Black music artists

Macklemore & Ryan LewisMacklemore & Ryan Lewis (Jason Koenig)

If you look back on 2013, not a single black artist scored a No. 1 single. Not J. Cole, Jay Z, Beyonce, or even Kanye West. 2013 marked the first-ever year since Billboard began charting Top 40 songs in 1958 that zero black artists made their way to the top of the singles chart.

The top spot on the Hot 100 - today's version of the singles chart - was dominated by white acts throughout the past year. Perhaps even more intriguing is the fact that white artists even sat atop the R&B and Hip-Hop Songs chart for 44 out of 52 weeks of 2013. Compare this to ten years ago, when every No. 1 Hot 100 single was performed by an artist of color.

And in a final interesting twist, there are no living black artists being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014 - although Clarence Clemons will be inducted posthumously as part of the E Street Band. That's only happened once before in Rock Hall history.

To try and understand how and why 2013 was so unprecedented, Soundcheck host John Schaefer talks to pop chart analyst and writer Chris Molanphy, as well as author and commentator for The Daily Beast and The Root, Keli Goff.

Interview Highlights

Chris Molanphy, on technical changes to the charts that partially account for crowding out of black artists:

What's happened is, whether it's radio, whether it's iTunes - there's now a lot of data feeding into the Hot 100. The charts of ten years ago when Outkast was No. 1 - iTunes was not a factor in the charts yet because it was brand new. There was no YouTube - it literally didn't exist - and so this great feedback loop we used to have where we had crossover from the R&B charts to the pop charts has kind of gotten swamped.

Keli Goff, on marketing white acts and black acts:

It almost reminds me of the '50s and '60s when you had a lot of music that was being made by white artists and being popularized by them but it was coming from black artists. It's much easier to sell a Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, an Eminem, a Justin Timberlake, to mainstream audiences than it is to sell a Jay Z. It is still a preferred feeling in mainstream pop culture that if we can find an attractive white act to do it, why not?

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis held down the top spot on the Hot 100 for six weeks and on the Hip-Hop/R&B Songs chart for 14 weeks in 2013:

Goff, on representation in music:

You know what, if someone's talking about how downtrodden they are and that's what they're rapping about, I'd like to not know that the person is actually a white guy that went to a prep school.

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Need advice about "black musicians"

by possibly-ignorant

I'm thinking of putting together a slideshow for a Black History Month event of musicians and their music. There are the obvious choices (Duke Ellington, Otis Redding, Satchmo, etc.), but what about more recent music? I can get up to about Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, but are there other "seminal" black artists in recent music that I can use?
This is a family event, so a lot of rap might not be appropriate (e.g. Public Enemy might be a bit too much, or I'd include them).

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