From Aaliyah to Alicia Keys: Why 2001 Was a Huge Year for Black Women in Music

Billy Nilles
·1 min read

In 2001, a grand total of 15 songs spent time at the top of the Billboard Hot 100.

For the unfamiliar, the music publication's weekly chart compiles data collected by Nielsen SoundScan relating to the sales performance and radio play, ranking the 100 most successful. The list is industry standard. Reaching the top of it is a big freaking deal. And 20 years ago, only 15 songs did it.

Of those 15 songs, six of them—or 40 percent—belonged to Black women.

To put that into some context, Black women were only responsible for 22 percent of the No. 1 hits in 2020. In 2019, just 12 percent.

Quite simply, 2001 was a major year for Black women in music.

While their contributions continue to be felt year in and year out, regardless of their performance on the charts, a look at the totality of their impact two decades ago is enough to have the least sentimental among us longing for a trip back in time. After all, this was the year that gave us landmark albums from Destiny's Child, Janet Jackson and Missy Elliott, introduced us to Alicia Keys, forced us to say goodbye to Aaliyah and saw Whitney Houston earn exactly what her estimable talent was worth.

Iconic Female MCs

For a full look at just how special 2001 was—and just how lucky we were to experience it—check out the list below!