In the wake of recent events in Minneapolis, Louisville, Portland, Kenosha, and many other cities, musicians are using their music to contribute to the protests and cry for justice. This is a list of songs that not only include music that have been released in the past few months but also includes a few that have re-surged and still hold true today with the current state of our world.
To get the full experience, the songs are intended to be listened to in the order that they appear in the playlist.
Please enjoy these songs wherever you listen to music by clicking on the link to your streaming service.
Anderson .Paak’s new song and especially its video convey a sense of urgency, comparing the events of the recent months with those of the past. In .Paak’s signature sound the song has an easy-rolling funk groove while also pairing .Paak’s own experiences of attending protests and his belief in the righteous change that is needed now more than ever. .Paak has said to his audience, “Keep your eyes on us, the prize.”
H.E.R has recently received a VMA for her video “I Can’t Breathe,” which benefits Black Lives Matter and draws attention to Black victims of police violence. “Praying for change ’cause the pain makes you tender,” H.E.R. sings. “All of the names you refuse to remember/Was somebody’s brother, friend/Or a son to a mother that’s crying, saying/’I can’t breathe, you’re taking my life from me.’”
This touching tribute from Minneapolis singer, songwriter, emcee, instructor, and
performing artist Maria Isa honors both George Floyd and Minneapolis as a community. With the release of the video Maria said, “George helped me carry my Bomba Drum after many shows in Minneapolis. He was a gentleman who protected our community and loved our music from traditional Afro-Boricua Ritmos to a hip-hop lyricism.” The video also displays the beautiful memorial at the corner of 38th and Chicago in South Minneapolis.
Protest songs can also be peaceful and advocate for change through our actions and how we love. This song from the husband and wife duo does exactly that.
“We’re always asking for just five more minutes, and this song makes you think about what you need five more minutes for. In our case, it’s five more minutes to love.” – Michael Trotter
This song is not like others on the playlist that give tactical examples of protest. This song is different because it is a song that is full of love and joy, two things that are also necessary in our world today. This album was created before the coronavirus pandemic and the protests advocating for black lives that have echoed around the world. John Legend said the songs still resonate.”This album is more focused on joy, love, hope, and on optimism,” he adds. “I think my last album [2016’s Darkness and Light] was kind of an album about being worried, about being concerned, and I definitely feel both. I feel like the world needs some joy.”
Beyoncé latest masterpiece that was released in the final hours of Juneteenth, the holiday that marks the end of slavery in the United States, which occured on June 19, 1865. In Black Is King, Beyoncé uses her music as a platform to position her support of Black pride. “Black Parade,” a call to action and a remedy for a wounded nation, is the latest extension of that.
“Get Up, Stand Up” made it onto our playlist because the message of this song still reigns true today. During a protest in New York, a crowd started singing this Bob Marley anthem with live drums and sax. View the video here.
Although this song sends a powerful message through its lyrics, the music video is more of a statement piece toying with an alternate reality. This is a must see video if you have not watched it yet. In this conceptual video, a different reality is supposed: one where white people are belittled and targeted across every aspect of their life, and Black people are the “default” face of government, police, business professionals, and more.
In Jorja Smith’s first release of 2020, she addresses the history of lies, pain, and death that have led to the Black Lives Matter movement, while also embracing the strength found within the movement. “I take pride in the things that we’ve done/Side by side in the revolution,” she sings. “Won’t stay silent for things that I love.” “By any means, I will fight,” she repeats like a mantra.
This song is written from the perspective of a black man taking his last breath and feeling his spirit leave his body. Bridges has this to say about writing “Sweeter,” “Growing up in Texas I have personally experienced racism, my friends have experienced racism. From adolescence, we are taught how to conduct ourselves when we encounter police to avoid the consequences of being racially profiled. I have been numb for too long, calloused when it came to the issues of police brutality. The death of George Floyd was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. It was the first time I wept for a man I never met. I am George Floyd, my brothers are George Floyd, and my sisters are George Floyd. I cannot and will not be silent any longer. Just as Abel’s blood was crying out to God, George Floyd is crying out to me. So, I present to you ‘Sweeter.’”
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Janelle Monáe’s “Hell You Talmbout” is a bone-chilling six and a half minute protest song that chants the names of black Americans killed by police and vigilantes. Although this song was not included in our playlist, it is one to mention because it was sung on August 13th, 2015 and unfortunately, that list has only grown.
I leave you with this last song and Andra Day’s words to ignite in you a thirst for justice and to continue to persevere, “to stand up because if you can stand up then you can take the next step, if you can take the next step, you can take the one after that.