A playlist of tracks soundtracking the Black Lives Matter movement
Featuring Minneapolis-native Dua Saleh, poet and rapper Noname and Atlanta heavyweight Lil Baby.
Noname – Song 33
Noname is a dreamer first, rapper second. Song 33 is a manifesto ascribed with the radical beliefs permeated in her on/offline Book Club and the readings of Angela Davis, Assata Shakur and their ilk. It’s also the Chicago artist’s incisive diss to J.Cole, who released Snow On tha Bluff, criticising Noname because she grew up around a “conscious environment” and her “queen tone” hurt the feelings of a man who graduated magna cum laude at St. John’s University (poor Jermaine.) Here, Noname tags the legendary beatsmith Madlib on the buttons, and visualises a utopia in a minute and ten seconds over lush guitar and jazzy keys.
H.E.R. – I Can’t Breathe
In her episode of iHeartRadio’s ‘Living Room Series’ live streamed on 10th June, H.E.R. performed an emotional live rendition of her new song I Can’t Breathe, which she devoted to George Floyd. “These lyrics were kind of easy to write because it came from a conversation of what’s happening right now, what’s been happening and the change we need to see,” the Californian artist said while introducing the gripping ballad. “I think music is powerful when it comes to change and when it comes to healing and that’s why I wrote this song, to make a mark in history, and I hope this song does that.”
Coco – I Love It (Black)
Sheffield MC Coco has been supportive of the protests against police brutality and systemic racism affecting the lives of Black people. Opening up with a sample of John Boyega’s powerful speech from a recent #UKBLM protest, Coco lays out the various ways in which Black people are discriminated against on top of a bouncy bassline and drums before reaching a proud proclamation of his blackness in the chorus.
NNAMDÏ – IMPATIENT
The Chicago-based experimental artist has expressed himself with this warm, dreamy R&B track IMPATIENT in support for the BLM protests, which the profits from downloads will go directly to the Chicago Bond Fund.
Buddy – Black 2
The sequel to Buddy’s 2018 A$AP Ferg collab Black. This time, the Compton artist pays homage to an iconic photo of a gun-wielding Malcolm X that appeared in Life Magazine in 1964 with the track’s artwork. Buddy registers the generational paranoia that Black people endure as the world turns a blind eye to the injustices Black people suffer while feeding off their culture, as he raps: “Everyone wanna be Black, don’t nobody want to be a nigga.”
Che Lingo – My Block
My Block is inspired by Julian Cole, who was mistreated by Police outside of a Bedford nightclub in 2013 and left permanently brain-damaged. Released in February this year, the truths the song expresses have been amplified further during the global protests. The Wandsworth-based rapper – who knew Julian Cole growing up – speaks on how police brutality hits close to home, as he raps in anger: “Feds literally broke my bredrin’s neck, then lied on one of their statements/How can you call that justice?” An uncompromised message about Black people’s treatment and the enablers of state violence and corruption.
Lil Baby – The Bigger Picture
While certain celebrities were singing John Lennon’s Imagine in their stone-floored mansions, P4F’s Lil Baby was leading the protests on the streets of Atlanta. Lil Baby’s recent sophomore album My Turn went platinum, certifying his position as one of Atlanta’s biggest contemporary rap stars. However, he isn’t blinded by the privilege that celebrity affords its benefactors. He looks back at the hometown where he came from, and The Bigger Picture is underscored by an urgent hope for things to change: “Altercations with the law, had a lot of them /People speaking for the people, I’m proud of them.”
Dua Saleh – body cast
“This is a song I made with [producer] Psymun last year and intended to save it for a project in the future but I can’t wait that long with what is happening in my city of Minneapolis,” Dua Saleh recently explained. The musician, activist and poet donated 100% of the proceeds to Women for Political Change. body cast starts with a recording of Montana resident Angela Whitehead calling out an illegal police invasion in her home. With body cast, Dua Saleh advocates for victims of brutality, shifting the lens onto the Black women who are traumatised by the Police.
Terrace Martin ft. Denzel Curry, Daylyt, Kamsai Washington and G Perico – PIG FEET
Terrace Martin – the musician and producer who was one of of the main architects behind Kendrick Lamar’s trail-blazing 2018’sTo Pimp a Butterfly – tags saxophonist Kamasi Washington, Florida’s Denzel Curry, Los Angeles-based battle rapper Daylyt and South Central’s G Perico for a visceral protest anthem. The energy is unbridled – Washington’s saxophone guides us along with the vertiginous drumming patterns while Curry, Daylyt and G Perico each pass the baton, expressing their hatred for the cops. They capture the chaos and turmoil into a three-minute song followed by the visuals showing a list of names of Black people in America killed by police brutality.
Conway the Machine – Front Lines
After the release of The Alchemist-produced LULU this year and ahead of his next album FROM KING TO A GOD, the Griselda rapper takes a detour with a song for the national protests with Front Lines. In the second verse, Conway the Machine speaks out on the killing of George Floyd, addressing his anxieties on the Beat Butcha produced track: “What if he was my son? I wonder how I’m gon react?”
Run The Jewels – walking in the snow
Killer Mike and El‑P dropped their highly-anticipated fourth studio album, RTJ4, two days before its planned release date, accompanying it with the statement: “The world is infested with bullshit so here’s something to listen to while you deal with it all.” walking in the snow is a highlight of the album, packed with nuanced conscious raps from Killer Mike and El‑P. Mike voices the horror of sanctioned violence at the hands of those supposed to protect and serve (“Until my voice goes from a shriek to a whisper, “I can’t breathe.”) while El‑P calls out the Christains who mask their political views with religion (“Y’all indifferent, kids in prison ain’t a sin”).