I wanted to write this two years ago when I first started blogging.
Initially, the idea was to post in honor of Black History Month. February came and went. Twice. To be honest, I wasn’t sure about how “black” I wanted to be on my blog. Two years ago, I was tired of being the “black hire,” the “black prof,” or the “black colleague,” and my blog felt like a place where I could just be, no matter my racial identity.
Somewhere between Freddie Gray and Sandra Bland, I decided that if I was going to have a platform, then my black experience would be an integral topic every now and then. February 2017 would be the time when I would finally post specific songs that I listen to because they represent voices of understanding.
There were only two challenges. The first is I wanted to share a few lines from each song, but then that made everything too long. The second is I couldn’t think of a good title. The songs don’t really inspire me as much as they illustrate through great lyrics what some of us have observed or experienced being so-called Black Americans.
So without further ado, here are the ten songs I’ve chosen, with the artist, the title and a few lines. Of course, if you want the full effect, you’ll have to click the links.
Janelle Monáe Tightrope
“When you get elevated,
They love it or they hate it
You dance up on them haters
Keep getting funky on the scene”
Kanye West Spaceship
“I’ve been workin’ this graveshift and I ain’t made shit
I wish I could buy me a spaceship and fly past the sky”
“When you know you gotta pay the cost
Play the game just to play the boss
So you thinking, what you gained you lost
But you know your shit is taking off, oh
When you’re driving in your tinted car
And you’re criminal just who you are
But you know you’re gonna make it far, oh"
Talib Kweli Get By
“We sell crack to our own out the back of our homes
We smell the musk of the dusk in the crack of the dawn
We go through episodes too, like Attack of the Clones
Work ‘til we break our back and you hear the crack of the bone”
Mos Def (Yasiin Bey) Umi Says
“My Umi said shine your light on the world
Shine your light for the world to see
My Abi said shine your light on the world
Shine your light for the world to see”
Angie Stone Brotha
“You got your wall street brotha
Your blue collar brotha
Your down-for-whatever-chillin'-on-the-corner brotha
Your talented brotha, and to everyone of ya'll behind bars”
Erykah Badu Other Side of the Game
“See me and baby got this situation
See brother got this comlex ocupation
And it ain't that he don't have education
Cause I was right there at his graduation
Now I ain't sayin that this life don't work
But it's me and baby that he hurts
Because I tell him right he thinks I'm wrong
But I love him strong”
Janelle Monáe (featuring Erykah Badu) Q.U.E.E.N.
“Hey sister am I good enough for your heaven?
Say will your God accept me in my black and white?
Will he approve the way I’m made?
Or should I reprogram, deprogram and get down?”
“She thought back to when she was at Howard and
Dreams of doing scenes with Terrence Howard and
Broadway plays and dancin with Alv and them
The ones that make it ain’t always the talented”
Kendrick Lamar Mortal Man
“Do you believe in me? Are you deceiving me?
Could I let you down easily, is your heart where it need to be?
Is your smile on permanent? Is your vow on lifetime?
Would you know what the sermon is if I died in this next line?”
That’s my list. What or who would you add?