Most of the time White artists are spoken about in the context of Black music, it’s with the expectation of appropriation. Musicians from Elvis Presley to Miley Cyrus leveraged Black sound for their own personal profit throughout their careers, often breaking records and earning accolades that belonged to Black folk.
But there are some White singers and rappers who made contributions to our music with nothing but pure, raw talent. These artists are actually so damn good that they sonically passed as Black, until the music video dropped.
Here are a list of musicians, from the age of blue-eyed soul to modern day rap, that we didn’t know were White.
1. Simply Red–Holding Back The Years
Simply Red isn’t Black, hell, they aren’t even American. These smooth soul singers formed their group in 1985 in Manchester, England. Their hit “Holding Back The Years” was covered by Angie Stone for 2000s teen classic “Love & Basketball.”
2. Bobby Caldwell—What You Won’t Do For Love
R&B crooner Bobby Caldwell draws his musical inspiration from his colorful upbringing in Miami. His mother, who worked in real estate, took on reggae king Bob Marley as one of her clients. Caldwell and Marley soon became friends. The artist’s appreciation for Haitian, Latin, R&B, reggae and Jazz music helped him pen and perform his 1978 hit ‘What You Won’t Do For Love.’
3. Michael McDonald–Keep Forgetting
Warren G & Nate Dogg sampled R&B banger “I Keep Forgetting” in their 1994 song, “Regulate.” Before Michael McDonald’s track became a part of hip hop history, McDonald was singing over this sultry musical beat for his debut solo album “If That’s What It Takes.” McDonald has nabbed 5 Grammy awards in his career spanning forty years.
4. Jon B–They Don’t Know
Contemporary R&B artist Jon B’s song “They Don’t Know,” climbed to #7 on the Billboard charts when it was released in 1998–making it the biggest hit of his career. The late ’90s was ripe ground for the R&B star, whose voice fit right in among some of the greatest love songs of our time.
5. Robin Thicke—Lost Without You
Okay, so maybe we knew Robin Thicke was white. The son of late TV star Alan Thicke, Robin’s talent first caught our attention when he road around on a bike with wild long hair belting, ‘When I Get You Alone.’ In 2006, Thicke’s falsetto heavy voice opened ears and thighs with his breakout hit “Lost Without You.”
6. G-Eazy—No Limit
Bay Area lyricist G-Eazy grabbed nationwide attention with his collabo with fellow rapper Cardi-B on “No Limit.” G-Eazy’s repetitive “f*ck with me and get some money” hook carries a type of swag only NorCal natives can pull off naturally.
7. Post Malone—Congratulations
Rapper Post Malone’s sound was birthed in the new crop of modern “stoner” music. The New York bred rapper first went viral with his hit, “White Iverson.” From there, Malone went on to perform at reality star Kylie Jenner’s 18th birthday, where he bumped into Kanye West. West was impressed by the burgeoning talent and decided to collab with him on his “Life Of Pablo” track “Fade.” His life was one big congratulations party from there.