Hip-hop and rap music and sociopolitical issues have always gone hand in hand. Protests against police brutality and racism have borne brilliant fruit from artists like Kendrick Lamar, Ice Cube, D’ Angelo, and Beyoncé. Sadly, though, the anti-racism messages in Beyonce’s “Freedom,” N.W.A.’s “F*ck Da Police,” and Kendrick Lamar’s “Fear” are still relevant today. These songs can help listeners everywhere gain insight into the black struggle in America, so here are 10 songs by black artists that you should listen to right now.
1. “F*ck Da Police”- N.W.A. (1988)
This classic song acts as an urgent, powerful protest against racial profiling and police brutality It also demands action, so its message is still extremelyrelevanttoday.
2.“Don’t Die” – Killer Mike (2012)
Early gangsta rap and N.W.A. influenced this song from Killer Mike’s fifth studio album. The powerful rap song ensures that we don’t forget the black men who police have unjustly killed. Killer Mike himself revealed that he dedicated this song to Fred Hampton, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, and Trayvon Martin among other black men who police killed.
3.“Reagan” – Killer Mike (2012)
In this song, Killer Mike uses Ronald Reagan to depict both governmental corruption and corruption within the rap industry. Throughout the song, the rapper shows his strong ability to recognize and contextualize social injustices .
4. “This is America” – Childish Gambino (2018)
Childish Gambino implies that America uses black entertainers as a distraction from the violence it inflicts on black Americans. It truly shows how America devalues black lives.
5. “16 Shots” – Vic Mensa (2016)
Mensa dedicates this song toLaquon McDonald, a black 17-year-old boy who police officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shot. In this song, Mensa discusses trigger-happy cops, the war on drugs and guns, and black death.
6. “Fear” – Kendrick Lamar (2017)
“Fear” paints a portrait of Lamar’s own fear. He fears police shooting him to death, losing his mother, and not being able to maintain his career. The song takes you through the rapper learning to cope with fear as a black man at ages 7, 17, and 27.
7. “Black Rage” – Lauryn Hill (2014)
Dedicated to the Ferguson protests following the race riots in Missouri, this song features a variety of incidents that incite black rage. It’s set to the instrumental from The Sound of Music’s“My Favorite Things” but takes on a much darker tone.
8. “Mosh” – Eminem (2004)
Although this song is about George W. Bush and the Iraq war, it touches on racial profiling and speaks of the importance of voting. It’s definitely one of Eminem’s most thought-provoking songs.
9. “Killing In The Name Of” (Rage Against The Machine Cover) – MGK & Travis Barker (2020)
A cover Black Lives Matter, “Killing In THe Name Of”stays true to the message of the original song. The songstands staunchly against institutional racism and police brutality. MGK’s scream at the end of the song and the call to end systemic racism gives the cover power and timely relevance.
10. “Freedom” – Beyoncé ft. Kendrick Lamar
Recorded for Beyoncé’s sixth studio album, Lemonade (2016), this song serves as a call for freedom for African- American women. The black k female empowerment anthem focuses on the struggles black women face.
These tracks, along with so many others, create new sounds of protest and hope for a generation living through a revolutionary time in our country’s history. Listen to these songs and hear the pain, hope, and triumph of a people who have already lived through so much struggle. Let these songs illuminate the injustices black people face in our society and give you the energy to fight back.
Check out the playlist below for more songs like this.
Featured Photo via Childish Gambino This Is America
You could also add “They Don’t Really Care About Us,” “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar and “Murderer” by Buju Banton to that list.
Thanks so much for the suggestions, Ashleigh. I had “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar on a longer list and had thought about adding the other two songs you mentioned to it, but it was cut for length. They’re great tracks nonetheless.