Anyone who has listened to a Questlove set on Instagram knows that he doesn’t just play musician, he knows music. His deep understanding—and insane anthology from countless genres—make him an instant master of melody. Born Ahmir Thompson, this seasoned percussionist co-founded the three-time Grammy Award–winning hip-hop group the Roots. The Roots have permeated American culture as the house band on The Tonight Show. Earlier this year, Questlove made his cinematic directorial debut with Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), which excavated documentary footage of the renowned 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. The Philadelphia native has also authored several books, including Something to Food About: Exploring Creativity With Innovative Chefs. His new book, Music Is History, will focus on the last 50 years of American music through a personal, political, and cultural lens. It will explore “how Black identity reshaped itself during the blaxploitation era” and analyze “the assembly-line nature of disco and its hostility to Black genius.”

Anderson .Paak


Anderson .Paak is a Grammy Award–winning singer, rapper, drummer, and songwriter. He released his debut mixtape, O.B.E. Vol. 1, in 2012 and followed it up with Venice two years later. In 2016, he released Malibu and was signed to Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment label shortly thereafter. In 2020, he won two Grammy Awards: Best R&B Album for Ventura and Best R&B performance for “Come Home.” .Paak, who faced his fair share of adversity before rising to fame, believes in the benefit of arts programs for children. Five years ago, he started the Brandon Anderson Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes the philosophy that anyone can tap into their greatest potential with the proper exposure to the arts. The crooner is also the first global music ambassador for Vans. His latest collab with the streetwear brand, the Vans x Anderson .Paak collection, is inspired by his sons, Soul Rasheed and Shine.

Jeanine McLean


After almost 20 years in artist development and management, Jeanine McLean has garnered a reputation for being one of the best in her field. As president and managing partner at MBK Entertainment, she has repeatedly ushered artists from obscurity to greatness. Now McLean is duplicating that same magic with H.E.R. during periods of lockdowns, quarantines, and concerning variants. Last year, McLean arranged a historic deal with Fender that enabled H.E.R. to be the first Black female artist with a signature guitar line. This year, while H.E.R. snagged two more Grammys and an Oscar, McLean was orchestrating the quickly sold-out return of the Lights On Festival, which the star owns and curates. Yet, for the entertainment veteran, the magic doesn’t end with her clients. In 2021, whether she’s mentoring college students and industry creatives or being voted to the advisory board of the Recording Academy’s New York Chapter, it’s clear that this president aims to empower as well as to advocate.

Joi Brown


Joi Brown has a 20-plus-year track record in marketing and brand partnerships. She worked with artists such as Cardi B, Lizzo, and Janelle Monáe while at Atlantic Records, where she served as senior vice president of marketing and brand partnerships. In her current role as head of strategic partnerships at talent and literary agency ICM Partners, she plans to work across all departments to connect clients with strategically targeted brands. Brown is also the founder and CEO of Culture Creators, an organization that connects new creators with cultural pioneers and spotlights individuals who have helped shape perspectives on Black culture.



Grammy-nominated rapper Rapsody is considered one of the top lyricists of her generation. She has worked with some of the industry’s most prominent creatives, including Chance the Rapper, Queen Latifah, Busta Rhymes, Anderson .Paak, Kendrick Lamar, Estelle, Raekwon, and PJ Morton, among others. Laila’s Wisdom—the follow-up to her critically acclaimed debut album, The Idea of Beautiful—received two Grammy nominations in 2017. Two years later, she released EVE, a musical project that paid tribute to 16 powerful Black women who impacted her life, including Tupac Shakur’s mother, Afeni Shakur; Nina Simone; Aaliyah; Oprah; Sojourner Truth; Myrlie Evers-Williams; and Michelle Obama. Rapsody’s game-changing album EVE inspired English courses at Ohio State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The OSU class juxtaposes the rapper’s masterpiece with the classics of Toni Morrison, while the UNC course analyzes each track of the rapper’s musical collection against womanist theory and hip-hop history.



Producer extraordinaire Timbaland, born Timothy Mosley, is known for his chart-topping hits like “Work It” by Missy Elliott, “Try Again” by Aaliyah, and “Cry Me a River” by Justin Timberlake. He’s worked with megastars such as Madonna, Jay-Z, Rihanna, One Republic, Kanye West, Beyoncé, Björk, and Coldplay. But during the global pandemic, he took us to a happy place with the perfect mix of a concert, a reunion, and a competition: Verzuz was born and it has changed the way that we enjoy old-school hip-hop and R&B right from the safety of our own living rooms. Timbaland, along with co-creator, producer, and songwriter Swizz Beatz, figured out a way to bring us a slice of musical comfort. Timbaland has won an impressive list of awards from the Grammys, MTV, BET, Billboard, Teen Choice, NAACP, and more.

Big Freedia


Bounce music has landed on the map, and Big Freedia is a reason for it. The Queen of Bounce started out as a backup dancer for one of her friends, but saw her first wave of success shortly after Hurricane Katrina. She made her debut as an artist in 2003 and didn’t look back, picking up a GLAAD Award along the way for her reality TV show, Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce. She represents her hometown of New Orleans with pride, putting the rich culture of the city front and center. Mainstream audiences have heard her voice on Beyoncé’s “Formation,” Drake’s “Nice for What,” and numerous other recordings. She’s done it all while being her unapologetic self, a triumph for LGBTQ+ representation and an encouragement to millions.

Travis Scott


“Cactus Jack” has cemented his place as one of hip-hop’s mainstays. You’ve likely heard him on both Kanye West’s and Drake’s highly anticipated albums and on a number of other projects from artists like Migos and Baby Keem. The “Sicko Mode” rapper was chosen for a meal partnership with McDonald’s. Millions enjoyed the fast-food chain’s Travis Scott Meal and bought his affiliated merchandise, which includes a $90 McNugget body pillow and $250 denim shorts. A partnership with Nike is on the horizon, with the Air Trainer 1, rumored to release this holiday season. With his family growing, the Houston-born rapper is still committed to music. His follow-up to his 2018 Grammy-nominated Astroworld is due out soon.

Swizz Beatz


Bronx native Kaseem Dean, better known as Swizz Beatz, is one of the most prolific producers of our time. Over his 20-plus-year career, he has produced albums and songs for major artists including Whitney Houston, Beyoncé, DMX, Drake, Mariah Carey, Madonna, Britney Spears, Ja Rule, Busta Rhymes, Kanye West, Mary J. Blige, and more. Swizz executive-produced the posthumous eighth album by his close friend, internationally acclaimed rapper DMX, with the release coming seven weeks after the artist’s death. At 23, the Grammy Award winner launched a label imprint, Full Surface Records. And 16 years later, he would go on to graduate from the Owner/President Management program at Harvard Business School. His creativity expands beyond the music studio to collaborations with major fashion houses, including Christian Louboutin, Bally, and Reebok. As avid collectors of African-American art, he and his wife, singer Alicia Keys, are focused on protecting Black artists and have financially supported select creatives so they may put on their own art shows. Swizz is on the Brooklyn Museum Board of Trustees and serves as the first global ambassador for the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation.

Lil Baby


With billions of global streams, Lil Baby has been one of the most dominant and critically acclaimed names in rap since he emerged on the music scene three years ago. Amid last year’s protests against racial injustice, Lil Baby released a commanding anthem, “The Bigger Picture.” The record’s mix of uncertainty, frustration, and motivation—along with the popularity of his 2020 sophomore studio album, My Turn—solidified his reign at the top. With such a rapid rise and a relentless stream of hit singles and collaborations, it’s easy to see why Lil Baby was newly named an ASCAP Songwriter of the Year.

Derrick “D-Nice” Jones


This Bronx-raised superman single-handedly added new meaning to the line “last night a DJ saved my life.” While many of us were desperately searching for new and innovative ways to stay sane during a worldwide pandemic, Jones decided to do what he loves most—spin music. And what started as an intimate virtual party for some of his closest friends became a full-blown global disco. People all over the world danced until the wee hours of the morning with the likes of Janet Jackson, Michelle Obama, Halle Berry, and Quincy Jones. Those nights of music nourished our spirits, kept us going, and gave us what will forever be known as the award-winning Club Quarantine.

Erica Campbell


For several years, Erica Campbell, along with younger sister Tina, was part of the gospel super duo Mary Mary, but in 2013, she decided it was time to step out on her own. And the rest is history. The contemporary gospel and R&B singer-songwriter went on to win a Grammy for Best Gospel Album and eight Stellar Awards for her illustrious 2014 solo debut, Help. Today, her popular, nationally syndicated radio show, Get Up! Mornings With Erica Campbell, airs in 40 markets across the country and delivers powerful spiritual gems to its loyal and engaged listeners. Oh, and the pandemic hasn’t slowed down the entertainer one bit. In addition to appearing on BET’s Sunday Best as a judge, Campbell is now hitting the stage alongside other gospel giants as part of the virtual 15th annual McDonald’s Inspiration Celebration Gospel Tour.


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