Cardi B, left, and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” is the biggest hit song of 2020.

Destined to make history as the biggest single of 2020 – still No. 1 after six weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 as of this writing – rappers Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” is smart, vulgar, provocative, highly entertaining, and, like so many influential hit songs before it, divisive. 

It’s the sound of two gifted artists in their mid-20s at the pinnacle of the pop world; the sound of two Black women rocking the music biz, a traditionally white male dominated industry that Black women have been successfully infiltrating for the past century.

From the beginning of blues and jazz in the ’20s to where funk transitioned into disco in the ’70s to any number of significant changes in hip-hop and pop music from the ’80s onward, you will find one common denominator: Black women leading the way.  

In celebration of the myriad contributions they have made to popular music, we have compiled a list of 25 songs by Black women that have influenced the music world as well as popular culture in general. These are essential pop, rock, jazz, blues and hip-hop recordings issued from the 1920s to 2020 by recording artists who each have had long, successful careers well worth a deeper examination.

Songs are presented in chronological order. Ranking them would be silly. Each composition – just like each individual recording artist – stands on its own merits as one of the most important
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