Hip Hop Journalism Titans: 50 Influential Journalists Who Shaped the Genre's Narrative

Hip Hop Journalism Titans: 50 Influential Journalists Who Shaped the Genre's Narrative

Here's a list of 50 influential hip hop journalists who have been covering the genre from the 1980s up to the present day:

Nelson George is an established author and filmmaker with a passion for telling stories of the black experience in America. George is the author of several ground breaking histories of African American music, including Where Did Our Love Go: the Rise and Fall of the Motown Sound, The Death of Rhythm & Blues and Hip Hop America. He has published two collections of music journalism, Buppies, BBoys, Baps & Bohos: Notes on Post-Soul America and the The Nelson George Mixtape, which is available through Pacific Books. www.pacificpacific.pub.

Previously an assistant news editor and multiplatform editor at Philadelphia Media Network, SHEENA LESTER is also the former arts & culture editor of Philadelphia Weekly and former managing editor of BlackAmericaWeb.com. A pioneer in urban music magazines, Lester has served as editor-in-chief of RapPages and XXL, as well as music editor of Vibe, executive editor of 360HipHop.com and VP of music content at BET Interactive. She began her foray into journalism at the Los Angeles Sentinel before being hired by Larry Flynt Publications to oversee its flagship rap publication, turning RapPages into an international sensation with its provocative mix of music, advocacy and culture reporting. She brought that same mix of energy and intellect to New York-based media circles, first at Vibe, then in the top chair at XXL.


Denise "Dee" Barnes (stage name Sista D) is an American rapper and former Fox television personality who performed in the West Coast hip hop female duo Body & Soul and hosted a radio show on KDAY, prior to gaining wider fame as the host of Fox's hip hop show Pump It Up!, a weekly FOX TV rap music series on air from 1989-1992, according to IMDb.

Cynthia Horner has been the force behind one of America's most endearing entertainment social media publications for more than 40 years with the iconic, Right-On! Magazine. She still has the passion for the publication of entertainment news about the artists who live our fantasies, and bring us such great art, as CEO of Right On! Digital.

Editor In Chief of Real Health, serving up honest, cutting-edge info on a broad range of health issues, fitness, diet/nutrition, relationships and family. Kate Ferguson joined Smart + Strong in June 2008. Her responsibilities also include being a senior editor for POZ magazine and POZ.com. Previously, Kate was editor-in-chief of Today's Black Woman and the managing editor of Black Men magazine. She supervised the launch of the African-American lifestyle titles in 1995 and 1996, respectively. For 10 years prior, Kate was the editor-in-chief of two teen entertainment magazines, namely, Word Up! and Rap Masters. She also served as editor-in-chief for Black Teen and Female Bodybuilding and was the entertainment news editor and on-camera talent for "The Video Zone," a local music program on cable television.

Gerrie Summers is a writer specializing in the areas of travel, beauty, health and lifestyle. She is currently a correspondent for Everett Potter's Travel Report and a frequent contributor to Real Health magazine and the Sisters From AARP newsletter. You can also find several of her beauty articles on Brydie.com. Gerrie was the founding editor of Word Up! Magazine, beauty editor and travel columnist for Today’s Black Woman, About.com's Multicultural Beauty expert, and Style & Beauty Editor for New York Lifestyles Magazine, where she also wrote about travel destinations. Her articles have appeared in numerous publications and outlets including Foxnews.com, Essence, NY Daily News, Billboard, Bergen County Magazine, Luxury Living, Trip Savvy and For The Bride.

Despite having served as a publicist to some of the biggest names in the game, including Mariah Carey, Prince, John Legend, and Queen Bey herself, Noel-Schure didn’t have dreams of holding that title, but somehow life landed her the role, and she hasn’t let up ever since. From 1993 to 2010, Noel-Schure worked with the aforementioned artists for Sony. She eventually became the label’s senior vice president of media. When she had initially immigrated to the states at 14-year-old to help support her mother, Noel-Schure took her love for journalism a step further and ultimately landed a position at Black Beat Magazine as an editor in 1985.

Steven Ivory
Based in Los Angeles since the 1970s, Steve Ivory is among the best-known R&B-oriented music journalists on the West Coast. Ivory isn't from L.A. originally; he was born (Oct. 24, 1955) and raised in Oklahoma City, OK, and moved west as a young adult. Ivory started making a name for himself when, in the 1970s, he became a regular contributor to Soul Magazine, which has since folded, but was often described as the "Black Rolling Stone" in its day. In 1982, he went on to become editor of the popular teen magazine Black Beat (formerly Soul Teen) and stayed with the publication until 1993. Over the years, Ivory has written for many major publications, including Billboard, Vibe, Essence, the Los Angeles Times, and the Source.

Journalist Clarence Waldron was born in 1957 in Union Township, New Jersey. Upon graduation, Waldron was hired as a general assignment reporter for The Press, a daily newspaper in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Then, from 1982 until 2011, he worked for the Johnson Publishing Company, where he served as senior editor and writer for JET magazine. At JET Waldron specialized in arts and entertainment, education and human rights.

Yasmine Shiraz
Yasmin Shiraz is an award winning Writer/Director (Can She Be Saved?) who initially took her love of music and created the hip hop magazine, Mad Rhythms - then took her love of books to create the best sellers The Blueprint for My Girls and Retaliation - then took her true calling to bring social issues, talent, and creativity to film with launching her independent studio, Still Eye Rise Films. Her first film, Can She Be Saved? - was a groundbreaking documentary that was selected in 15 film festivals nationally and internationally.

Magazine publisher Jamie Foster Brown, from 1981 to 1985, Brown worked as an assistant producer of BET’s Video Soul and Video LP programs. She left BET in 1985, and was hired at Impact magazine. In 1988, Brown founded Sister 2 Sister magazine and later created a syndicated radio show, The Sister 2 Sister Celebrity Update.

Greg Tate, writer, critic, musician, educator, former Hilltop writer and Howard University alum created hip hop narratives, considered by many to be the paradigm for cultural journalism. For many writers, including music journalist Marcus J. Moore, Tate’s critiques published in The Village Voice from 1987-2005 set a precedent for the quality and authenticity of contemporary music journalism and cultural criticism. His work emerged around the same time as hip-hop itself, and during a time when the beauty of art and music wasn’t a topic of in-depth discussion within many publications. 

Kevin Powell started his career as a reporter at Vibe Magazine, covering the emergence of some of the most prolific MC's of a generation.  Powell has since authored 13 books, including titles, My Mother. Barack Obama. Donald Trump. And the Last Stand of the Angry White Man

Dream Hampton is an award-winning filmmaker and writer from Detroit. For two decades her essays and cultural criticism helped shape a generation. Her most recent works include the award winning short film “Freshwater” (NYT OpDocs/PBS, 2023) and “Ladies First” (Netflix, 2023). Selected works include “Treasure“ (Frameline, 2015), “Finding Justice” (BET, 2019), “It’s A Hard Truth Ain’t It” (HBO, 2019) and the Emmy nominated "Surviving R. Kelly" (Netflix, 2019), which broke ratings records and earned her a Peabody Award. hampton was named one of TIME 100's most influential people in the world.

An internationally known cultural critic, journalist, activist, and thought leader in the area of hip-hop, youth culture, and Black political engagement, Bakari Kitwana is the Executive Director of Rap Sessions, which for the last fourteen years has conducted over 150 townhall meetings around the nation on difficult dialogues facing the hip-hop and millennial generations.

Writer, music journalist, cultural critic, podcaster, and television personality. He was a co-host of the TV show The Cycle on MSNBC. He was also a contributor to MSNBC's The Dylan Ratigan Show, and the host of Fuse's Hiphop Shop and On the Record. He's the author of several books, including The Portable Promised Land (2003), Soul City (2005), Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness? What It Means To Be Black Now (2011) and I Would Die 4 U: Why Prince Became an Icon (2013).

Cheo Hodari Coker is an American former music journalist turned television writer and producer known for such television series as Luke Cage, NCIS: Los Angeles, Southland and Ray Donovan. Coker also wrote the screenplay for the 2009 biographical film Notorious, based on the life and death of The Notorious B.I.G.

Raquel Cepeda is an American journalist, critic, filmmaker, and autobiographer. The editor of Russell Simmons' OneWorld magazine between 2001 and 2004, Cepeda was also the editor of the award-winning anthology "And It Don't Stop: The Best American Hip-Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years", the co-producer, writer, and director of the documentary film Bling: A Planet Rock, and the author of "Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina."

Harry Allen is a hip-hop activist, perhaps best known for his blog "Media Assassin" that he runs on his personal website. There he writes about race, politics, and culture, much as he does for Vibe, The Source, The Village Voice, and other publications, and has been doing so for over twenty years.

Award-winning journalist and author of Shine Bright: A Very Personal HIstory of Black Women in Pop, Danyel Smith brings cultural stories to life through her podcast, Black Girl Songbook, the New York Times Magazine, and HBO’s Music Box documentaries. Danyel was a John S. Knight fellow at Stanford, an arts fellow at the Medill School of Journalism, and a 2021 Yaddo fellow. A former producer, editor, and writer at ESPN, Danyel was editor of Billboard, and editor-in-chief of VIBE. She has written two novels — More Like Wrestling and Bliss.

Kierna is a writer, editor and veteran media person with a bent toward stunning visuals, #blackgirlmagic and brainy stuff. Former co-founder and editor of Honey Magazine. She is the Vice President and Executive Editor of Roc Lit 101/One World (Penguin Random House). She was the Editor in Chief and Vice President of Digital of EBONY magazine. 

Kim Osorio was the first female editor-in-chief of The Source magazine. She led the publication to some of its highest-selling issues ever before suing for sexual harassment.

Jesse Washington got his first front-page byline on his 19th birthday, on a story about Louis Farrakhan’s visit to the home of Tawana Brawley. At the end of 1996, Jesse left AP to become managing editor of Vibe. In 1998, he was named founding editor-in-chief of the Vibe spinoff Blaze, the largest magazine launch of the year and the biggest music magazine launch ever.

Hinds is the writer and co-creator of the Vertigo comic-book series, Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child. He’s also the author of two critically-hailed books—his memoir Gunshots in My Cook-Up: Bits and Bites of a Hip-Hop Caribbean Life, and To a Young Jazz Musician: Letters from the Road, written with Wynton Marsalis. Then there’s his well-renowned run as Editor-In-Chief of the Source Magazine during its late 90’s heyday. Hinds has written for a wide-array of major American publications, including the New York Times, The Village Voice, Vanity Fair, USA Today, Spin, and Vibe Magazine, and his music essays have been collected in numerous anthologies.

Elliott Wilson is a journalist, curator, author, and television producer. With a highly-engaged social community of over a quarter million, Wilson’s passion and contributions continue to steer the global cultural conversation. He is currently the Editorial Director, Culture & Content, at TIDAL. Wilson is also the founder/CEO of one of hip-hop’s most influential brands: Rap Radar. Wilson also created the innovative live experience, CRWN, in which he interviews superstars like Drake, Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj. Wilson’s tenure at the leading edge of music and pop culture has seen him establish unique relationships with the most influential and impactful stars and personalities, from Jay Z to J. Cole to Alicia Keys to L.A. Reid to Erykah Badu to Lin-Manuel Miranda—relationships which continue to evolve today.

Robert Marriott is an author, editor, producer and DJ who has traveled to more than 21 countries on three continents. His byline has appeared in numerous periodicals, including Complex, Spin, Rolling Stone, Blender, Vibe, the Village Voice, Arise, and New York. He has also served as a staff writer, senior editor, and creative director for magazines such as The Source, XXL, and Canoe.

Michael A. Gonzales is a cultural critic, short story scribe and essayist who has written for The Paris Review, The Village Voice, Wax Poetics, The Wire UK, Maggot Brain and Pitchfork. His fiction has appeared in Under the Thumb: Stories of Police Oppression edited by S.A. Cosby, Taint Taint Taint, Dead-End Jobs: A Hit Man Anthology edited by Andrew J. Rausch, Black Pulp edited by Gary Phillips and The Root. 

Andrieux' greatest strength rests in content development, programming and campaigns, print, web, mobile and video, and delivering them to audiences around the world. Her specialties include Editorial Strategy & Curation, Video Development and Production Management, Digital Media Development, Talent Development, Campaign Strategy and Execution, and Project Management, with a streamlined focus on music & pop culture (fashion, film, art, lifestyle). Amy was a creative leader at TRACE, MTV.com, MTV World (where she became the first Black Editorial Director at Viacom).

From media mogul (as co-founder of the original Honey Magazine) to movie scriptwriter, Joicelyn Dingle moves seamlessly from one project to the next with an amazing amount of fearlessness. Business can get sticky, and nobody knows that better than the co-founders of Honey magazine. Kierna Mayo and Joicelyn Dingle set out to create a magazine that spoke to contemporary Black women who mirrored each others’ styles and spirits, birthing the idea beneath a tree in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park. 

Havelock Nelson
Havelock Nelson is an American music journalist and the co-author of the 1992 book Bring the Noise: A Guide to Rap Music and Hip Hop Culture. Nelson was Billboard magazine's first rap editor where he singled out KMD's sophomore album Black Bastards contending that its artwork and title were offensive. This eventually led to Elektra records shelving the project. Nelson has written stories and reviews for Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone magazine and has been a contributor to the Huffington Post.

Sacha Jenkins founded Ego Trip magazine in 1994 and went on to contribute to Vibe, Rolling Stone and Spin. 

Davey D is a nationally recognized journalist, adjunct professor, Hip Hop historian, syndicated talk show host, radio programmer, producer, deejay, media and community activist. Davey D is the co-founder and host of several of the most cited Hip Hop radio and online news journalism projects of all time. Hard Knock Radio (HKR) is an award-winning daily syndicated prime time afternoon show focusing on Hip Hop culture and politics. One of the first of its kind, the show originated in 1999 on KPFA 94.1 FM in the San Francisco Bay Area, and now can be heard in Seattle, Atlanta, Portland, Fresno and is streamed live on KPFA.org, reaching close to a million listeners daily.

William Jelani Cobb is an American writer, author, educator, and dean of the Columbia Journalism School. His most recent book is “The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress.” He won the 2015 Sidney Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism, for his columns on race, the police, and injustice. He is the dean of the Columbia Journalism School.

Miles Marshall Lewis is a recognized pop culture critic, essayist, literary editor, fiction writer, and music journalist. He is the author of the essay collection Scars of the Soul Are Why Kids Wear Bandages When They Don’t Have Bruises, concerning coming of age in the Bronx under the aegis of hip-hop culture at its genesis. He is also the series editor and founder of Bronx Biannual, an urbane urban literary journal of fiction and essays, and author of There’s a Riot Goin’ On, a book on the making of the seminal 1971 Sly and the Family Stone album of the same name.

Sheldon Pearce is the editor at NPR Music running Rap and R&B. From 2020 to 2022, he was the music writer & editor for the New Yorker. He wrote the listening booth column on the website. Before that, he worked at pitchfork, from 2016-2020. He has also written for; Rolling Stone, the Fader, the Guardian, Spin, Complex and Dazed. He is the author of Changes: An oral history of Tupac Shakur.

Kathy Iandoli is a seasoned journalist and cultural critic with two decades of music industry experience in the fields of Media, Marketing, Radio, Publicity, and Brand Management. 

Carl Lamarre is an experienced music and sports journalist on a voracious mission to shift the culture. After writing for XXL, Complex, Billboard, Pepsi, Global Grind among other publications, he has proven to be well-versed in the music scene and exploring the artistry of many prominent figures.

Andrea Duncan-Mao is a Senior Producer with National Public Radio Station WNYC in New York City. She have deep knowledge of music and entertainment and have worked as a producer and writer on award shows including MTV's Video Music Awards and BET's Hip Hop Honors as well as specials on MTV and VH1. In her current role I've expanded my repertoire to build relationships in the Broadway, film, television and publishing spaces.

JayQuan is a music historian, lecturer, narrator and writer. Jay is the founder and operator of The Foundation (jay-quan.com), a website that contains in-depth interviews with the founders of Hip Hop, biographies and profiles of the legendary rap groups of yesteryear as well as a detailed timeline which chronicles the history of rap records. JayQuan produces, narrates and edits an acclaimed series of what he describes as mini documentaries called The Lessons on his YouTube channel (Foundation Hip Hop). 

A forward-thinking senior digital strategist with extensive experience in social media, content development, digital marketing, video, paid social and editing. 

For more than a decade, Lola Ogunnaike has traveled the globe as a feature writer and television correspondent, covering key events in entertainment, popular culture and politics for the New York Times, CNN, NBC, MSNBC, BET, MTV and Al Jazeera. In that time, Lola has interviewed a wide array of notable figures, from First Lady Michelle Obama and Jane Fonda to George Clooney, Kanye West, Jennifer Lopez, Kevin Costner, Oprah Winfrey and Chinua Achebe. 

As the Founder of the Urban website and music destination, AllHipHop.com, Grouchy Greg Watkins is fulfilling his childhood dream as an entertainment business pioneer and entrepreneur. With his partner, Chuck “Jigsaw” Creekmur, Watkins has built AllHipHop.com into the Internet voice of Hip-Hop culture. 

Experienced Founder with a demonstrated history of working in the internet industry. Strong entrepreneurship professional skilled in Web Content Writing, Content Strategy, Journalism, Blogging, and Entertainment.

Darryl James is an award-winning author (“Notes From The Edge,” “LA Riots,” “Detective’s Affair”), lecturer and filmmaker. James’ syndicated column (“The Bridge”) was carried in thirty outlets for ten years. James is the founder and publisher of several magazines, most notably Rap Sheet, the second largest rap music publication (1992-2002) and the lead Editor at Tenacious Books.

Angela Burt-Murray is an award-winning journalist, screenwriter and author with extensive experience developing TV, digital and social media programming for women. As the former Editor-in-Chief of Time Warner’s ESSENCE magazine, she oversaw the company’s editorial platforms and produced live events like the ESSENCE Music Festival. She has also produced reality TV series and news specials for CNN, MSNBC and TV ONE.

Darrell Dawsey is a journalist who has written for the Detroit News, USA Today, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the New York Daily News, the Los Angeles Times, Essence, and Vibe. His books include Living to Tell About It: Young Black Men in America Speak Their Piece and I Ain’t Scared of You: Bernie Mac on How Life Is. 

Darralynn Hutson is a Detroit-based multimedia freelance journalist and content creator. She contributes to Condé Nast, Travel + Leisure, Essence, and others. For over 25 years, Darralynn Hutson has been creating dynamic content for a diversity of outlets. She produced digital editorials about Black entertainers and entrepreneurs for urban media company Rolling Out and interactive content for financial publication Black Enterprise. In 2016, she founded TheStyleSuite, a digital networking platform to support and nurture Black and Brown storytellers. 

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