10 Monuments of R&B/Soul/Spoken Word Who Impacted Hip-Hop History


February is Black History Month! And, in honor of those who have paved the way and pioneered in Hip-Hop culture and beyond, AllHipHop.com pays tribute all month with its “Monuments” series.

There’s no doubt about it – Hip-Hop’s earliest influences derive from an era filled with politically-charged messages, catchy melodies, and rhythms that made your hips move and your head bop. Hip-Hop is a genre that, from the early days of Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, Afrika Bambaataa, Big Daddy Kane, and KRS One, to the Drakes and Big Seans of the game, has always looked to past music for inspiration on a new sound.

From the intensity of James Brown’s vocals, to the seductive delivery of Luther Vandross, Soul music found its way into Hip-Hop and was never asked to leave. AllHipHop.com takes a look back at 10 Monuments of Music who have forever impacted Hip-Hop:

Luther Vandross
Artists that have utilized the smooth tunes of Luther include DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, Kanye West, Janet Jackson, Keyshia Cole, and even some of rap’s new stars like Lil Flip and Gucci Mane.

Some notable songs utilizing the sounds of Luther Vandross:

“Let Me Hold You Down” by Bow Wow featuring Omarion
“Slow Jamz” by Twista featuring Kanye West and Jamie Foxx
“So Amazing” by 50 Cent featuring Olivia

James Brown
Soul legend James Brown has been sampled by En Vogue, LL Cool J, Total, Notorious B.I.G, and the list goes on and on. According to Live Music Guide, Brown is one of the most sampled artists in music history.

Some notable songs utilizing the sounds of James Brown:

“A Man’s World” by Beanie Sigel
“How to Kill a Radio Consultant” by Public Enemy
“Insane in the Brain” by Cypress Hill

This legendary and former Motown group has inspired many of the most influential rappers of our time, including both The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac. In just 10 years of music-making, this sibling group cemented their place in history. Their style includes R&B, soul, funk, and even gospel.

Some notable songs utilizing the sounds of DeBarge:

“I Aint Mad At Ya” by Tupac
“Problems” by AZ
“One More Chance” by Notorious B.I.G

Marvin Gaye
A definite staple in Motown and Soul music history, Gaye proved to be a forced to be reckoned with when he released music that touched on politics and the war on drugs in his hit “What’s Goin’ On”. And, we can’t forget the sexually charged hits like “Sexual Healing” and “Let’s Get It On”.

Some notable songs utilizing the sounds of Marvin Gaye:

“Music” by Erick Sermon
“Love Is…” by Common
“N*ggaz Done Started Something” by DMX featuring The Lox and Mase

Mary J. Blige
Though she’s young compared to the rest of this list, Mary J. Blige has influenced the likes of rapper The Game, The Notorious B.I.G., and The Fugees.

Some notable songs utilizing the sounds of Mary J. Blige:

“Nuttin’ But Love” by Heavy D & the Boyz
“Down” by Juelz Santana
“Don’t Need Your Love” by The Game

The Isley Brothers
This Grammy-award winning band of brothers (and one brother-in-law), has been heard all over Hip-Hop. From the sounds of one of Notorious B.I.G.’s biggest singles, “Big Poppa,” to playing roles in R. Kelly videos, the Isleys can’t lose.

Some notable songs utilizing the sounds of The Isley Brothers:

“Jenifa Taught Me (Derwin’s Revenge)” by De La Soul
“A Night Off” by Drake featuring Lloyd
“Summer Breeze: Sex Room” by Ludacris featuring Trey Songz

The Last Poets
Popularly known as the earlier influencers of what would later become Hip-Hop, this spoken word and musician collective has inspired much of what we hear on the radio. In 2004, the Kanye West-produced song “The Corner”, featured the poets.

Some notable songs utilizing the sounds of The Last Poets:

“Party and Bullsh*t” by The Notorious B.I.G.
“Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” by Digable Planets
“The Corner” by Clipse and Re-up Gang

Aretha Franklin
Often referred to as the “Queen of Soul,” Aretha Franklin is the winner of 20 Grammys and a slew of other awards that have applauded her talent. For that reason, Hip-hoppers have borrowed her sounds to create masterpieces.

Some notable songs utilizing the sounds of Aretha Franklin:

“In My Lifetime” by Jay-Z
“Ms. Fat Booty” by Mos Def
“No Respect” by Kool Moe De

Rick James
Known for his wild lifestyle, Rick James was the Grammy-nominated Funk/Soul musician of the late 1970s and ’80s. James made a resurgence in public spotlight when he appeared in the now famous sketch on Dave Chapelle’s “Chapelle’s Show” before his passing. Jay-Z, Yelawolf, Chamillionaire, and Three Six Mafia are among the artists that have taken inspiration from James’ music.

Some notable songs utilizing the sounds of Rick James:

“Kingdom Come” by Jay-Z
“Jane” by EPMD
“Outta My System” by Bow Wow featuring T-Pain

Chaka Khan
A 10-time Grammy Award winning artist, Khan’s music can still be heard in commercials, films and of course, in many of today’s hottest Hip-Hop production.

Some notable songs utilizing the sounds of Chaka Khan:

“Ain’t Nobody” by LL Cool J
“Comin’ Out Hard” by 8Ball & MJG
“Through The Wire” by Kanye West

These are just a few of the many, many “Monuments” who have impacted Hip-Hop. Comment and tell us some of your own favorites!