I·con: a person or thing regarded as a representative symbol or as worthy of veneration.
When you think of the word icon, what do you think of? Who do you think of? Today, we’re celebrating Five Black Gemini music icons.
Kanye: Love him or hate him, Kanye West deserves a spot on this list as one of the single most influential artists in hip-hop. The unapologetic, often controversial rap mogul has enjoyed a wide range of success. His influence is seen and felt not only through music but also in fashion and pop culture. His ability to continually reinvent himself helps him remain relevant and surprising, and his fans excited to see what comes next.
Lauryn Hill: A barrier breaker for female rappers, Lauryn Noelle Hill is a powerhouse of talent and was rightfully named one of “10 Best Rappers of All Time” by Billboard (the only female listed). Her ability to blend rap and singing into “melodic rap” has influenced countless artists, including Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, and Lizzo. “I was always afraid of being a singer,” Lizzo stated in an interview, “but then when I heard Lauryn Hill, I was like, maybe I can do both.”
Prince: No one can create sound quite as Prince could. This iconic genius was a brilliant songwriter, guitarist, and producer whose continual experimentation with sound and music was a gift to the world. When his video for “Little Red Corvette” came out, it received significant airplay on MTV. This was when most African-American artists were struggling to receive airtime, and Prince’s video “helped break that barrier and usher in an era of more diverse talents and sounds.”
Tupac Shakur: The “embodiment of 1990s gangsta-rap aesthetic,” he only spent 25 years on this earth but his legacy and influence live on in a way few others have. The son of a Black Panther supporter, he redefined the word “thug” into a “man who triumphs over systemic and societal obstacles,” was the first rapper to give a great dramatic performance in the movie Juice, and was a master storyteller that helped change “people’s perception of young black kids growing up in the ghetto.”
Kendrick Lamar: Cited as one of the most influential rappers of his generation, Kendrick has enjoyed unparalleled success since his major debut album in 2012. He is not shy to to use his music to speak out against social injustice and police brutality and encourages the Black community to never forget they are royalty – “Kings and Queens.” He also became the first rapper to win a Pulitzer Prize, has 11 Grammy nominations to his name, and was awarded the California State Senate’s Generational Icon Award.