We cannot close out the decade without celebrating the Black women in music who made an impact on the industry and beyond.
Whether behind the scenes, in front of the mic, building empires, or shaking things up in the boardroom, our melanated sisters played a major role in moving music forward in the 2010s.
This is certainly not a complete list of the women who work tirelessly in the industry, but it does highlight some of the songwriters, musicians, executives, and producers who have left their mark on music.
Fans saw Beyoncé blossom into a cultural icon in the 2010s. The surprise release of her self-titled album Beyoncé changed the way artists release music. Her 2016 album Lemonade made a massive cultural impact. And, for many, Beyoncé changed the way fans think of the concert-going experience with show-stopping tours complete with an all-female band and bar-raising visuals. Beyoncé went beyond being a singer and became a capital “E” Entertainer.
We also got to know the once super-private singer a little more in the 2010s through specials and documentaries, including Life Is But a Dream and Homecoming.
And the married mother of three did all this while launching her own entertainment company, Parkwood Entertainment, which has signed artists like Chloe x Halle and serves an umbrella for all things Bey, including her Ivy Park clothing line.
It’s hard to imagine what hip-hop in the 2010s would look like without Nicki Minaj.
The same woman who bodied the men on Kanye West’s “Monster,” released at the top of the decade in 2010, became a household name with the release of her debut album, Pink Friday, released the same year, later followed by Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, The Pinkprint, and Queen.
Many female rappers who came after Minaj have acknowledged the rapper’s influence and it’s easy to see the path the Queens native has paved for other women in the genre, especially when it came to expanding her brand beyond the music—from spirits deals to fashion collaborations.
Playful with her sexuality, brash, and unafraid to take risks, there are many female rappers who came before Minaj but in the 2010s, she was undoubtedly the queen of rap.
The Rihanna reign just won’t let up.
In the 2010s, Rihanna gave us a number of hits like her 2011 infectious single “We Found Love,” song of the 2016 summer “Work,” and “Bitch Better Have My Money,” a 2015 anthem rumored to be about the accountant who allegedly drained the singer of millions.
But the singer didn’t just stop with music. Rih Rih became a mogul.
In 2017, Rihanna launched her own beauty brand, FENTY, which later extended into fashion with the launch of lingerie line Savage x Fenty. The singer is now dubbed the wealthiest female musician alive.
Vice President of Talent and Touring at Live Nation, Heather Lowery is the person who makes sure that your favorite live events go off without a hitch. She makes sure stage production meets the artist’s standards, negotiates contracts, makes sure talent arrives on time and ensures they get what they need.
Lowery’s rise to the top hasn’t always been easy. “I was a one-woman army,” she told Nylon earlier this year. “I had to figure out how I could compete and stay alive and make a living with all of these major agencies that can offer the artists so much more.” She’s also had to deal with touring managers and agents who think “I’m a groupie, the agent not knowing how to speak with me, the colleague that won’t look me in the eye because he’s so used to dealing with men.”
Throughout the decade she’s been involved with live events such as Broccoli City Festival in Washington, D.C., Roots Picnic in Philadelphia, and countless tours for artists. But now she’s expanding her own platform, Femme It Forward.
Femme It Forward highlights, empowers, and celebrates women in music and entertainment. A recent partnership with Live Nation will soon expand the scope of the platform.
Singer-songwriter Victoria Monét is the superstar behind some of music’s biggest hits. She’s released singles such as “Ass Like That,” “Monopoly” featuring Ariana Grande, and last year’s EP Life After Love, Pt. 2.
But if you check the credits of some of your favorite songs, you’ll likely see Monét’s name listed alongside other major artists. She helped pen a number of hits on Ariana Grande’s Thank You, Next, including the title track and “7 Rings.” She’s featured on the 2012 Nas track, “You Wouldn’t Understand.” And she previously wrote for one of the decade’s biggest girl groups, Fifth Harmony.
In this decade, Monét became the popstar’s go-to girl for infectious chart-toppers.
As Executive Vice President of Urban Promotions at Atlantic Records, Juliette Jones is one of the most powerful women in music. She’s the exec behind acts such as Bruno Mars, Cardi B and Gucci Mane.
But although her artists are currently killing the game, sadly Jones still has to face sexism in the music industry, she revealed in an interview with Billboard. However, she hopes to change that soon with a mentorship program for women in the industry. Working with Thea Mitchem, Executive Vice President of Programming for iHeartMedia’s Northeast division, Jones hopes to see more women rise to the top.
“It’s important, as women, that we learn to use our power to support each other, plus be comfortable in asking questions and voicing our career desires. We need more [Atlantic chairman and CEO] Julie Greenwalds and Sylvia Rhones in the top seats—someone who sees the potential in women,” she said.
If you don’t know Sylvia Rhone’s name then you don’t know the music industry.
The veteran was promoted to helming an entire label earlier this year, by becoming the chairman and CEO of Sony’s Epic Records, a label with a roster that includes André 3000, 21 Savage, and Travis Scott.
This isn’t Rhone’s first time helming a label. From 1994-2004 she was the Chairman and CEO of Warner Music Group’s Elektra Entertainment Group. Rhone was also appointed in 2004 to President of Motown Records and Executive Vice President at Universal Records.
Since her time at Epic, Rhone has ushered in a new era of success for the company with the label’s presence in hip-hop massively expanding.
“Everything we do is a testament to our incredible artists who set the bar of the entire Epic culture, inspiring our dedicated executive team every day and enriching the legacy of this great label,” Rhone said in a statement following her promotion.
Motown Records President Ethiopia Habtemariam told ESSENCE back in 2015 the secrets to her stellar career. It included advice such as learn to master every skill and task, teamwork makes the dream work, and have passion.
Clearly, it’s advice that works because under her stewardship, Motown Records has been reborn. She’s tapped Atlanta-based label Quality Control Music for a partnership that’s resulted in the success of rap groups, including Migos and City Girls while working with soul artists like BJ the Chicago Kid and Erykah Badu.
Forever an iconic label, under Habtemariam’s leadership Motown is leading the way once again as a trendsetter in music.
Ebony Naomi Oshunrinde, known professionally as WondaGurl, is the architect behind some of the decade’s best songs.
The producer has credits on Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money,” Drake’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, and has worked with Travis Scott on a number of projects.
One of music’s youngest producers—she’s only 23—WondaGurl is just getting started.
Queens native Diana Gordon has released tons of music, blending genres on her 2011 debut With the Music I Die and EPs like Human Condition: Sanguine and Pure.
But Gordon might be best known for her work behind the scenes. She’s written for Beyoncé, specifically the singer’s iconic album Lemonade, with Gordon penning tracks, including “Daddy Lessons,” “Sorry,” and “Don’t Hurt Yourself.” She’s worked with Chloe x Halle on “The Kids Are Alright” and Diplo and Mark Ronson’s infectious hit featuring Dua Lipa “Electricity.”
Recently, much of Gordon’s focus has been writing for herself. With the credits to back her and the sound to match, the next decade could be all about Diana.
Based in New York City, Ebonie Smith is an award-winning producer and audio engineer who has worked with some of the biggest artists in music ranging from Janelle Monáe to Ciara. She’s even popped up in the credits of the Hamilton cast album.
In a 2018 interview with The Fader, Smith opened up about being a woman in a male-dominated industry, saying she doesn’t downplay being a woman. “I don’t play that—never have. My mother raised me to always believe in everything that I bring to the table, and I’ve used it all. It’s gotten me where I am, and I’m proud of it,” she told the magazine.
Along with her incredible music, Smith launched Gender Amplified, an initiative that spotlights and educates women in music.
Ester Dean has been penning hits for artists since the early 2000s and in the 2010s, you can guarantee that nearly every hit from your favorite artist had been touched by Dean.
From Nicki Minaj’s “Pills N Potions” to Beyoncé’s “Countdown,” if you wanted a hit in this decade, you called Dean.
Dean even expanded beyond music in the 2010s, appearing in films and TV shows like Pitch Perfect and RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Tayla Parx is another hitmaker artists call when they want to top the charts.
Throughout the decade, Parx teamed up with artists, including Alicia Keys, The Internet, Chloe x Halle, Janelle Monáe, and Anderson .Paak.
Along with penning some of music’s best songs, Parx is a performer in her own right with a number of singles. She became one to watch when she released her debut album We Need to Talk earlier this year.Share :