HOT Music

October 25, 2013
Launched as the protégés of New Edition and Bel Biv DeVoe, Boyz II Men put their own spin on the new jack swing R&B style of the late 80s. Dubbed “hip hop doo wop,” the group’s a capella harmonies set them apart from the other hip hop groups breaking at the time. This sound helped them set records – 3 songs are in the top 5 of Billboard’s longest song at #1, with "One Sweet Day" still holding the record. The group has won numerous Grammys and recognition and is still making music and touring.

Aaliyah got her first moment in the spotlight at 10 years old, when she appeared on Star Search and performed in concert alongside Gladys Knight. With a record deal by 12, she released Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number, which eventually went double platinum in the US. Her second album featured Timbaland and Missy Elliott, and eventually won her a Grammy nomination and Billboard recognition. Even though Aaliyah was killed in a plane crash in the Bahamas in 2001, her music lives on as she’s been called one of the most successful females in R&B.


Georges Biard [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
From The Mickey Mouse Club, to boy band fame, to solo success, Justin Timberlake grew up in the spotlight. Born in Memphis, TN, JT got his start singing country songs on Star Search! Then it was on to the Mickey Mouse Club where he met future NSync bandmate JC Chasez. Knowing boy band fame couldn’t last forever, Justin released his first solo record in 2002, and then brought sexy back again in 2006. In 2013, he released the 20/20 Experience 1 and 2, proving there is life after boy bands.
Maroon 5’s history started when the band was in high school as Kara’s Flowers. After limited success, they called it quits and went to college, only to re-form as Maroon 5 a few years later. Since then, each of the band’s 4 albums has gone platinum, with frontman Adam Levine growing a solo career of his own, too. Look for a new album from them in 2014!
By oouinouin from Nanterre, France (ME AND RIHANNA) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Born in Barbados, Robyn Rihanna Fenty got her musical start when she met a producer through a friend. After recording a demo, it was Rihanna’s audition for Jay-Z that got her a record deal with Def Jam. The partnership has produced 7 albums to date, numerous #1s, and Grammy awards. Rihanna was even named as one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world of 2012.

From singing in his Atlanta church choir to super stardom, the multi-talented Usher has had success as a songwriter, singer, dancer and actor. Thanks to his album My Way, Usher gained national attention when he was just 18. He’s gone on to become one of the best-selling artists of all time, with 5 platinum records with another in the works.

Born in Gary, IN, Michael Jackson learned about fame as a youngster in Jackson 5. But it was his solo career that turned him into a legend, with the recognition of being the most successful entertainer of all time, according to the Guinness World Records. Jackson’s videos were game-changers, breaking down racial barriers and turning a once-promotional tool into art. His life on and off the stage captivated millions globally, earning him the deserved title of King of Pop.

Ne-Yo started his career as a songwriter, turning that success into a recording career in 2006. He’s since released 5 albums and has been recognized by the Songwriters Hall of Fame for making an impact on the music industry with his original songs. Ne-Yo was born in Arkansas to musical parents, and moved to Las Vegas as a child, where he got his start writing.

By Jen Keys (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Beyonce found success as a member of Destiny’s Child, but she took it to another level with her solo career. Since her debut solo album in 2003, B has released 3 albums, been named Billboard’s Artist of the Millennium, and Time Magazine included her on the 2013 list of 100 most influential people in the world. She continues to wow fans with her live shows that show off not only her voice, but also her amazing dancing.
T-Boz, Left Eye and Chili – TLC – met in Atlanta in 1991. After signing to LaFace records, the group’s debut hit quadruple-platinum in just a year’s time. The follow up, CrazySexyCool, set records, making TLC the first female group to sell over 10 million records.  Despite success, drama followed the group, who retired in 2002 after the death of Left Eye in a car accident.
Known for her vocal range, Mariah Carey burst onto the scene in 1990 with her self-titled debut. Those signature high notes helped cement her as one of the leading female vocalist for the past 2 decades, a “songbird supreme” as the Guinness Book of Records calls her… and she continues to wow with new music that blends that vocal talent with pop and R&B. Mariah has won numerous awards in her career, not only for music, but also her humanitarian work.

By reeb0k2008, flickr
Nelly put the Midwest on the map for hip hop in 2001, with the release of his debut album Country Grammar. He’s since released 5 albums, won numerous Grammys, owns two clothing lines and has a blossoming acting career. Though he’s influenced by LL Cool J, Rakim, Run DMC and more, Nelly considers his unique rap style a more jazz-influenced style of hip hop.

Formed in Houston in 1990, Destiny’s Child faced many lineup changes before finding their groove as a soulful hip hop foursome. Their second album brought critical and commercial success, but not without the drama that eventually left them as a trio. While Destiny’s Child has been considered one of the best female groups of all time, it’s known more for launching the solo careers of Beyonce Knowles and Kelly Rowland.

The Black Eyed Peas’ first record deal came from rapper Eazy-E – unique as a rap group because they performed with a live backing band. In 1999, they added Stacy “Fergie” Ferguson to branch out into their signature futuristic pop sound. This lineup as earned them many award nominations and wins, plus commercial success. While Fergie and have solo projects on the side, Black Eyed Peas continue to influence music today with their unique sound.

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Alicia Keys started playing piano at age 7, and was writing songs by 14. By the time she was only 20, her debut album Songs in A Minor debuted at #1 and went on to sell 12 million copies worldwide.  In the 12 years since, Keys has put out 5 albums, won numerous Grammys and dedicates to her time to preventing the spread of AIDS worldwide.

Born in Miami, Pitbull’s unique Latin-flavored rap style comes from his Cuban roots. Pitbull got his first break from Lil Jon, who featured him prominently on the Kings of Crunk album. From there, the rapper got many guest verses and grew in popularity. In 2009, success came with the album Rebelation, and the song "I Know You Want Me." Pitbull got his first #1 single in 2011 with "Give Me Everything." He still calls Miami home and is active in the community there.

WhiteBoyzCantRun at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons
Eminem helped put Detroit’s rap scene on the map when his album The Slim Shady LP dominated the charts in 1999, going on to win the Grammy for Best Rap Album. His next two albums got the same acclaim, making him the only artist to win Best Rap Album for three consecutive albums. With 11 albums and a few acting roles under his belt, Eminem continues to be a force in the hip hop world.

Lauryn Hill, with cousins Pras Michel and Wyclef Jean, formed The Fugees in 1993. While they only released two albums together, the group is considered one of the best hip hop groups of all-time, thanks to the Grammy-winning record The Score and the song "Killing Me Softly." After breaking up in 1997, all three went on to have successful solo careers, though unfortunately a reunion is unlikely.

Notorious B.I.G. continues to be one of the most beloved rappers, even over a decade after his death. His debut album, Ready To Die, helped put the east coast back on the rap map in the 90s and added fuel to the east coast / west coast rap feud.  His album Life After Death was released days after his death in 1997, and has since been one of the few hip hop albums certified Diamond, selling over 10 million copies.

Salt-n-Pepa, with their DJ Spinderella, was one of the first all-female rap groups, getting together in New York in 1985. The group found initial success with their single "Push It," but had massive success in the 90s with the album Very Necessary, featuring songs like "Shoop," "Whatta Man" and "None of Your Business." The group disbanded in 2002, but still performs together from time to time.

K-Ci & JoJo are brothers Cedric and Joel Hailey. After their group Jodeci went on hiatus, they kept performing together, finding success thanks to a few guest spots, mainly on TuPac’s "How Do You Want It." Those side project turned into an album, with the single “All my Life” making K-Ci & JoJo a mainstay on the R&B scene.  Still active today, they released a new album in Fall of 2013.

By Joella Marano (Jay-Z) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Growing up in New York City, Jay-Z helped to put east coast rap back on the map. His own music, plus his many business ventures have helped him become one of the most successful hip-hop artists of all time. Among his awards are 17 Grammys, and being named the #1 best MC of all-time by MTV. Jay-Z has sold over 50 million records worldwide, including his latest, Magna Carta Holy Grail.

Janet Jackson, the youngest of the Jackson family, started singing and acting at age 7. After numerous TV roles, she put out her first album in 1982, and hit real musical success in 1986 with the release of Control. Ms. Jackson went on to win Grammy awards for not only songs, but also music videos, dance presentations and more.  With more than 100 million records sold worldwide, she continues to be one of the most successful women in music.

Photo: musicisentropy, flickr
Mary J. Blige is one of the most diverse women in music, with 10 studio albums and over 150 guest appearances on others’ records. She’s produces, acts and occasionally even raps. However, her unique hip hop soul sound makes her special, and her voice shines especially on her album My Life, which has been named as one of the best albums ever, according to Rolling Stone and Time magazines. Blige continues to lend her vocals to current hip hop stars and focus on her own work.

Thanks to help from Jodeci, Missy Elliott and Timbaland, Ginuwine was one of the most prominent R&B artists of the 90s and early 2000s. His single "Pony" propelled his debut album Ginuwine… the Bachelor to platinum status after it came out in 1996. The singer remains active in his songwriting and acting career.

Known as one of the founders of the West Coast G-Funk rap style, Dr. Dre’s had decades of success thanks to his role as a rapper, producer and record label exec. His group NWA is one of the most influential rap groups of all time, and he’s credited with launching the careers of Snoop Dogg, Eminem, 50 Cent, among others. Dre continues his musical work with his company Aftermath Entertainment and his new audio venture Beats by Dre.

While Kanye West wanted to be a rapper, he started his career as a producer at the encouragement of record execs. After releasing his debut album in 2004, it was clear West was born to be the MC in the spotlight. On top of rapper, producer and musician, he can now add film director and fashion designer to his resume, and is one of the most outspoken and controversial celebrities today. It’s that flamboyant and unique style that sets Kanye West apart from other rappers today.

By Daigo Oliva from São Paulo, Brasil (lauryn hill) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Born in New Jersey, Lauryn Hill got her start in the spotlight on TV’s As The World Turns and in Sister Act 2 with Whoopi Goldberg, where she showed off her vocal talents. In high school, she was asked to join a band that would become The Fugees, who would see much success with their album The Score. After that group disbanded, Hill released her Grammy winning solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. While that album sold millions and earned her a few Grammy Awards, Hill eventually retreated from the public eye, only putting out an Unplugged album in 2001 since her debut.

With the help of Eminem and Dr. Dre, 50 Cent became one of the world's highest selling rappers with just his first two records. Curtis Jackson grew up in Queens, New York, and adopted the name 50 Cent as a metaphor for a life change after being released from prison. With that change, he focused on his rap career, releasing the mix tapes that eventually got him a record deal. His career as a rapper and entrepreneur finds 50 on many lists focusing on everything from net worth to best artist to album sales. He continues to work on new music for himself and his record label.

Bobby Brown found fame as part of the group New Edition, and found breakout success after he released his second solo album Don’t Be Cruel, which launched the singles "My Prerogative" and "Every Little Step." While his follow up albums were good, none matched the success of Don’t Be Cruel. Brown’s noted as a pioneer New Jack Swing, the fusion of hip-hop and R&B so popular in the late 80s and early 90s. Brown gained notoriety after marrying Whitney Houston, as the marriage was plagued by arrests and problems associated with heavy drinking and drug use. Brown’s since cleaned up and is performing with New Edition again.

Photo: Jason Persse, flickr
Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr., known by his stage names Snoop Doggy Dogg, Snoop Dogg, and more recently Snoop Lion, is a rapper, singer-songwriter, and actor who's sold over 30 million albums worldwide. Discovered by Dr. Dre in 1992, he collaborated on Dre’s debut The Chronic and released his debut, Doggystyle, on Dre’s label. While his debut launched him to instant success, Snoop continues to be a prolific writer, with 12 albums to his name and many media appearances throughout his career.

Blackstreet was founded in 1991 by producer Teddy Riley, who wanted a new group after the breakup of his group GUY. While they had success with early singles, it was 1996’s "No Diggity" that helped earn the group a #1 song and a Grammy. The album that featured "No Diggity" ended up going 4 times platinum, helping to earn Blackstreet a spot as one of the top pop artists of the past 25 years.

En Vogue formed in Oakland, CA, as a modern-day version of the female groups so popular in the 1960s. The result spawned one of the most successful and popular female groups of all time. The quartet’s second album, Funky Divas, debuted at #1 and featured hits like "My Love (You’re Never Gonna Get It)" and "Givin' Him Something He Can Feel."  En Vogue won more MTV Video Music Awards than any other female group in its history, a total of seven and got seven Grammy nominations at their peak. In 2012 the group's members would take each other to court for use of the En Vogue name and then in early 2013, original member Maxine Jones began touring with Alison Carney and Maria Freeman as her new line-up of En Vogue, entitled En Vogue to the Max.

Photo: Andrew Steinmetz, flickr
R. Kelly began performing in the late 80s, with his 1993 solo debut 12 Play bringing him to prominence in the R&B scene. Among his hit singles is "I Believe I Can Fly," which earned him 3 Grammys. Kelly has released 10 albums, selling over 50 million worldwide, leading Billboard to name him the most successful R&B artist of the last 25 years.

Despite his short career, Tupac Shakur is one of the best-selling music artists in the world, having sold over 75 million albums. Shakur got his start as a roadie and MC with Digital Underground, and eventually started his own projects. Tupac is known for themes of violence and hardships in his music, and for his part in the east coast / west coast hip hop rivalry in the mid-90s. He was killed in 1996 in a Las Vegas drive by shooting that remains unsolved.

Gwen Stefani is a singer, writer and fashion designer, known best for leading the Grammy winning band No Doubt. In 2004, Stefani released her solo debut, earning her 5 Grammy nominations and multi-platinum status. She’s also credited as the first artist to sell one million downloads of her single "Hollaback Girl." Along with her successful Love Angel Music Baby fashion line, Stefani reunited with No Doubt in 2009 for a tour and new album.

By Daniel Mayer (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
James Smith – better known as LL Cool J – has been a hip hop success since the mid-80s. LL’s music is diverse – from hard hitting rap like "Mama Said Knock You Out" to smooth R&B ballads like "Hey Lover" – which is why he’s often considered a hip hop pioneer. Along with his 13 studio albums, LL Cool J stays busy with his acting career, starring on NCIS: Los Angeles.