Educate yourself: essential music on anti-Black racism, police brutality

Albums, songs by Black artists that highlight social injustices
FIONA TUNG/THE VARSITY
FIONA TUNG/THE VARSITY

It is incredibly important to take the time to listen to Black voices on anti-Black racism and police brutality through literature, movies, and music. Personally speaking, music has opened my eyes to many levels of injustice in society. Below, you will find a compilation of songs and albums that can spark conversation, research, and thought about the current social upheavals. 

ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ by Joey Bada$$

This is an all-around political album about the socioeconomic and political barriers that Black people battle. Joey Bada$$ touches on discrimination by news media and politicians, the history of slavery and segregation, and how that discrimination and history present innumerable structural barriers to Black communities today. 

There’s Alot Going On by Vic Mensa

“16 Shots”

This song is a direct response to the 2014 murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by a Chicago police officer who shot him 16 times. Mensa also touches on the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement as a whole and calls out the people in power who derailed the investigation. Systemic racism and the failure to hold law enforcement accountable are consistent themes.

“Shades of Blue”

The main question of the song is whether the Flint water crisis would’ve been solved if it had happened to white Americans rather than to Black Americans. It also touches on the role that the media plays in the public portrayal of protests. 

NASIR by Nas

“Cops Shot the Kid (feat. Kanye West)”

Nas not only talks about the discrepancies in sentencing Black and white people but also how normalized police brutality is, resulting in a lack of trust between Black communities and law enforcement. 

King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude by Pusha T

“Sunshine (feat. Jill Scott)”

The clever wordplays in this song talk about the integral part news outlets play in information dissemination and the media’s presentation of one-sided narratives. Pusha T also speaks on the lack of justice when it comes to prosecuting police officers and the death of Freddie Gray in 2015.

PSYCHODRAMA by Dave

“Black”

This song focuses on the erasure of Black history and its subsequent and inaccurate characterization as “barbaric.” Dave also speaks about ‘culture vultures’ who appropriate Black culture yet stay silent when it comes to Black suffering. 

Yeezus by Kanye West

“New Slaves”

This song is heavily focused on corporate racism and its effects on Black people. The first focus is on how corporate America introduced a luxurious lifestyle for Black Americans to chase after, resulting in destructive distraction. The second focus is on the prison system as a form of modern slavery. 

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West

“Gorgeous”

The standout sentiment in the song is Kanye’s reference to “inner-city tantrums / Based off the way we was branded.” This touches on the idea that gang activity is directly caused by society’s labelling and treatment of Black people. A large focus in the song is on how Black people have to behave a certain way to be taken seriously and to not be categorized as “ghetto” or “ratchet.” 

To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar

This album is the source of the de facto anthem to the BLM movement in 2015, “Alright.” However, the other tracks such as “i” and “The Blacker The Berry” are also important tunes about anti-Black racism.

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