It’s Black History Month in the UK (insert sarcastic yay, alongside a slow clap and an eyeroll). And while it’s lowkey a bit bullshit that a month is still needed to celebrate and shine light on the achievements of black individuals, because mainstream education and society doesn’t, it’s still a good reason to share those achievements in music.
We need celebration, self-love and hope right now. The fiber of the African-American community is being tested on a daily basis, due to police violence and in turn reactive protests and crumbling race-relations. Across the globe, teens/twenty-somethings are speaking out against cultural appropriation as well as their lived experiences, whether that’s as a racial minority, experiencing mental health challenges, experiences as a female and sexuality. To put it short, we’re just a whole lot more vocal now.
Musicians have been fueling and reacting to open discussions and discourses within the global community. Throughout the years music has taken social-political stances, and while it’s not everyday woke, sometimes it’s nice to get that little extra soul fuel, ya see me? Take for instance artists like, Chance The Rapper, he exhibits an unparalleled level of joy and happiness in his music, Solange is unapologetic in her blackness and Kendrick Lamar is relentless with his racial rhetoric. They’re all covering issues, important to us, yet socially, they’re still good for a hedonistic turn-up in East London. But it’s not just the mainstream. Artists on the come-up are fearless in their beliefs and using their music as a tool to further the conversation, they’re political, proud and important.
We’re in a place where our music is reflecting and documenting our issues. So, to celebrate all the goodness here are 5 picks to press play on:
Innanet James – ‘Black’
A personal fave. Innanet James’ introductory track ‘Black’ was so celebratory, it instantly made me smile from ear to ear. He’s been consistent with his political messages too, Innanet James’ video for his track ‘Summer’ showcased some harsh realities.
“I’m black and I love it. I’m black so black is the subject. I’m black in back and I’m loud. I’m black, so black, and I’m proud”
Jamila Woods – ‘VRY BLK’
Another from the melting pot of talents in Chicago, is Jamila Woods. Lifted from her debut album, ‘HEAVN‘, ‘VRY BLK’ features a verse from Noname and is built on the melody of a kids folk song. It’s packed with poetic rhymes, wordplay and the pain of police brutality on black people.
“Black is like the magic, and magic’s like a spell. My brothers went to heaven, the police going to… yeah they’re going to, hell-o operator, emergency hotline. If I say that I can’t breathe, will I become a chalk line”
Solange – ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’
There’s not much else to write about Solange’s wonderful album ‘A Seat At The Table’ other than the fact it’s just wonderful. Torn between every single track on the project, ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’ makes the cut purely down to the video (and the fact it’s got Sampha in it). For black women (and men) hair is often a point of contention, to wear weave or not, to straighten or not, to be natural or not, it’s very rooted in one of the many afflictions of black people. The video is so ethereal and dreamlike it basically takes you to a next paradise.
“You know this hair is my shit. Rode the ride, I gave it time. But this here is mine.”
Noname – ‘Freedom Interlude’
Noname brings her poetry roots to ‘Freedom Interlude’. Lifted from her project ‘Telefone’, the end features a clip from an interview with Peter Rodis and Nina Simone, about what freedom means to her. Noname’s free-flowing raps are so effortless and carefree. It’s like an insight into her mind; idealistic and fearless.
“I think this is a song about redemption. Or a mother’s intuition. How my kitchen sounds like church bells. Why they sell me, my dollar, and my dream?”
GoldLink – ‘New Black’
GoldLink came heavy on his debut album, ‘And After That We Didn’t Talk’ last year, and he didn’t get enough recognition for it. Blackness informs the majority of the projects content, from the biblical links on ‘Zipporah’ to the celebratory ‘Dark Skinned Women’. One that stands out the most is ‘New Black’, which mixes airy production and heavy content, which makes it a perfect combo.
“Bibbity bibbity bop bop. New Black, the scat, dat beat box. Hip-hop will die, I promise that. If we keep the lies in our raps, yeah.”