Forget It”, earned him the Juno for Best R&B/Soul Recording and the album peaked on the Billboard charts at No. 4.
Glenn Lewis was often compared to Stevie Wonder due to the similarities in their vocal power, and he is often considered one of the most powerful vocalists of his time. He is an artist that can woo you right away with his smooth vocals and raw talent. Glenn’s incredible vocal control, and ad-libs, give him a fan base that can’t stop coming back for more.
13) Chris Brown
Chris Brown is a singer, actor, dancer, and songwriter, who showed great musical talent from an early age. At the age of 15, he was signed to Jive Records and released his first album, a self-titled release, which earned 2nd place on the Billboard 200 list and earned a double platinum label. Chris Brown was a huge fan of 80s music and dance and brought that over into his music.
Chris Brown was huge in the 2000s and was a full-set performer, his concerts were always packed with people wanting to see him sing while performing a choreographed dance number. He also has great vocal range and technique, with many of his songs requiring a huge amount of pitch ranges. Chris Brown has been involved in some controversy over the years, but there is no disputing the fact that he was a game-changing singer and rapper in the 2000s with an immense amount of talent.
Best Black Male Rappers That Sing
I wanted to dedicate a small section specifically for rappers that also have the ability to add a singing component to their records. Let’s begin with Drake.
Drake of course is a Canadian singer, rapper, and actor who found the spotlight with his role in the TV show Degrassi: Next Generation, coincidentally where his character was a rapper. Drake left the show in 2008 and started his music career, starting as part of Young Money Entertainment, where he collaborated with many artists. Drake has won multiple Grammys and has six certified platinum albums and even won Spotify’s most-streamed artist of the decade- with over 8.2 billion streams on Spotify.
In the late 2000s, Drake was one of the hottest music artists and completely changed the game by appealing to others with his lyrics, incredible beats, and working with popular artists like Lil Wayne and Kanye. Drake certainly wasn’t the first rapper to sing on records, but he popularized it in the late 2000s so much so that it’s become an even more noticeable trend in rap music.
His famous song, “Hotline Bling” completely changed the rap game, because it was a rap/sung performance.
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15) André 3000
André 3000 is a singer, rapper, songwriter, producer, and actor who is best known for being a member of the hip hop duo OutKast. OutKast had great success, but it wasn’t until their 2003 album, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, that Andréwould get recognized for his musical talents. This album won OutKast three Grammy Awards and opened up the door for him to work with other artists. André is a very talented artist that beautifully fuses rapping and singing together.
In fact, if you turned on the radio in 2003 and 2004, you would not be able to escape the OutKast hit “Hey Ya!”—this song is iconic and easily one of his most popular songs. André has a very animated stage presence and is known to do crazy dance moves to get the crowd worked up and involved. André has been included in Billboard’s list of 10 Greatest Rappers of All Time, bringing to the table his gifts of creativity, innovation, and heart. He is a true example that you can be more than just one persona in the music industry and was a huge influence on many rap artists.
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The 2000s was a period that was pivotal for black male singers, spanning across all genres. What helped to make this change was the power of social media like YouTube, Myspace, and Facebook. As you can see from this list, the great thing about black male singers of the 2000s is that they can dominate genres like R&B and soul music, while also merging their singing talent with their great rapping abilities.