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Black Music Executives Who Changed the Industry 💿

Updated: Jun 30, 2022

Written by: Abbie Alonzo

Entertainment has come a long way just in the last 30 years. It is important to note that while the artists we look up to are incredibly successful, they would not all be where they are without the amazing men and women behind the scenes helping to shape the industry. This week, we are going to celebrate some of the Black masterminds whose hard work and influence shaped the entertainment industry! 🌟

Cathy Hughes

Cathy Hughes is an entrepreneur who founded Urban One. Formerly known as Radio One, Urban One is the largest African-American owned and operated broadcast company in the nation. Hughes got her start in radio broadcasting at Howard University, where she worked as the university’s station’s sales manager. In her first year, she managed to increase revenue by over 1000%! She purchased her own radio station in Washington D.C. and hosted “24-Hour Talk from a Black Perspective,” with the theme, “Information is Power” for 11 years. Later, she would become the first Black woman chair of a publicly traded company, growing Urban One into a multimedia outlet. Today, Urban One has 55 music and entertainment stations including TV One, the largest African-American owned cable television network in the country. 👑

Berry Gordy

Berry Gordy is the founder of the enigmatic Motown Records. Gordy oversaw the development and production of iconic artists like Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, and Marvin Gaye. There is a distinct “Motown sound” that can only be attributed to Berry Gordy and his artists. Motown Records was the highest-earning African-American business for many years, and the music he produced played a large part in bringing black and white audiences together. By fostering the sound and careers of these artists we still adore today, Gordy is responsible for laying the groundwork of what would become one of the most famous genres of music, and setting quite a precedent for all future music executives to follow. 🎤

Mona Scott-Young

From being the CEO of multi-media company Monami Productions to co-founder of Violator Management, Mona Scott-Young has quite an impressive history. On the forefront, Ms. Young is best known for producing the popular VH1 reality show Love and Hip-Hop (where Cardi B was introduced to the public!). Through Violator Management, Young oversaw artists like Missy Elliot and LL Cool J! These artists had a big hand in crafting the sound and the vibe of 90’s and 2000’s rap and R&B. Today, Monami Entertainment houses Monami Productions, Monami Books, and other companies! Without Mona Scott-Young, the entertainment industry would not be nearly what it is today. 💗

Smokey Robinson

A prodigy of Berry Gordy, Smokey Robinson was the frontman of Motown band The Miracles for about ten years before pursuing a solo career. “The King of Motown” is credited with having a hand in writing 4,000 songs! With 37 of those being top 40 tunes, American culture from the 60s and beyond was shaped by the hands of this talented man. He continued to grow the legacy of Motown Records, serving as the label’s vice president for over two decades. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in 1990. Diana Ross put it all into words when she said, “If a great writer is a poet, and a great poet is a genius, then Smokey Robinson is a miracle.” ✨

Sylvia Rhone

Sylvia Rhone is regarded by Sony Music as “one of the most influential executives in music industry history.” Rhone held senior positions at each of the three major record labels before earning the title of CEO and Chairwoman of Sony subsidiary, Epic Records. She is the first woman ever, and the first African-American woman, to be the CEO of a major label owned by a Fortune 500 company. Under her leadership, multiple albums of the label’s have appeared simultaneously on the Billboard 200, and she has helped skyrocket the careers of artists like Camila Cabello. She got her start in the 90’s, turning then-boutique Elektra Entertainment into an incredibly successful label. In her time at each label, she aided in the development of artists from Nicki Minaj to Missy Elliot! After nearly four decades in music, Sylvia Rhone continues to contribute to the expansion and growth of music! 🤩

Dr. Dre

Dr. Dre is perhaps the most revered hip-hop producer and music executive of all time. A California kid with a passion for music, Dr. Dre would go on to become one of the most successful entrepreneurs and shape music for generations to come. He saw talent and promise in artists like Snoop Dogg and Eminem and mentored them all the way to the top. His ear for sound and eye for talent has led to him being a part of more artists’ careers and records than you could believe! Dr. Dre also founded Beats by Dre in 2006, which has grown into one of the largest sound-supporting companies. Without Dre, hip-hop and music listening as we know it would not be the same! 🎧

Sylvia Robinson

Known as “The Mother of Hip-Hop,” Sylvia Robinson was a phenomenal singer, who then founded hip-hop label Sugar Hill Records. A New York City native, Robinson named the label for the neighborhood in Harlem. Her work really helped put hip-hop on the map on a national level. Particularly, she had a hand in The Sugarhill Gang’s single, “Rapper’s Delight,” which sold over eight million copies and began revolutionizing the music industry. She later signed Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and oversaw the production of “The Message.” Though Sugar Hill Records does not exist the same way today, Robinson continued in music executive positions until her heartbreaking death in 2011. 💔


Founding member of rap group N.W.A, Eazy-E paved the way for a new style of rap music. Nicknamed “The Godfather of Gangsta Rap,” Eazy-E began developing this unique sound in the late 1980’s. This genre shaped a generation and would pave the way for future rap music. The group’s debut studio album, Straight Outta Compton, is now referred to as one of the most influential albums of all time. After N.W.A’s breakup in the early 90s, Eazy-E went on to release two EPs, as well as sign and foster rap group Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. The late rapper’s legacy continues to live on today through the way gangsta rap has influenced rap music today. 💫

Carmen Murray

Founder of multi-channel music company TITLE 9, Carmen Murray is one of few African-American women in her position. She managed to build a boutique company into a recognized name in the industry. Through this company, Murray has assisted in multiple philanthropic initiatives, often assisting artists interested in service-oriented ventures. Murray has created many strategic alliances with industry giants and fostered new ways of business! 💥

Troy Carter

Troy Carter held many incredible positions at several entertainment companies, including co-founding Q&A Entertainment, CEO of Atom Factory, and Global Head of Creator Services at Spotify. Q&A is a music and technology company, while Atom Factory is a talent management and film/TV company. Troy Carter is possibly best known for managing superstar Lady Gaga in the iconic Gaga time period of 2007-2013. He also went on to manage artists like Meghan Trainor and John Legend. ⭐️

There is always so much work that goes on behind-the-scenes of our favorite music, movies and TV shows. To be able to acknowledge the perseverance and dedication of these trailblazers of the industry is an honor! We are so glad to share the stories of those who continue to make this industry thrive! 💜

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