Popular Black narrators dominating the audiobook industry

From Jakobi Diem to January LaVoy, these Black voice actors and narrators are ones to watch.

The audiobook industry has been the saving grace for book lovers with busy schedules, allowing them to achieve their reading goals while completing other tasks. The market has grown from last year, according to the Audio Publishers Association’s 2023 Consumer Survey conducted by Edison Research. The portion of United States adults who listened to an audiobook in 2023 was 53%, an eight-point increase from the previous year. 

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The reader’s experience with audiobooks heavily depends on the narrator’s retelling of the story. Every inflection, pause and accent can alter the way a reader perceives a novel. The perfect narrator provides the listener with a hands-free reading experience that is both immersive and engaging. Here are some popular Black narrators who have been dominating the audiobook industry for decades.

Jakobi Diem

Jakobi Diem is the sultry male voice behind some of the latest popular Black romance audiobooks. Whether he’s portraying Josiah Wade from Kennedy Ryan’s “Before I Let Go” or Maleek Jones from Alexandria House’s “Goal,” the narrating veteran’s seductive voice engulfs the reader in the storyline. Diem has over 100 completed projects for the “grown and sexy” to dive into their audiobook journey. 

Adenrele Ojo

Adenrele Ojo attends the Audio Publishers Association’s 2023 Audie Awards on March 28 at Pier 60, Chelsea Piers in New York City. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Audio Publishers Association)

Adenrele Ojo is a Philadelphia native with over 10 years of narrating experience. As the daughter of the late John E. Allen Jr., who founded the New Freedom Theatre, the voice actress always had a passion for the arts. Whether she’s reading bell hooks’ “Ain’t I A Woman” or Stacey Abrams’ “While Justice Sleeps,” there is one sentiment that reigns – her voice is powerful. Ojo’s voice on over 300 recorded audiobooks brings the reader deeper into the story with each word.

Eboni Flowers

Eboni Flowers is a true Atlanta native, despite spending some time on the West Coast. Flowers, who is both a book lover and an actress, believes it was her destiny to enter the world of audiobooks. She began her journey as Mikayla in Alex DiFrancesco’s “All City” in 2019, and continued to soar. Flowers made history, along with Kennedy Ryan and the “Reel” team, as one of the first narrators of color to win an Audie Award in the Best Romance category.

January LaVoy

January LaVoy has had a distinguished career as an award-winning actress, voice artist and director. Her voice acting credits include national commercial campaigns, promos, documentaries and over 450 audiobooks. Her voice is clear and smooth, yet filled with conviction. The Golden Voice Award recipient’s tone is inviting and encapsulates the reader into the story regardless of the genre. Her hard work and persistence over the years have not gone unnoticed. She is the recipient of seven Audie Awards, 36 AudioFile Magazine Earphones Awards and more. 

Prentice Onayemi

Prentice Onayemi started his audiobook journey doing education narration before venturing into full-length titles ranging from contemporary fiction to autobiographies. Onayemi has established himself as an extraordinary talent in the industry. With over 100 audiobooks under his belt, Onayemi is the powerful voice behind narrations like Alex Haley’s “Roots,” Imbolo Mbue’s “Behold the Dreamers,” and Van Jones’ “Beyond the Messy Truth.”

Bahni Turpin

Bahni Turpin speaks at the 2019 Audie Awards at Gustavino’s in New York. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for the Audio Publishers Association)

Bahni Turpin has voiced groundbreaking and bold novels throughout her career. From Kathryn Stockett’s “The Help” to Jessica Bennett’s “Feminist Fight Club,” Turpin is a standout narrator with a history of phenomenal titles on her resume. She gains more acclaim and support with every new release, due to her bold voice. Her brilliant voiceover work, consisting of over 450 audiobooks, has won her numerous accolades and awards, including Audie Awards, AudioFile Magazine Awards and an Odyssey Award.

J.D. Jackson

Beginning his narrating career in 2003, J.D. Jackson has a deep passion for storytelling. It shines through in each book that he reads. Whether it’s Octavia E. Butler’s “Adulthood Rites” or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s “Black Cop’s Kid,” every word he reads radiates Jackson’s dedication and love for his career. His hard work has garnered numerous awards and accolades, including being inducted into Golden Voices in 2020, which is AudioFile’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Kayla Grant theGrio.com

Kayla Grant is a multimedia journalist with bylines in Business Insider, Shondaland, Oz Magazine, Prism, Rolling Out and more. She writes about culture, books and entertainment news. Follow her on Twitter: @TheKaylaGrant  

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