This weekend we honor the national holiday Juneteenth with a double celebration of the holiday and June as Black Music Month. For the entire weekend and the days leading up to it, we will feature the music of Black musicians spanning genres and decades. We honor their storytelling and culture that has influenced music history since its origins and continues to inspire a new generation.
Below are 10 albums by Black musicians that you should check out in celebration of Juneteenth and Black Music Month:
Sault - Untitled (Rise)
During a year packed full of tumultuous protests for racial justice came the mysterious British group Sault's second album of 2020: Untitled (Black Is). The album is filled with warnings of "boys in blue", threats to the freedom of Black people, bloodshed and violence...and and yet, at the end of the day, "Black is so warm and so pure, and when everything else fails, Black endures". Black Is a protest album and an album of mourning and an important series of stories told through the eyes of a collection Black musicians.
Nina Simone - Silk & Soul
Nina Simone, was not just known as a singer and pianist, but a civil rights activist. Her many albums spanned over decades and told stories of love, sorrow, longing all through the lens of Blackness. Silk & Soul features the powerful vocals of Nina and sounds of classical piano, jazz, and funk making it even harder to place her musicality in a box. He sultry voice and powerful storytelling has inspired generations of musicians.
Mustafa - When Smoke Rises
Making a powerful debut is Toronto singer Mustafa. His debut album When Smoke Rises is titled in honor of Smoke Dawg, member of a gang Mustafa was also part of, who was murdered in 2018. The album focuses mostly on death and grief Mustafa suffered with while living in the tough Regent Park neighborhood.
Outkast - Aquemini
Fun fact: the album title is a combination of Big Boi and Andre 3000's zodiac signs (Aquarius and Gemini). After success of their first two albums, the stars continued to align on the rap duo's third studio album that was recorded mostly in singer Bobby Brown's Atlanta, GA. studio. A mix of sounds from country to soul to gospel and psych rock make Aquemini one of Outkasts' most creative albums to date. Most of the album's lyrical themes focus on self-inflicted struggles and the harsh environments in which the artists experienced throughout life.
Blood Orange - Negro Swan
In 2018, multi-instrumentalist, producer, and composer Blood Orange released his fourth studio album Negro Swan. With traumatic stories from childhood, love and relationships, and Blackness Negro Swan proved to be one of Blood Orange's most vulnerable works. An album that focuses on themes of gender and sexuality and featuring trans icon Janet Mock has continued to be a prolific album about the Black and queer experience.
Bob Marley & The Wailers - Uprising
The final album released before Bob Marley's death was his most spiritual. Uprising, the 12th LP by Bob Marley and The Wailers was released in 1980, and featured beloved singles "Could You Be Loved" and "Redemption Song". Many of the tracks spoke to Marley's soul and beliefs and his love of life and hopes for the future.
Thundercat - It Is What It Is
You can't help but dance along to this Grammy award winning album even with the self-deprecating lyrics. Thundercat will make you laugh, cry, and question life all while hitting some funky riffs on the bass guitar. Inspired always by Black funk of the 60s and 70s, this album is a dedication to the great artists that inspired Thundercat.
Solange - A Seat At the Table
Singer and songwriter Solange has always had a rebel spirit. Over the last decade she has created and released music on her own terms. One of the albums being 2016's A Seat At the Table. A fitting title for an album diving deep into the struggles of the Black woman: the killings of innocent Black lives, unwanted looks and touching of Black peoples' hair, the appropriation of Black culture and more.
Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly
An intense follow up to good kid, m.A.A.d city comes rapper Kendrick Lamar's album To Pimp A Butterfly. Lamar's narration of gang violence, police brutality, and drugs paired with heavy hitting nu jazz producers Robert Glasper, Terrace Martin, and (mentioned above) Thundercat. The paralyzing realities of the stories throughout the compilation are sometimes hard to hear, but a stark telling of Black lives lived in a corrupted system.
Vince Staples - Vince Staples
Californian rapper Vince Staples has been known for his hard-hitting lyricism since his debut in 20215. Staples has been blunt about the gang violence and drugs that plagued his adolescence since that first album and this time on his self-titled, he seems more introspective and vulnerable in his tales.
Noname - Room 25
The independently released debut album from rapper Noname is an honest telling of her first serious relationship and a move from Chicago to Los Angeles. She also talks about broken systems in America and the good feeling of Black community.
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