Today is officially the first day of Black History Month! After a troubling 2016, and an even rockier start to 2017 with Donald Trump in control, we people of color need the time to celebrate. So, to kick start the best month of the year here is a groovy playlist to get your spirits in the right place!
Powerful by Alicia Keys and Jussie Smollett
People don’t you be afraid
So many innocents slain
This is an era for change
Never have the lyrics of this song been more important in modern America. Empire took the world by storm when it first aired, and has gone on to tackle some highly important issues in the black community. Powerful challenges us to remember how strong we are as agents of change, both together, and as individuals.
Changes by 2pac Shakur
I see no changes. Wake up in the morning and I ask myself,
“Is life worth living? Should I blast myself?”
I’m tired of being poor and even worse I’m black.
My stomach hurts, so I’m looking for a purse to snatch.
Cops give a damn about a negro? Pull the trigger, kill a nigga, he’s a hero.
Godson of Assata Shakur, and son to Afeni Shakur, prominent member of The Black Panther Party, 2pac is indisputably one of the most important African American artists of the past century. Although we live in a world of #BlackLivesMatter, cops still don’t give a damn about a negro.
If I Ruled the World by Nas ft. Lauryn Hill
Imagine smoking weed in the streets without cops harassin’
Imagine going to court with no trial
Lifestyle cruising blue behind my waters
No welfare supporters, more conscious of the way we raise our daughters
This song makes me think every time I listen to it. It is true art, forcing us to see how the world could be different. In a lot of ways, it is very similar to 2pac’s Changes.
Don’t Touch My Hair by Solange Knowles
Don’t touch my hair
When it’s the feelings I wear
Don’t touch my soul
When it’s the rhythm I know
Don’t touch my crown
They say the vision I’ve found
Don’t touch what’s there
When it’s the feelings I wear
I don’t need to tell you that the black community still shares a scarred relationship with hair. Solange Knowles beautifies this scar for us in Don’t Touch My Hair.
Like Really by Oddisee
How you gonna make us great when we were never really that amazin – nah like really
Take it back to what, I don’t find hanging black lives entertaining – nah like really
How do you police the streets of a neighborhood you do not engage in – nah like really
Why a brother get three for a sack while your brother go free for a raping – nah like really
Sudanese-American rapper, Oddisee drops some truths about our current political climate in Like Really, asking those who long for “the good old days” to answer some difficult questions about our current racial and economic system.
Buffalo Soldier by Bob Marley
If you know your history
Then you would know where you coming from
Then you wouldn’t have to ask me
Who the heck do I think I am
Buffalo Solider is a historical song glorifying the plight of the African ‘Buffalo Soldiers’, members of the U.S. 10th Cavalry Regiment who fought in the Indian Wars, the Spanish-American War and the Philippine-American War. In his song, Bob Marley remembers their bravery not just in war, but in surviving a war that had nothing to do with them.
Beasts of No Nation By Fela Kuti
How animal go know say dem no born me as slave?
How animal go know say slave trade don pass?
And, dey wan dash us human rights
Animal must talk to human beings
Give dem human rights
Fela Kuti is one of the most influential African artists to date, a man who spoke out for his African people to the detriment of himself, his family and his career. (Kuti’s mother was killed as retaliation for his song, Zombie, which mocked his government.) Kuti has gone on to influence other musicians such as Nas, Missy Elliot and Beyoncé.
In Beasts of No Nations, Kuti condemns a world system that still treated Third World Nations and black and brown people as second class citizens. It is a song with bitter traces of the present still in it, especially coming after the election of President Donald J.Trump.