Top 15 Musicians from Queens

Top 15 Musicians of QueensMany think of New York City as the heart of the music industry. People from all over the globe trek to the Big Apple to play some dive bars, get noticed and make it big. Mostly, people think of Manhattan as the place where musical magic is made, but there is much to be said for music in the outer boroughs, especially here in Queens. Neighborhoods across the borough have birthed some of the best in the business, in genres ranging from show tunes to rap and hip hop. It’s Queens has picked out the top 15 musical artists to come out of Queens — and we bet you’ll be surprised that some of your favorite stars grew up just around the corner.

Ja Rule15. Ja Rule 

Like a storm, Hollis-native Jeffery “Ja Rule” Atkins broke into the rap scene with his 1999 debut album “Venni Vetti Vecci,” and debut single “Holla Holla,” climbing its way to the number-two spot on Billboard’s Hot Rap Singles chart.  And although he collected a long list of awards, including numerous Grammy nominations, the Queens rapper’s eight-year career was cut short following numerous legal issues beginning in 2007 from drug possession to attempted possession of a weapon. The Fast and the Furious movie star has since been released from prison in 2013 after serving two years for tax evasion. Today we can only hope this Queens artist is starting to clean up his act and find his way back into the world of hip hop.

Dee Snyder14. Daniel “Dee” Snider

Born in Astoria in 1955 to a New York State Trooper and an art teacher, Daniel “Dee” Snider grew up in Baldwin, Long Island before going on to become one of the most influential rockers of the 1970s and 80s. His antics as the Twisted Sister frontman gained him notoriety, but it was his role in pushing back against Tipper Gore and her puerile friends at the Parents Music Resource Center in a court battle to save rock and roll that sealed his fate as a rock legend.

Perry Farrell13. Perry Farrell

Born Perry Bernstein in Queens, 1959 Farrell may have spent most of his youth in Long Island and Florida, but he took his first shot of tequila in Queens when he was in the third grade while working as a bartender. in his parents’ basement bar. If that’s not about as Queens as it gets, then we don’t know what is. Perry formed Jane’s Addiction in Los Angeles in 1985, and in the 1990s the band became one of the first alternative rock band to break into the mainstream, sparking a movement that defined the decade. In 1991, Jane’s Addiction set another precedent when their first farewell tour became the first Lollapalooza, one of the premiere alt rock festivals for decades.

LL Cool J12. LL Cool J 

Hollis native James Todd Smith, or LL Cool J, was discovered creating demo tapes in his grandparents’ home by fellow Queens native Russell Simmons, who helped found the label Def Jam. LL Cool J (short for Ladies Love Cool James) went on to have a successful rap and hip-hop career, with smash hit “Mama Said Knock You Out” and a number of popular collaborations with Jennifer Lopez, including “All I Have.” Smith reached the peak of his popularity in the 90s. Throughout his career, he has been nominated for nine Grammy Awards, winning two for Best Rap Solo Performance in 1992 and 1997.

John Williams11. John Williams

John Williams is considered one of the greatest film composers of all time. Hailing from Floral Park, Williams has composed some of the most easily recognizable and popular movie scores, including Jaws, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, E.T., Jurassic Park and Harry Potter. Williams has won five Academy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards and 21 Grammys. He is also the second most-nominated person for the Academy Awards — with 49 nominations, he only falls behind Walt Disney.

50 Cent10. 50 Cent

Rapper Curtis Jackson, or 50 Cent, was born in South Jamaica and had a complicated relationship with Queens throughout his youth. He started dealing drugs at the age of 12 and was shot nine times outside of his grandmother’s home in South Jamaica. Afterwards, Jackson wrote the song “Ghetto Qu’ran,” where he mentions a number of old-time Queens drug dealers. He now has a tattoo that reads “Southside” across his back, because, as he said, “I’m a product of that environment.” 50 Cent’s career has been incredibly successful — he has won a number of awards, including a Grammy, and was named Billboard’s number one rap artist of the 2000s. He also founded the record label G-Unit Records, which signed a number of successful rappers.

Cyndi Lauper9. Cyndi Lauper

Cynthia Ann Stephanie Lauper was born in Queens in 1953 and grew up in a Catholic Ozone Park home. She was accepted into a high school for the artistically-gifted, but eventually dropped out and settled for a GED. She ran away from home as a teenager to escape an abusive stepfather and eventually hit pay dirt, with her quirky, colorful fashion sense inspiring the closets of young teens throughout the late 1980s and beyond. Her songs “Time After Time” and “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” are definitive of a decade and even after she faded from center stage, Lauper has remained a popular American icon.

Nas8. Nas 

Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, aka Nas, was born to jazz musician Olu Dara and postal service worker Fannie Anne Jones in 1973 in Brooklyn, and as a young child his family relocated to the Queensbridge Houses. Now, with eight consecutive platinum and multi-platinum albums and a total of more than 25 million albums sold worldwide, he is arguably one of the most influential hip hop artists of all time. His smooth delivery and intellectual lyrical content have broadened the horizons of hip hop, and he has been an inspiration to young artists around the world. Beyond the stage, Nas has made appearances on the big screen, and his famous feud with Jay Z kept us entertained for almost two years.

KISS7. Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley aka Starchild and Demon of KISS

While Peter ‘Catman’ Criss and Paul Daniel ‘Ace’ Frehley grew up in Brooklyn and the Bronx, respectively, two members of the legendary rock band KISS can trace their roots back to Queens. ‘The Demon’ Chaim Witz ‘s – aka Gene Simmons’ – family relocated to Jackson Heights from Israel in 1949 and ‘Starchild’ Stanley Bert Eisen’s – aka Paul Stanley – family moved to Kew Gardens from upper Manhattan in 1960. Forty years ago, KISS made its debut on the rock scene, and even to this day the band’s image and recordings remain an integral influence in the rock scene.

Tony Bennett6. Tony Bennett

Tony Bennett was not only born and raised in Astoria, but he clearly has a soft spot for his Queens hometown. Bennett founded the renowned Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, sharing his own passion for the arts and culture — he’s also a successful painter — with the Queens community. After fighting in World War II, Bennett broke out as a pop standard, show tunes and jazz singer. Hits like “Rags to Riches” and “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” have made him a star across generations and all over the world, selling over 50 million records worldwide.

Nicki Minaj5. Nicki Minaj

Jamaica, Queens has a well-established rap and hip-hop culture, and female rap icon Nicki Minaj is a perfect product of that. Though she was born in Trinidad and Tobego, Minaj grew up and Jamaica before going on to become “the most influential female rapper of all time,” as stated in the New York Times.

Minaj has made her mark on the industry with stellar singles like “Super Bass,” “Starships,” and her recent chart topper “Anaconda.” With over 44 appearances, she is the most-charted female rapper in the history of Billboard Hot 100. Her next album, The Pinkprint, is slated for release on Nov. 24 of this year.

Simon and Garfunkel4. Simon and Garfunkel 

When Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel first entered the scene, they did so in the company of a cultural revolution. While the Beatles, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones furthered the evolution of rock music; the softly harmonized duo stayed true to their folk roots as theyd wrote some of the defining music of their generation. From their origins in Kew Gardens to their next six decades of chart-topping music, Simon and Garfunkel have never stopped pushing the folk-music envelope. With borough tributes like the 1972, “Me and Julio Down by the School Yard,” remembering “Rosie, the queen of Corona,” and an ode to the Queensboro Bridge in “The 59th Street Bridge,” they made it known that their home was right here in Queens.

Louis Armstrong3. Louis Armstrong

It might not have been until later in his career that jazz trumpet legend Louis Armstrong made his home right here in Corona, Queens, but “Oh, what a wonderful world,” it was when he did. The 1920’s trumpet and cornet player changed the way we listened to music with his deep baritone voice and scat-singing vocal style. Until the end of his career in the 1960’s, his music evolved and influenced generations of popular African American performers. The Grammy Award winner was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960 to name a few from his long list of honors.

Run DMC2. Run DMC

Aside from being named – “Greatest Hip Hop Group of All Time” by, the “Greatest Hip Hop Artist” by VH1 and the first rap group inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – Joseph Simmons, Darryl McDaniels and Jam Master Jay also put Hollis, Queens on the map with their edgy and innovate style in the mid-1980s. From their self-titled debut in 1984 to classic albums like King of Rock and Raising Hell, Run-D.M.C. broke the mold and changed the way rap music is viewed in pop culture.

The Ramones1. The Ramones 

“Sitting here in Queens, eating refried beans.” The phrase, first prophetically stated on the Ramones’ “Rocket To Russia” album in 1977, is one that could only truly be understood by someone from the borough, and definitely one that could have only been etched into history by these four Forest Hills natives. The Ramones began and ended in a 22-year whirlwind of sex, drugs and everything that represents what it means to be “rock and roll.” Songs like “Rockaway Beach” not only changed the way we listen to music, but it also made it cool to be from Queens. Today, their t-shirts are sported by a youth that may not ever truly understand their significance, however all that really matters is that Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy were there, and they will never be forgotten.

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Posted by on Oct 30 2014. Filed under Featured Articles, It's List. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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