Dev Hynes

The influence of African American music is ubiquitous in today’s music. Whether the genre is pop, rock ‘n’ roll, or hip hop.

TOP5 Favorite African American Songwriters

Written By: Egoslim

September 28, 2020


The influence of African American music is ubiquitous in today’s music. Whether the genre is pop, rock ‘n’ roll, or hip hop. These five songwriters are powerhouses; allowing their backgrounds to influence them while making experimental, trailblazing music that has defined decades and genres.


Dev Hynes

Recording under the Blood Orange moniker, Hynes has written for artists such as Tinashe, Blondie, FKA Twigs, Haim, Florence and the Machine, Kylie Minogue, and many more. Not only is he a master songwriter, but also has collaborated several times with legendary composer Philip Glass, and has written scores for art pieces and movies (like Palo Alto). His own music incorporates indie rock, baroque pop, folk, contemporary R&B, jazz, and electronic music. Often drawing from his love for New York and its stories in his music; Hynes writes masterful lyrics filled with emotion.


Erykah Badu

Sometimes referred to as “The Queen of Neo Soul,” Erykah Badu is a legend in every sense of the term. Her music draws from R&B, 1970s soul, and 1980s hip hop in all its raw emotion and grooves. Much of Badu’s music is influenced by her exploration of her African heritage through her belief in the Nation of Gods and Earths. She is credited with spearheading the rise of neo soul in the early 1990s, as well as spreading its popularity. Her warm, powerful lyrics are timeless and spiritual.


Sean Bowie

Sean Bowie, professionally known as Yves Tumor, produces experimental electronic music with heartfelt and raw lyrics. They started writing music to escape their dull surroundings, and are self-taught on drums, bass, guitar, and keyboards. Compared to James Ferraro and Dean Blunt, Bowie creates dark, dreamy soundscapes with haunting lyrics. Having released four albums, they have written each one of their songs. Often writing about personal relationships and spiritual themes, Bowie often juxtaposes various, seemingly unrelated genres in their music to create something that has never been done before.


Missy Elliott

The winner of four Grammy Awards, eight MTV Video Music Awards, two American Music Awards, six BET Awards, Missy Elliott has left her mark on rap and hip hop. In 2019, she became the first female rapper to be inducted to the Songwriters Hall of Fame. She is responsible for monumental hits from the early 2000s (like “Work It” and “Get Ur Freak On”), and has written with Raven-Symone, Aaliyah, and Beyoncè. Her work never fails to be groundbreaking and experimental—not only was her songwriting legendary, but she is an all-around cultural icon.



Solange Knowles is a masterful singer and songwriter, drawing inspirations from her past while looking to the future of her favorite genres: R&B, pop, hip hop, funk, and soul. Her lyrics often address issues such as relationships, world issues, parenthood, and racism. Having written all her songs on her four albums, as well as writing for her sister Beyoncè, Solange is a powerful, artful songwriter that is unafraid to address and embrace any theme.

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