RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — On June 7, 1979, President Jimmy Carter declared that the month of June would be an acknowledgment and celebration of African Americans’ influence in music; not only in the United States but across the world.

Many years later in 2000, an official proclamation was signed in 2000 by President Bill Clinton recognizing the month of June as Black Music Month. Each year since, the current president has kept up with the tradition of this proclamation, continuing to recognize the historical, sacred influence Black artists have had within music.

Many influential innovators in the music industry were born and raised in familiar cities across North Carolina—some whom you may know that have roots in N.C. and many others you may be surprised to hear about.

Here are 12 music artists to add to your playlists during this Black Music Month.

Roberta Flack

Roberta Flack (Photo by Andy Kropa/Getty Images)

In February 1937, Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, and pianist Roberta Flack was born in Black Mountain.

The daughter of two musicians, Flack learned piano at an early age and has been influential in R&B and “quiet storm” soul. Flack won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year for two consecutive years in a row with “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” in 1973, and “Killing Me Softly” in 1974.

Ben E. King

Ben E. King (Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

The lead vocalist for the popular doo-wop group “The Drifters,” Ben E. King, was born in Henderson in 1938. The Drifters had popular soul and pop global hits like “Save the Last Dance for Me.” After going solo in 1960, King released his acclaimed timeless hit “Stand by Me,” once named one of the most performed songs of the 20th century.

John Coltrane

John Coltrane (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)

Born in Hamlet and raised in High Point, John Coltrane is one of the most acclaimed figures in the history of jazz. An otherworldly musician known for his creative croons on the saxophone, Coltrane has many notorious jazz hits such as his rendition of “My Favorite Things” and “In a Sentimental Mood” featuring Duke Ellington.

K-Ci & JoJo

K-Ci & Jojo (Photo by Stefan Zaklin/Getty Images)

The two brothers were born in Monroe, near Charlotte. Cedric “K-Ci” Hailey and Joel “JoJo” Hailey were part of the chart-topping R&B group Jodeci with the DeGrate brothers, Donald “DeVante Swing” and “Mr. Dalvin.”

They’ve been innovators in the music industry. They’re also known for their music as a duo, and their 1997 Billboard number-one hit “All My Life.”

George Clinton

George Clinton (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Considered the “Master of Funk,” George Clinton was born in Kannapolis. He led and developed bands Parliament-Funkadelic and developed an influential and eccentric, humorous form of funk that pulled on science fiction storytelling and “Afrofuturism” in music during the 70s. An award-winning artist that’s produced and written for numerous acts including artists on Motown.

Maceo Parker

Maceo Parker (Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images)

Maceo Parker is a phenomenal American funk and soul saxophonist from Kinston. He’s worked with acts like James Brown, Parliament-Funkadelic, and even Prince. Parker’s remarkable solos can be heard on many of James Brown’s hit records, and he still tours and performs under his own name.

J. Cole

J. Cole (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Jermaine Lamarr Cole, aka J. Cole is from Fayetteville. A prominent rapper most known for his conscious and fiery lyricism and clever wordplay. With a catalog of major hits from popular albums like “2014 Forest Hills Drive,” “4 Your Eyes Only,” and “The Off-Season,” he’s hailed as one of the greats of this generation.

Cole has also become an innovator for other artists, having founded his own record label “Dreamville Records” with a slew of major acts like Ari Lennox, JID, and Earthgang to name a few. Over the last few years, he’s brought fans from all over to the Triangle for his high-energy Dreamville Music Festival.


Rapsody (Photo by Noel Vasquez/Getty Images for BET)

Born in small-town Snow Hill, Marlanna Evan aka Rapsody, wasn’t exposed to hip-hop much growing up. But in college at NC State she later developed her love for the genre and even formed a rap group.

Now, she’s regarded as a trailblazer in hip-hop with her intricate style and unparalleled metaphors. Rapsody has a Grammy-nominated album, “Laila’s Wisdom” and has worked with major acts such as Erykah Badu, 9th Wonder (fun fact: he’s from Winston-Salem!), and even Kendrick Lamar.

Nina Simone

Nina Simone (Photo by Getty Images)

Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon, Nina Simone was born in Tyron in 1933. She learned how to play piano at the age of 3 and later established herself as a jazz musician in the 1950s.

Simone soon began using her influence in music to protest the treatment of Black people in the U.S. during the civil rights movement, with popular songs like “Mississippi Goddam,” “Four Women” and her rendition of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit.”

Simone had an extensive career and is regarded as one of the greats in jazz, blues, soul, and R&B.

Jermaine Dupri

Jermaine Dupri (Photo by Derek White/Getty Images for Strength Of A Woman Festival & Summit)

Jermaine Dupri was born in Asheville and established a prolific career as a hip-hop artist, producer, songwriter, and CEO of So So Def Recordings (which he founded in 1993.) A member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Dupri has over 400 million sold records and has collaborated with artists such as Usher, Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, Jay-Z, Ludacris, Monica, Snoop Dogg, and many others.

Anthony Hamilton

Anthony Hamilton (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Black Music Honors)

Born in Charlotte, Anthony Hamilton is a singer, songwriter, and producer known for his raw croons and smooth R&B style. Hamilton’s musical upbringing started when he began singing in his church choir when he was ten years old. Now, he’s a Grammy Award Winning Artist with an extensive career in soul and R&B, featured on tracks with artists like Nappy Roots and The Hamiltones, and has many popular songs such as “Charlene,” “Can’t Let Go” and “The Point of it All.”


Fantasia (Photo by Maury Phillips/Getty Images for BET)

Born in High Point, NC and later moved to Greensboro, Fantasia Monique Barrino has been a major powerhouse in music. After winning American Idol in 2004, her first single “I Believe” debuted at Number One and sold over a million copies.

Fantasia also played the role of Celie in the Broadway musical The Color Purple in 2007 and reprised the role for the movie adaptation coming out this Christmas. Throughout her career, Fantasia has had a slew of hits on the Billboard charts, numerous nominations, and awards, including a Grammy Award for “Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.”