This year’s Black Music Month has been quite entertaining! We welcomed a revival of House music, looked back on some classic jams to bump for Juneteenth and even paid homage to albums by Black musicians that are celebrating a 20th anniversary in 2022.
With the number 20 in mind, in addition to a recent shady story shared by gospel legend Mavis Staples about her 1987 duet with late Queen Of Soul Aretha Franklin, we started reflecting on the art of music collaborations and how they’ve developed in the realm of Black music over the past two decades.
To close out Black Music Month the right way, we put together a list of 20 amazing duets by Black musicians that kept us rocking, rolling and rhyming along over the past two decades. See if you agree with our picks!
From 2002 to where we are now in 2022, music has changed drastically. We’ve gone from the soul-sampling era of the early to mid 2000s, ventured into a dance-inspired EDM phase sometime between ’08 and ’10, slowly became a hi-hat heavy generation with a flip on trap beats and finally ended up in an era that’s looking to rid the game of genres altogether. Black music is essential regardless of what you call it though, and these duos managed to keep the harmonies flowing whether it was a hard-hitting beat or a smooth & simple serenade.
We chose one song from each year over the past two decades, excluding 2022 because we can’t predict the future, that reflected both the sound of the time and Billboard success alike.
Let us know if your favorite song made the list, and feel free to debate on the Black duets we missed or who could’ve been replaced:
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1. 2002: “Dilemma” – Nelly & Kelly Rowland
Even though we’re still trying to figure out how Kelly was texting on Microsoft Excel, this one is a certified classic.
2. 2003: “Crazy in Love” – Beyoncé & Jay-Z
The first of many iconic collabs between this duo both in life and artistry.
3. 2004: “My Boo” – Usher & Alicia Keys
A song everyone wanted to dedicate to that special someone who could only be described in three simple letters.
4. 2005: “Gold Digger” – Kanye West & Jamie Foxx
When people say “I miss the old Kanye,” this is what they’re referring to.
5. 2006: “(When You Gonna) Give It Up to Me” – Sean Paul & Keyshia Cole
During the music industry’s reggae fusion era, this soundtrack hit was a certified bashment banger.
6. 2007: “Umbrella” – Rihanna & Jay-Z
The beginning of Rihanna’s reign in pop music kicked off with a downpour. 15 years later, we’re still soaking in her greatness.
7. 2008: “Low” – Flo Rida & T-Pain
Regardless of how you feel about the club era, no one can deny how big “Low” would become — try third biggest-selling hit of the decade!
8. 2009: “Empire State of Mind” – Jay-Z & Alicia Keys
A NYC anthem that even non-New Yorkers sing to the top of their lungs.
9. 2010: “OMG” – Usher & will.i.am
It’s still hard to fathom the man who made Confessions becoming an EDM king, but then again 2010 was a wild time!
10. 2011: “What’s My Name?” – Rihanna & Drake
Even though they couldn’t seem to find love together in real life, these two can always sing about it to perfection.
11. 2012: “Ni**as in Paris” – Jay-Z & Kanye West
It’s highly unlikely that WWT 2 is happening anytime soon, but we’ll always look back fondly on this peak in the unity between two rap kings.
12. 2013: “#Beautiful” – Mariah Carey & Miguel
Both biracial hitmakers came together to show us that love and soul still can exist on the Billboard 100 chart. Beautiful, indeed!
13. 2014: “Drunk in Love” – Beyoncé & Jay-Z
One word: surfboard!
14. 2015: “I Don’t F*ck with You” – Big Sean & E-40
Summed up a feeling that we’ve all felt about someone at some point in life. Preach!
15. 2016: “Work” – Rihanna & Drake
Yet again, Drizzy and Rih delivering the hits as a duo. We may just need a duets albums from them at some point!
16. 2017: “Love Galore” – SZA & Travis Scott
These early-30s hitmakers came together for a left-field love song that ushered in a new sound for radio, recalling the eclectic era of Aaliyah and Timbaland.
17. 2018: “Love Lies” – Khalid & Normani
At a time when we all thought the magic of soul duets was all but lost, these new age R&B stars came together to give us a beautiful reminder.
18. 2019: “Drip Too Hard” – Lil Baby & Gunna
The new leaders of hip-hop made their mark with this collab, and it looks like you’ll be hearing a lot more from these two in the future if the downfalls of life don’t get in the way of their success.
19. 2020: “Savage (Remix)” – Megan Thee Stallion & Beyoncé
With female rap making a much-needed resurgence over the past five years, Megan and King Bey stopped the world with a Texas team-up that had the entire nation twerking.
20. 2021: “Leave the Door Open” – Bruno Mars & Anderson .Paak as Silk Sonic
Although newly-formed, we can’t wait to see how these two continue to make magic together!