Black History Month is a time to recognize the achievements, struggles and influences that the Black community has shared with the nation and the world. In order to reflect on the vast variety of music Black artists have put out and to celebrate Black artists all year round, check out this playlist of songs about Black empowerment.
“BagBak” — Vince Staples
Rapper Vince Staples doesn’t mince words on “BagBak,” a powerful song about Black people increasing their presence in society after being in the shadows for so long. Set to an intoxicating beat, Staples raps about oppression needing to figuratively and literally back off. He dedicates an entire verse to criticizing flaws in American society, which includes lines such as, “Prison system broken, racial war commotion/ Until the president get ashy, Vincent won’t be votin.’”
“Alright” — Kendrick Lamar
“Alright,” off of Lamar’s Grammy-winning album, To Pimp a Butterfly, is a song of hope for the Black community. A line as simple as “We gon’ be alright” is enough to stir strong emotions of reassurance — but not of complacency. His music reads like poetry, and this song in particular not only has listeners nodding along but makes them speculate on the condition of the nation today. Lamar’s song blows the winds of change, and rightfully so.
“Fight the Power, Pts. 1 & 2” — The Isley Brothers
This groovy song about sticking it to the man also has major undertones of preaching to the Black community to fight back against oppression. Released in 1975, this song fits in well with the time following the civil rights movement in the United States, reminding the nation that it wasn’t time to give up just yet. It’s important to mention that The Isley Brothers are soul and disco experts, so this song is bound to make listeners feel their best while sparking a call to action. The best part about “Fight the Power” is that it was released in two parts — just one wasn’t enough to satisfy.
“Chocolate City” — Parliament
This playlist wouldn’t be complete without including the funk legends known as Parliament, a group that has put out a slew of songs about Black excellence. “Chocolate City,” off of the group’s album of the same name, expresses that Black people are coming up in life and that the United States better be ready to bask in their presence. Listeners can hear the passion in lead singer George Clinton’s voice and lyrics as he sings about “Chocolate City,” which refers to a more diverse Washington D.C., becoming a reality. Who doesn’t love gloriously funky music that inspires a long-overdue restructuring of society?
“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” — Gil Scott-Heron
Heron’s song sounds like a manifesto being read to an audience as a steady beat plays in the background. This song is a spoken word piece about the mobilization of Black organizations to further Black communities. The song title itself was a popular saying with the Black Power movements in the 1960s. Not only does Scott-Heron take listeners for a ride with his artful lyrics, he takes them back in time with a history lesson on all the slang and happenings of the 1960s, such as references to the LSD movement, former President Richard Nixon’s policies and the Vietnam War. It’s a pop culture masterpiece, to say the least.
“Don’t Touch My Hair” — Solange feat. Sampha
Solange’s song is a testament to Black female empowerment, grappling with the sensitive issue of Black identity. With powerful lyrics like “Don’t touch what’s there/ When it’s the feelings I wear” Solange evokes an image of unapologetic Black women who are proud of themselves, and most importantly, their hair.
Pooja Bale covers music. Contact her at [email protected].