North Jersey has been home to a multitude of Black entertainers — from singers to rappers to songwriters. These individuals have greatly impacted our culture and the music industry, setting records and breaking barriers. With various artists of different styles spanning across decades, there are so many talented Black musicians from North Jersey. Read on to learn about which Black singers and rappers have called North Jersey home.
(Photo credit: @akon)
Akon was born in Saint Louis, Missouri. He spent much of his childhood in Senegal, switching between there and Union City before his family settled in Newark. Akon is credited with over 300 guest appearances as a featured artist. Songs of his include “Locked Up” and “Don’t Matter.”
(Photo credit: @antoniquesmith)
Actress and singer Antonique Smith was born in East Orange. She co-wrote the Grammy-nominated single and theme song for the Fox TV show Shots Fired. In 2009, she played Faith Evans in Notorious, based on the life of Faith’s late first husband, The Notorious B.I.G.
(Photo credit: @christinamilian)
Singer and actress Christina Milian was born in Jersey City and later raised in Maryland. Songs of hers include “Say I,” “Us Against the World”, and her first major hit, “Dip it Low.”
Claydes Charles Smith
Claydes Charles Smith of Kool & the Gang was born in Jersey City. Kool & the Gang is most famous for their hit song, “Celebration.” Claydes wasn’t the only North Jersyian of the group — founding members and brothers Ronald and Robert Koop also grew up in Jersey City. In 2006, he passed away and was buried at Fairview Cemetery in Westfield.
Read More: A List of Female Celebrities From New Jersey
Dee Dee Warwick
Dee Dee Warwick was born in Newark and grew up in East Orange. Warwick came from a musically inclined family. She was the sister of Dionne Warwick, niece of Cissy Houston, and cousin of Whitney Houston and Leontyne Price. Alongside her sister and aunt, she sang at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark. The three would go on to form the Gospelaires and often performed with the Drinkard Singers. She passed away in 2008 and was buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Hillside.
(Photo credit: @idionnefarris)
Born in Plainfield, Dionne Farris was raised in Bordertown in Burlington County. Her parents named her after their favorite singer and fellow New Jersyian Dionne Warwick. In the early 1990s, Farris was part of the hip hop group Arrested Development. Her daughter is singer Baby Tate.
(Photo credit: @therealfaithevans)
Faith Evans was born in Lakeland, Florida, and would later grow up in Newark. Throughout high school, she performed with jazz groups and entered pageants, festivals, and contests to promote her name and voice. At 20, she became the first female artist to contract with Puff Daddy.
Florence LaRue was born in Plainfield and later moved to Pennsylvania. LaRue was an original member of the 5th Generation and, along with the group, has won six Grammy Awards.
(Photo credit: @gloriagaynor)
Gloria Gaynor was born in Newark and graduated from South Side High School. She began her career with Columbia Records in 1971 and is best known for her disco-era hit, “I Will Survive.”
(Photo credit: @icet)
Rapper, singer, songwriter, actor, and producer Ice-T was born in Newark. In his youth, his family moved out of Essex County to Summit. His debut album Rhyme Pays is thought to be one of the first hip-hop albums to carry an explicit warning sticker. Viewers tuning into an episode of Law&Order: Special Victims Unit will see Ice-T star as NYPD officer Odafin Tutuola.
(Photo credit: @mslaurynhill)
Best known as a member of Fugees and for her solo album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Lauryn Hill was born in Newark and later raised in South Orange. She is often considered one of the greatest rappers of all time and credited for breaking barriers for female rappers.
Marylin McCoo was born in Jersey City and later raised in Georgia. Not only is she a singer, but she’s also an actress and television presenter. McCoo performed as lead vocalist of the 5th Dimension alongside Florence LaRue.
(Photo credit: @naturi4real)
Naturi Naughton, best known as a member of 3LW, grew up in East Orange. In her youth, she sang for her church choir at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark. Naughton is also an actress starring in films such as Fame, Step Sisters, and Really Love.
(Photo credit: @queenlatifah)
Queen Latifah was born in Newark and spent much of her time in East Orange and Irvington. In 2006, she was the first hip hop artist to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Songs of hers include “I Know Where I’ve Been” and “U.N.I.T.Y.”
(Photo credit: @iamreginabelle)
Most notable for her singles “Baby Come to Me” and “Make it Like it Was,” singer/songwriter Regina Belle was born in Englewood. In 1992, alongside Peabo Bryson, she recorded “A Whole New World,” the main theme song in Disney’s Aladdin.
Sarah Vaughan was born and raised in Newark. She attended East Side High School and transferred to Newark Arts High School when it opened in 1931. Vaughan was a jazz singer notable for her songs “Misty” and “Black Coffee.” She passed away in 1990 and was buried at Glendale Cemetery in Bloomfield.
(Photo credit: @sza)
R&B singer SZA was born in Saint Louis, Missouri, and raised in Maplewood. SZA has worked with numerous artists such as Chance the Rapper, Travis Scott, Doja Cat, and Kendrick Lamar. Popular songs of hers include “I Hate U” and “Good Days.”
Anthony Criss, known by his stage name as “Treach”, was born in East Orange. In the 1980s, Treach — alongside Vin Rock and DJ Kay Gee — formed The New Style, now known as Naughty by Nature. The group was mentored by Queen Latifah.
(Photo credit: @whitneyhouston)
Whitney Houston was one of the best-selling artists of all time. Not only is she the only artist to have seven consecutive number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100, but she also acted in and produced movies. Born in Newark, Whitney moved to East Orange after the 1967 Newark riots. In her youth, she sang for her church choir at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark. Whitney passed away in 2012 and is buried at Fairview Cemetery in Westfield.