These songs were curated to give insight into the Black experience in America from the past and the present. The playlist is in an order that tells the story of how Black people see themselves and how the world treats them. Each song is different, but they all explain the frustration and pride that Black people carry with them.
Words of Wisdom: 2pac
“Words of Wisdom” discusses how the American dream was not meant for Black people, and how America has held Black people back from their true potential.
White Privilege II: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Macklemore acknowledges the impact white supremacy has had in his career as a white rapper. Macklemore gives examples of hip-hop stereotypes that downplay the Black experience.
Shades of Blue: Vic Mensa
“Shades of Blue” dives into the racial inequalities in America specifically highlighting the clean water crisis in Flint, Michigan and police brutality.
The Ghetto: Too $hort
“The Ghetto” discusses the miseducation, poverty and other obstacles that people living in the ghetto face while trying to leave behind the barriers of their socioeconomic status.
“Land of the Free” discusses the systems that are in place to keep Black people from knowing their own history and how this makes it difficult to form unity within the Black community.
Keep Ya Head Up: 2pac
“Keep Ya Head Up” is an anthem that celebrates Black women. Tupac calls out people who have put Black women down and brings attention to racial issues plaguing the world.
Alright: Kendrick Lamar
In “Alright,” Kendrick Lamar talks about recognizing the current societal position of Black people in America, but also preaches that there must always be hope for a better day.
If I Ruled The World: Nas ft. Lauryn Hill
“If I Ruled The World” tells the story of a utopian society where life is better without cops—with less Black men in jail and more Black people with power.
16 Shots: Vic Mensa
Vic Mensa’s “16 Shots” details the death of Laquan McDonald and the Black Lives Matter movement. Mensa also talks about the police and government corruption that makes it difficult for Black people to feel safe.
U.N.I.T.Y: Queen Latifah
Grammy-award-winning song “U.N.I.T.Y” gives a glimpse into the disrespect and harassment Black women face every day.
“Black” is a social commentary about what it means to be Black. The song talks about the joy, pain and history of being Black.
TEMPTATION: Joey Bada$$
“Temptation” is a commentary on the worth of Black people in America. Joey Bada$$ calls for Black people to acknowledge that we can only rely on each other.
words_olbrine thelusma. design_olivia ginsberg. illustration_abby pak.
This article was published in Distraction’s Fall 2020 print issue.
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