Arts & Entertainment Music

Songs of Black History Month

Written by Isaiah Martin

 

For Black History month I’ve made a list of songs each of which I have listen to on more than one occasion. All of the songs here have a deep connection to black history or at least shows what it means to be black in some way, shape, or form. I have commented on them so that it’s easier to find one fit to your liking. I can’t guarantee that you will like every song on this list but I can guarantee that there is a song for everybody who reads this. Now before anybody ask no you do not need to be balck to enjoy or listen to this playlist. Matter a fact this isn’t for black people but rather black appreciation. To leave things simple all you need is an open mind and ear. Enjoy! (And please do me and yourself a favor and don’t read everything on this list if you don’t feel like it. But if you’re truly interested be my guest!)

P.S. you can listen to all these songs and more on a playlist I made called “No Trap”

Django Jane by Janelle Monae : What can I say? Janelle really showed up and out with this one. As soon as you here the beat drop you can sense the impending complementary lyrics that hit hard but calculated. Overall Result = Pure BGM (Black Girl Magic)

Whats Going On By Marvin Gaye : This one right here is for older souls. The songs use of real instruments and the soulful tone is recognized as soon as you hear it. This song is for when you want to feel relaxed but solemn and thoughtful. I’ll admit it can be depressing at times due to the controversial topics it so beautifully incorporates but it is a good song and that’s unarguable.

Manifesto by OverDoz : A song by a very underrated artist (like most of the songs on this list) that depicts when a black man is just feeling good and living his best life, which explains the title. The song perfectly paints the canvas of two black males just sitting down (presumably on a car most likely a Cadillac) talking about there daily lives in the hood.

Tints by Anderson Paak ft Kendrick Lamar : This song is good because it shows the feelings and inner thoughts of two hermits of musicians though they’re both crazy talented. You’ll never catch their faces on the news not even the entertainment kind. So the whole world wants to know what’s on their minds and this song tells you: “Trust me you don’t want to know”

Come Down by Anderson Paak: Now this song is just a work of pure art. Literally. The cool thing about this song is that’s it’s based on a picture.  I suggest you watch the music video for more details because the video is also based of the picture.

King Kunta by Kendrick Lamar: This song is the essence of funk. Kendrick recognizes this and uses it to his advantage and says “Funk you” to all his past enemies and non-supportive friends. And if you don’t like the song you could at least listen to what Kendrick calls the “yams” (its hilarious). Matter a fact if you got some drama or beef with friend definitely play this song. Well if your trying to make things worse.

Alright by Kendrick Lamar: A fairly known song about how black people deal with the daily struggles of society. This one’s personal because as a black man I’ve heard and I’m sure that others have heard this common but meaningful phrase: “We gonna be alright”. Needless to say this song beautifuly combines jazz and modern hip-hop into a symphony of rhythm that has good potential to move the soul.

All The Stars by SZA and Kendrick Lamar: This song is up for Oscar and nominated for a Grammy. Do I honestly need to say more?

Boss by Little Simz: This is for the boss ladies out there who are feeling a little edgy. Great when for you’re in the anger stage of a break up.  When you hear the bass kick in, and a woman passionately dragging (most likely) her ex through the dirt with her words its pretty entertaining whether your angry or not.

Q.U.E.E.N. by  Janelle Monae ft. Erykah Badu: A lot of people do weird stuff in private. It doesn’t make you a freak because of it. Janelle Monae made this song for any black girls feeling just this way. Really its for anybody who feels like a freak in any type of way. It has some lowkey refrences to the LGBT community; and you guessed it the African American community as well.

Living for The City Stevie Wonder: This song describes the story of a boy from hard time Mississippi in a world that ain’t so pretty. Stevie’s use of the keyboard piano and his voice really makes it seem to some degree that the sound of city is harmonizing. Guided by his wonderful voice (see what I did there) this song is a classic.

Born and Raised in Compton by Dj Quik: A little bit on the rougher side of music Dj Quik’s Born and Raised in Compton is pretty straight forward. But it does bring some insight to what the ghetto is like and with a hard beat to match..

Love’s Gonna Get’cha by Boogie Down Productions: This song tells a story of sorts. One that I and I know others can especially relate too. Listen to it twice and you will know 75% of the words due to the perfect storytelling of KRS1. It you really don’t feel like listening to it, moral of the story; don’t fall in love with material things.

Get By by Talib Kweli : The use of piano and percussion in this song wraps around the lyrics to embody the struggle of blacks and Latinos in New York. If you close your eyes and listen to the words you may even see the subway station or busy streets.

Keep Ya Head Up by 2Pac : In this song 2Pac brings attention to a lot of flaws in the community as a whole. He shows that somebody cares to groups that are greatly and negatively affected by apathy. The beat is perfect because it’s reminiscent of the encouraging song: Ooh Child by The Five Stairsteps

Express Yourself by N.W.A : Dr. Dre expresses with his full capabilities the other controversial topics covered in more of his “inappropriate for school” songs. However this song is more upbeat and encourages more positive influence rather than focusing on the ignored problems facing the community at that time.

It Aint Hard to Tell by Nas : Whoever made this beat deserves a raise. It use a basic but satisfying percussion beat to accompany Michael Jacksons mesmerizing Human Nature in the background. Lastly there’s a hard jazzy touch of brass in the background to make it an official Nas song.

Rewind By Nas : The entire song tells a story backwards. BACKWARDS. Even certain phrases. If your really impressed by this song Kendrick Lamar’s entire album can be played backwards.

Bridging the Gap By Nas: For anybody who like or loves blues and rap you’ll love this song. Using the harmonica melody of the late great Muddy Walters Nas turns this song into a certified beast. Again Nas has some hard and considerably intricate percussion to toughen up the sound of the harmonica and make an amazing beat once again. This also tells the story of his father who was a blues singer and traveled around the world performing and whose son became a OG of rap.

I Can by Nas: This song is what guided me through most of my life. It’s the simple childhood rhyme of: “I know I can-Be what I wanna be-If I work hard at it-I’ll be where I wanna be”. I sang this with the same melody of piano as heard in K5 as its played in this song. It grabs your attention with its probable nostalgia and deep message of taking the right path in life.

Adam and Eve by Nas:  This song starts of slow with the what sounds like recording of a guitar playing the blues cord in the 1920’s. It sounds old and new at the same time. It alludes to the history of blacks and how black people don’t “fall” to far from where they start. It’s a double entendre saying that’s we are all close descendants of Adam and Eve.

If I Ruled the World by Kurtis Blow (or Nas): Either version is just as good. Like many of the songs on here it discusses problems in the black community but from more of the “what if” view.

Insecure by Jasmine Sullivan and Bryson Tiller: I put this song on here first of all because it’s just good, and second of all because of the T.V. show its related too. Jasmine Sullivan and Bryson Tiller’s complementary voices make this song a jam. The song is another excellent “get over your break up song” The T.V. show ironically is called Insecure and surprise: it’s about insecure African American people. It hilarious, made with quality, and is on HBO on/or amazon. If you don’t have HBO go on YouTube and watch The Mis-adventures of an Awkward Black Girl. Its not of the same quality of Insecure but you will get the same laughs

You Got Me by The Roots and Eyrkah Badu: This song is surprisingly a love story between an average dude turned famous rapper and his neighbor he didn’t know until he was famous. Even though the beat might not reflect that. Remember Eve does a verse on this song not Eyrkah (Eykah does the hook)

Blaxploitation by Noname: Assuming from the name this  is about the exploitation of black people. It explains institutionalized and day in the life of a black woman taking care of her family. The artist of this song is extremely underrated as her lyrical talent is beyond that of many of today’s black artists. (P.S. if you’re looking for a laugh the start of this song is like no other)

The Message by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five: The ultimate classic out of any of the songs on this list. This song revolutionized the entire music industry because of the heavy and slightly deep messages it explained. The whole song was made for a message not to enflame anger just to get a message out. This is back when hip-hop songs had a purpose a good one at that and helped an entire nation to see things it didn’t want to.  And if you don’t care about any of that at least listen to it for the funky beat.

Starships and Rockets by 8Ball: A song that describes the apathy of people who live in unfortunate places, and unfortunate environments, in a consistently forward moving world. The artist warns about how the past lifestyle he (and other rappers) have glorified, has affected the communities that they used to live in. He says that the black community’s affliction for violence and the “fast life” and ignorance to education, innovation, and science will lead to disaster. I mean the song is deep man. I strongly suggest you just try it for a minute and see what you have to think about it.

Black Truck by Mereba: One of the more relaxed songs on this list. Beautiful to just sit down and close your eyes too due to the flutter of the piano keys and percussion. It calmly depicts the struggles a girl just trucking her way through the storm of life. Mereba has a voice and sound similar H.E.R. or SZA so if you have any interest in this song definitely check it out.

Slip Away by Ill Camille: Ill Camille is the most underrated out of any of the underrated. Honestly I should have putter higher up on the list so that more people would see her. The beat hits hard with bass and percussion and the jazzy brass and keyboard makes this song something of pure beauty. Its story about the black love, pain and sorrow. Really puts you through the motions.

LUST by Kendrick Lamar: If you’ve actually made it this far down the list I personally appreciate you as an entire person. Thank you. Now this song’s the beat is backwards. Literally. It Almost seems like an end of the world song like Prince’s 1999. It’s a song about reverting to our “daily program” and being “stuck in our ways”. There a reference to a lot of controversial topics in America right now. From global warming to the presidential election to an ordinary day in Compton. Apathy, sympathy, (gang) violence, gun control, ghettos, drugs, college, news you name it.  Somehow it pulled off being insignificant and significant at the same time which is extremely hard to do. This is arguably the best song on this list.

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About the author

Isaiah Martin