Black Music Month comes with a different celebration this year as 2020 has been ignited with protest due to the highlight of police brutality, social injustice, and systematic racism. It has become inevitable to hear protest music.
For years, protest music has been a part of Black history, and some have become major hits that have hit Billboard charts. For the black community, it means more than a place on the charts, but it represents how we collectively feel. We have allowed music to tell our story of whether feeling powerful or feeling enraged. With the death of George Floyd and more within three weeks, anger in the Black community has sparked, and protests have occurred globally on the daily amid a pandemic. In this pivotal moment in our current history, 2020 has allowed us to resurface music that simply expresses the frustration within the Black community. Songs from the 60s have become more relevant now as we protest for social change and Black lives.
Here are top protest songs that will aid the Black Lives Matter movement and bring us together to take action.
What's Going On (1974)
Released over 40 years ago, this song is prevalent in our current events surrounding George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Aburey as we are trying to gather our thoughts on "what's going on" today in society. Marvin Gaye speaks to brutality, and injustice just as we are today.
Sound Of The Police (1993)
Coming out in the '90s during a time where crooked cops were at an all-time high, KRS-One comes with words to highlight the epidemic. At the same time, he displays the police brutality and systematic injustice as it is released years after the Rodney King case. In 2020 its found its way to being relevant as the exact meaning of the song is the exact reason many are protesting and rioting today.
Fight The Power (1988)
Known as one of the greatest songs in history, "Fight The Power" is the epitome of what it feels like and sounds like to be a part of a movement whose agenda is to fight social injustice.
Say It Loud (1968)
One of the most prideful songs in protest music history comes in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement. We all can't help ourselves when this song comes on to scream the lyrics with our fist up high.
Black Man (2016)
T.I, Quavo, Meek Mill
The tale of a Black man can be summed up in this track with T.I, Quavo, and Meek Mill. Each shares their personal experiences and emotions regarding police brutality.
Raheem Devaughn, Ludacris
Raheem brings a message with this 2009 release, which holds a beautifully done sample of Curtis Mayfield's "The Other Side of Town." As soulful as this song comes, it tells the utter truth about political figures and policies that are ignored to hinder Black people. The touch of Ludacris adds a Hip Hop flare to seal up the message.
Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar
Beyoncé delivers this intense song that collects every essence of Black music. Having a sample from an old negro spiritual to displaying a captivating verse from Kendrick Lamar. Beyoncé sings with so much rage and passion this track gives 2020 protesters a reason to keep going and fighting for freedom. "Ima keep running because a winner don't quit on themselves," with so much discourage on the frontlines of the protest this song will push you to keep going.
I'm Black (2005)
Styles P featuring Marsha Ambrosius gives us a song that makes being Black regardless of struggle or negative attention a beautiful thing.
Released over 20 years ago, Tupac does what he's known for and speaks to and for Black people. This song comes with heartening words to smile even through the pain. In the wake of 2020, it is the one thing we have to do... Smile.
The Corner (2005)
"The Corner" is a song that explains the Black experience in a well-known spot in Black communities where many gather. They gather to talk and to laugh, but sometimes the corner can be a negative place whereas in the words of Common, "On the corners, robbing, killing, and dying" but overall just a place to "make a living." The song is accompanied by The Last Poets, and Kanye West produced giving it a gritty and raw look on the experience on the corner in Black neighborhoods. Overall this is also the place where instances of police brutality occur.
Umi Says (1999)
Broken down as "Mother Says," Mos Def creates a song that brings a sense of peace and understanding. He makes it a point to let us know, we as a community have the world in our hands to make a change. Having the nature of a Black spiritual song, it displays unity with God, self, and other Black people while crying out, "I want Black people to be free, to be free, to be free." It's a piece that creates deep thoughts and uplifts when thinking of freedom.
I Can (2002)
Nas uses his voice to talk for the children and produces an inspiring message, if you believe in yourself and hard work, you can be anything you want to be. He comes igniting change and having it start with the children. While in 2020, there are Black children that may be scared due to the display of police killings on Black bodies, Nas preaches that individually, children can change the stereotypical narrative of Black lives in Black communities.
Get By (2002)
Noted as one of the greatest lyricst, Talib Kweli comes painting the picture of Black lives and what many in the community have to do "just to get by." The sample of Nina Simone in the background adds a powerful touch as her voice brings passion and pain. Talib Kweli also brings an awareness of the change needed in the community and starts with ourselves. The tracks bring motivation and encouragement that we can get out of the struggle.
Transcending through time, Tupac's music still speaks and holds a mighty message. Tupac uses his lyrics to uplift the Black people of things they can do to aid in the change. But he also comes with a gritty yet concerning voice saying we need change as a world when faced with racism and the corrupt system.
Created in 2014 around the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, J.Cole brings on a robust song that amplifies the need for justice and the end to racial profiling and police brutality.
Wake Up Everybody (1975)
Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
One of the early songs that found its way on the Billboard charts in 1976 was a protest song that preached motivation. "Wake up everybody, no more sleeping in bed, no more backward thinkin, time for thinkin ahead" was meant to lift the spirits of everyone who wanted change. The song has been recreated by several artists hoping that a new rendition would deliver the same message to keep moving head.
Common, John Legend
John Legend and Common come together for the film Selma to create "Glory," debuted months after Michael Brown's murder and the protest in Ferguson. Although Selma was apart of the Civil Rights Movement 50 years ago, the song presented within the film found its way to be relevant to the current fight we are facing today.
Change Gonna Come (1963)
Amid the Civil Rights Movement, Sam Cooke delivered a song he didn't know would come during the same occurrence of the "Bloody Sunday," the peaceful march in Selma Alabama that turned violent. Ironic to our current times it displays that were still hopeful for change in America.
Story Of O.J (2017)
Released in 2017 by one of the greatest rappers of all time, JAY-Z displays racism and stereotypes within the Black community. The visual adds much more context to the track as you see JAY-Z reference an early take on racism and how Black people were presented in early cartoons.
Get Up, Stand up (1973)
Bob Marley & The Wailers
Released in 1973, Bob Marley and the Wailers delivered this song in the wake of wanting respect for the Rastafarian religion. 40 years later, we are still screaming the same thing wanting respect for Black lives.
2020 Riots: How Many Times (2020)
Amid the George Floyd killing riots that have been erupting globally, Trey Songz has been very vocal on social media regarding his pain of the senseless killing and has even been seen protesting. Trey Songz now comes with an emotional song asking, "how many times" do we as a community have to go through this pain. Trey Songz has created a touching piece that speaks directly to the Black Lives Matter movement.
This Is America (2018)
Also known as actor Donald Glover, rapper Childish Gambino brings a catchy song that comes with a harsh reality. Released in 2018, "This is America" brought a lot to the surface, mainly with its visuals. Glover showcased the message of race, violence, an, most importantly, pop culture. How can this song be so catchy, upbeat, and sound fun, but display a horrific truth about America and Black lives? Take what you will from the song and the video, but for Black people, its a reminder of our traumatic experiences in America while having to produce and deliver great music and trending culture.
The GRAMMY-winning rapper's 2015 single, "Alright," has become the anthem of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Produced by Pharrell Williams, the words "We Gone be Alright," has found its place among 1000s of people chanting to fight and demand change after the death of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. Many have marched for miles or hours at a time and "Alright" has become apart of the protest reassuring the ones on the front line that "We gone be alright" during this turmoil. Kendrick Lamar has hands down created one of the most essential protest songs that will last within the next century.