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Photo of musiq by Sal Idriss/Redferns. Photo of John Legend by Simone Joyner/Getty Images. Photo of J Dilla by Gregory Bojorquez/Getty Images. Photo of Mos Def by Anthony Barboza/Getty Images. Photo of Jill Scott by Evan Agostini / Getty Images. Photo of D'angelo by Lionel FLUSIN/GAMMA RAPHO via Gamma. Photo of Erykah Badu by Andrew J Cunningham/Getty Images.
Photo of musiq by Sal Idriss/Redferns. Photo of John Legend by Simone Joyner/Getty Images. Photo of J Dilla by Gregory Bojorquez/Getty Images. Photo of Mos Def by Anthony Barboza/Getty Images. Photo of Jill Scott by Evan Agostini / Getty Images. Photo of D'Angelo by Lionel FLUSIN/GAMMA RAPHO via Gamma. Photo of Erykah Badu by Andrew J Cunningham/Getty Images.

Okayplayer Celebrates 25 Years With 25 Essential Artists From the OKP Boards

The Okayplayer message boards was the OG site for hip-hop heads and artists to gather online and discuss the music. For our 25th anniversary, we've put together a list of 25 artists for whom the boards played a key part of their careers.

Okayplayer started with Amir “Questlove” Thompson much like Def Jam started with Rick Rubin. If you swap out the NYU dorm room with a Philly bedroom, Russell Simmons for Angela Nissel, and a hip-hop centered anti-establishment record label for a hip-hop centered anti-establishment online message board, then they are basically twins (maybe more like cousins). The biggest parallel, however, is the crews of people who rallied around their ideas and pushed them to the forefront of their individualized music-fixated spaces.

The phrase “online music community” and Okayplayer should be synonymous. In 1999 (4 years pre-MySpace, 6 years pre-Reddit and Nahright, 7 years pre-Twitter, 8 years pre-Soundcloud and Tumblr, 12 years pre-Twitch, and 16 years pre-Discord), Nissel set up The Roots website as if it was an interactive blog and it transformed into a space where artists and fans gathered, lessening the space between them.

There was a multi-pronged purpose that developed for artists and fans alike in the days of the boards. Okayplayer became a place where fans could find swaths of other fans with similar taste, a place where fans could discover new music, a place where fans could participate in and witness artist interaction in real-time, a place where artists could moderate conversations, a place where artists could form a fraternity against the rest of the industry machine, a place where anyone could talk shit and crack jokes with the first chances of “going viral,” a place where fans could debate about rumors, a place where fans could participate in launching an artist’s career, a place where artists could grow organic marketing campaigns, and even a place where artists could connect for collaborations that formed actual successful groups.

As Questlove called it in 2013, Okayplayer catapulted itself into being “the soapbox for the unheard.” There is a set of prominent solo artists and groups that benefited the most from this organic expansion and represent the nucleus of what the platform blossomed into. Here are those distinguished 25.

J Dilla and Slum Village

It’s safe to say much of the J Dilla lore was initially established on Okayplayer. The sample savant created conversation on the boards like no other. With Fantastic Vol. 2 dropping in 2000, the Okayplayer boards took Questlove’s reverence of the producer and his group Slum Village and ran with it, forming one of the most passionate fan communities in online history. Slum Village even performed on the first Okayplayer tour in 2000 on the heels of that album’s release. Dilla’s resonance carried for many years to come in an international way no one could have anticipated post his unfortunate passing. His reach began with the borderless walls of the internet.

Dilated Peoples

The masterful LA hip-hop trio became on the rise aligned right with Okayplayer’s launch. Their 2001 second album, Expansion Team, featured their biggest single in “Worst Comes To Worst” produced by The Alchemist. The project and track garnered serious reverence on the boards by artists and fans alike. Okayplayer even created the hosting website for the project and the staff videographer BKyle even got behdind the scenes footage of the “Worst Comes To Worst” video. Dilated Peoples also had the title track “Okay” on the first Okayplayer compilation tape Okayplayer: True Notes: Vol. 1 in 2004.


One of the most important artists ever in the LA underground scene is Aceyalone. His mixed style of stream-of-consciousness and slick unassuming punchlines received rave reviews on the boards in the early 2000s. Again, the MC had a star appearance on True Notes: Vol. 1 alongside the esteemed producer Madlib on their track “K.O. Player.”

Black Milk

One could say being deemed by some to be a protegé of the great J Dilla and how that was discussed on the boards puts Detroit producer and MC Black Milk on this list. His album The Tronic however also created a surge in artist and fan commentating like no other in the later hurrah of the boards in 2008. He was the standout of the last crew of board champions.

Erykah Badu

Queen Badu was one of the members of the first group of artists that had their own mini-site through Okayplayer. She would go on to develop her own solo website ideas after the initial movement with huge success, but it all started at OKP. Badu even has records of her controversial statements on the boards that still exist on the internet. These types of rants that would rile up detractors would continue throughout her career, but some could say her knack for innocent trolling began on the boards. She didn’t officially join the boards until around 2004, but when she did it was never the same after.

John Legend

John Legend’s status on the boards has a bit of mystique, but people like Questlove have claimed his presence. Board legend Donwill claimed in an interview with Okayplayer that Legend sent him and others a copy of his CD to review under his original moniker John Stevens. This was discussed on the boards as an original demo with much potential, thus you could say OKP was a platform that helped launch the prolific R&B singer.


One of the original board members via Questlove arrives here. D’Angelo himself was not very active communicating on the boards but he was very much discussed by others ad nauseam. He was also one of the first artists to take advantage of the marketing opportunities the site had to offer by revealing elements of his 2000 album Voodoo to Okayplayers exclusively. Many will remember these reveals crashing the OKP servers.

Jill Scott

Scott was an active board member with other artists and fans alike. Many will remember her for her sense of humor and not holding her tongue, but she was also an active marketer of her offerings. Scott was very much responsible for the writing of the Roots first hit in 1999 in “You Got Me,” on which her vocals were swapped out for Erykah Badu. She was in dismay about this for sometime and responded with her classic album in 2000, Who Is Jill Scott?, which of course filled up space in the messaging right at the birth of OKP.


Much like his Soulquarian comrade D’Angelo, Common was one of the first artists to use the boards to properly market his work via Questlove’s blessing. The official site for his classic Like Water For Chocolate album lived on OKP, which also bled into artist updates on the homepage. Many OG boarders will also remember Common at times checking in as a moderator of discussions on his work. “Lessonheads” (the name for board members on the specific board "The Lesson" named after the Little Brother album) infamously convinced the rapper to leave the live version of his song “The Food” on his 2005 Be album.

Black Star

The classic duo of Blackstar had a love-hate relationship with the Okayplayer boards. Most notably Talib Kweli coined the phrase “Okayplayer hater.” This is an attitude of vitriol that has continued to get him at odds with other social media platforms since. Yet still, he seemed to always show love for how the site centered around the artists. Mos Def was not proactive on the boards, but was always revered especially upon the release of his 1999 classic Black on Both Sides. Black Star as a duo’s only solo album came out a year before Okayplayer launched, but it was also always a lauded body of work on the boards with fans constantly wanting updates on the group’s status.


Virginia rapper Skillz had an interesting multi-purpose history with the Okayplayer boards. He most infamously fueled discussions in response to his 2000 hit single “Ghostwriter.” On the track, he revealed that he had ghostwritten songs for others and that there was more of a constant ghostwriting situation in rap than anyone realized. This would of course make the boards go crazy with theories as to who wrote for who and when. Skillz would also use OKP for his own micro-site like Common and D’Angelo to promote his music.

Dead Prez

Dead Prez was not only frequently discussed on the boards but they were the other big name on the original 2000 Okayplayer tour with The Roots. The group and the site stayed connected for years after the boards dissipated with lead MC stic even launching a clothing line with OKP in 2020. Their seminal project Let’s Get Free arrived just in time for Okayplayer’s elevation and the community never let them go during or after.

De La Soul

While De La Soul’s heyday happened much earlier than OKP launched, that didn’t mean they didn’t have a real presence on the boards. Their music inspired many of the artists whose music was at the core of the conversation on the site. It is rumored that MCs Kelvin "Posdnuos" Mercer and David "Trugoy the Dove" Jolicoeur had screen names at the beginning of the site. However, it became even more notable that the group started their own site,, which seemed directly influenced by OKP. This was noticed by many fans on the boards.


Via his The Roots affiliation, Bilal was very much a singer discussed amongst the community. One of the biggest takes that would get the boards shook up was claiming that he was a better singer than his counterparts like Raphael Saadiq and D’Angelo. The singer may have never reached these heights in his solo career, but on the OKP boards he had his own sort of communal fame.

Tanya Morgan

This is the first of two groups on the list that were quite literally formed on the Okayplayer boards. William Donald "Donwill" Freeman and Devon "Von Pea" Callender connected over aligned taste and sonic symmetry and catapulted into a virtual group with one member in Ohio and one in New York. They are a stark early example of an internet-bred music project as they famously exchanged files over AOL Instant Messenger and crafted a lauded board debut mixtape, EP, and album. Moonlighting, their debut album, still holds its place as one of the greatest projects to ever come from OKP.

Lupe Fiasco

Lupe had a really intriguing later presence on the boards. Legend has it that one of the most memorable moments was when he publicly admitted to having never heard the classic album Midnight Marauders by A Tribe Called Quest. He said this in response to people critiquing him for forgetting the words at a Tribe tribute show he was invited to by Q-Tip in 2007. He was, of course, immediately flamed on the boards for his reveal. Fiasco also did have much of his work praised by the boards and this standout moment was only disappointing to the community because they expected more from him.


Arguably the most prominent Bay area voice on the boards was Blackalicious. The site was helpful on the marketing side for his 2002 album Blazing Arrow which was also revered by the boards. You can even find on Ebay an old promotional poster distributed by Okayplayer for the 2002 album which should be considered a gem of the OKP catalog. “The Gift of Gab” could also be considered as the argument against OKP having a fully Northeast bias from the support and flowers he was given by the community.

Little Brother

The Carolina rap duo of Phonte and Big Pooh not only came up on the boards, but even had a board named after their first project The Lesson. Phonte was always the most active group member and infamous for his witty clapbacks before others would be crowned champions of this on platforms like Twitter. The LB saga existed entirely on the boards from the successes to the breakups and internal beefs. They are the poster child of rap acts to make their name known through early social media and the blogosphere. Okayplayer could easily be considered their home base.

Musiq Soulchild

Much like many of his comrades, Musiq Soulchild’s heyday came about with the rise of the site. His debut Aijuswanseing dropped in 2000 and his follow-up Juslisen dropped in 2002. Those are both early 2000s Soul classics which fit right in with the Soulquarian aesthetic the site so revered. Soulchild was such a good fit for the OKP ethos that even past the early area he seemed to continue to align with its energy. In 2020, he even released a mixtape singing over old Dilla beats.

Jazzy Fatnastees

Okayplayer had a record label that launched in 2004. They used the label to release compilations, but also sign a few artists. Their backup singer duo Jazzy Fatnastees was one of their first signed artists. They were on the first OKP tour in 2000 and even at one point had a mixtape that was only available to listen to for free exclusively on the site. Tracey Moore, one of the two singers, was active on the boards. Within the time of the boards and the label's existence, the group reached its highest heights.

Jaguar Wright

An essential singer in the Okayplayer community, Jaguar Wright is known as much for her soulful solo work as her singing for The Roots. While she was born in New Jersey, she mostly grew up in Philly and came up with the legendary rap group. Her vocals were constantly a topic of conversation and she even at one point had her own micro-site on OKP to promote her work.

Cody Chestnutt

Many people hear the name Cody Chestnutt and immediately think of the classic single by The Roots, “The Seed (2.0).” His piercing hook vocals add a crazy Indie Rock and Soul combined flavor to the track that not only gave The Roots one of their biggest singles, but incredible hype on the boards. Propelling off of this success when Chestnutt released his The Headphone Masterpiece album later in 2002 it became the absolute talk of the boards. At one point, Questlove ushered him into the online space to receive his flowers.

The Foreign Exchange

One could claim the most monumental success to come from the OKP boards is The Foreign Exchange. While on a bit of a decline with his group Little Brother, rapper Phonte connected with Dutch producer Nicolay on the message boards and sent files back and forth. They would eventually turn this exchange into a fully formed Grammy nominated hip-hop/electronica group. The group exemplifies the range of discovery that was possible for artists and fans alike on the boards. Phonte and Nicolay very easily could have never crossed paths without the online community.

Oddisee + Kev Brown

A pair of Maryland born producer and MC, Oddisee and Kev Brown necessarily must be mentioned together even though they are solo artists. Both guys were prevalent on the boards for many years of their careers being lauded for their adept use of instrumentation and distinct rhyming. The styles of each artist felt like a clear offset of the Dilla ethos that brought so many fans to the boards in the first place.


The final entry on our list must be mentioned because he was the most significant Atlanta voice affiliated with the site and brand. Danny! was a part of the first launch of Okayplayer records and even its relaunch in 2012. He caught Questlove’s ear on the boards and carried the weight of the southern voice repping the platform. What made him stand out to everyone was his left-of-center lyrical content but pure flow within sampled pockets. He felt as at home as anyone within the beat aesthetic that board members craved.


Raphael Saadiq — As a member of J Dilla and Q-Tip’s producer collective The Ummah and a Soulquarian adjacent singer and producer, Saadiq was a relevant figure of the OKP boards.

Scott Storch — Super producer Scott Storch was at one point a member of The Roots thus was included within some discussion on the boards. Yet, his departure into a more mainstream sound wasn’t quite within the OKP ethos.

Les Nubiens — While this French Neo-Soul duo may be on the outskirts of the OKP realm. Their affiliation with Soulquarian members Erykah Badu and D’Angelo as well as collaborations with Black Thought means they had board pertinence.

Dice Raw — A very essential rapper not in The Roots but from Philly and seriously affiliated with their come up. He was also featured on the first OKP compilation with his track “I Do What I Like.”

Black Eyed Peas — Will I Am was an actual board member and his original Black Eyed Peas album was discussed sparsely on the site.