As we celebrate Black history and Black individuals for the month of February, we think of the systemic oppression and segregation that has occurred, and continues to occur, in our Western society against racialized minorities, specifically those of African descent.
Music has a way of capturing such moments as artists utilize their talents in order to illustrate the unique, authentic, and personal experiences of these individuals. Through these experiences, they are able to afford the rest of us a small piece of a very large story about discrimination and racism in Western society.
Various artists have created beautiful pieces that speak about and shed a light on the incidences and injustices that exist through police brutality, discrimination, and racism beginning with events like the Jim Crow Laws to the murder of George Floyd last year in 2020.
As we venture through this month, Black history is something that should be honoured and highlighted year-round. Having the month of February dedicated to Black history is beneficial and strengthens its importance, but it should not be forgotten or pushed aside for the remainder of the year.
Below is a list of songs to listen to that reflect on Black History Month where you can click the link to listen via YouTube:
- Beyoncé (featuring Kendrick Lamar) – Freedom
A song about marching in freedom and continuing to fight for justice in adversity.
Favourite line: I’mma keep on running because a winner don’t quit on themselves
- Miguel – How Many (Black Lives)
This song was written following the tragic deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and with the support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Favourite line: How many heartbeats turned into flatlines, oh, how many Black lives does it take to change?
- Childish Gambino – This Is America
With a beat that goes hard and visuals that go even harder, the explicit but real images that play in Gambino’s music video show the happier but also horrifying sides of what it’s like to live in the United States as an African-American.
Favourite line: America, I just checked my following list and you go tell somebody you mothaf**kas owe me
- Common ft. John Legend – Glory
In a choir-like song, John Legend and Common compose a song of unity to ask the brothers and sisters of society to stand together against police brutality and racial injustice. The soundtrack was also composed for the award-winning historical film Selma (2014).
Favourite line: No one can win the war individually, it takes the wisdom of the elders and young people’s energy
- Daye Jack ft. Killer Mike – Hands Up
In light of police brutality that speaks about the harm in a time of high tension between authorities and African-American citizens. In his plea for help, Jack calls on communities to stay strong and for politicians to do something as these incidents are seen but black communities are still unheard.
Favourite line: Brothers underground who’s next feel the venom, these snakes ain’t tame moving independent (police)
- D’Angelo and The Vanguard – The Charade
With influences from Prince, D’Angelo writes about experiences of being Black in America and criticizes the media for its coverage of racial injustices. Known as one of the most controversial songs yet artful, fans have given praise for D’Angelo’s music as a way to speak on police brutality of Black individuals.
Favourite line: All we wanted was a chance to talk, ‘stead we only got outlined in chalk
- J. Cole – Be Free
A song dedicated to 18-year-old Michael Brown after his murder in 2014, J. Cole writes his despair and sorrow of police brutality and injustices of racial profiling in the black community. A heavy piece meant for deeper listening but with a strong message to be heard.
Favourite line: There ain’t no gun they can make that can kill my soul.
- Lauryn Hill – Black Rage (Sketch)
A song in the style of a lyrical poem on the historical oppression of black people. A song with a message to institutions to recognize the faults made and changes that need to be made to learn from the mistakes made in history.
Favourite line: Black rage is founded: who fed us self-hatred, lies and abuse, while we waited and waited
- The Game ft. Rick Ross, Diddy, etc – Don’t Shoot
A collaborative music piece by The Game with other various hip-hop artists including DJ Khaled, Wale, P. Diddy and many more in memory of Michael Brown Jr. (1996-2014). Through each verse, the rappers reflect back on events in light of his murder and criticisms of spreading awareness for ALS versus racial injustice. Even Game’s daughter recorded her voice on the track which gave a perspective of a world with a new and young generation that can change it.
Favourite line: Driving while black, tell me, where am I supposed to go?
Gun shots hit the car, now I got the holy ghost, If excessive force was a drug, then they overdosed
- Usher ft. Nas & Bibi Bourelly – Chains
A collaboration with RnB artist Usher and rapper Nas and singer Bibi Bourelly make for a chilling but real experience with this song released back in 2015. This song was actually used for an immersive experience on a website where your face would be scanned before the song played. It would ask you to look at the screen so you could see the faces of the victims of police brutality and look into their eyes. If you looked away it would stop playing the music. While it would be uncomfortable, it makes the listeners really show what the message of the song is while remembering the victims.
Favourite line: You act like the change, Tryna put me in chains, Don’t act like you saving us, It’s still the same
- Z-Ro ft. Mike Dean – No Justice No Peace
Released in 2016, Z-Ro’s hip-hop track shares the struggles and frustrations of being a Black individual in their neighbourhood being watched over by police authorities. As cases of victims of police brutality spread on mainstream news, songs with the same messages speak against the murders of with the same protest slogan used in the Black Lives Matter movement, ‘no justice, no peace’.
Favourite line: They kill us for sport, just like they hunting, F*ck, it feel like black life ain’t nothing
Have a listen at the full playlist that includes these songs on YouTube here.
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