In commemoration of the widespread mobilization around the Black Lives Matter movement following the murder of George Floyd & Breonna Taylor, as well as countless others, several black artists dropped records and tracks to capture the state of racial injustice on Juneteenth, 2020. Providing spiritual and rhythmic motivation for these protests and uprisings are Teyana Taylor, John Legend, SAULT, Anderson .Paak, Public Enemy, H.E.R., and Dayon Greene. Check out our playlists for these new songs, on Apple Music and Spotify, and make sure to support these artists and the amazing work they do.
Teyana Taylor // The Album
Featuring Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Future, Missy Elliot, Kehlani, and countless other headline names, Teyana Taylor stacked together a boss crew for her fourth studio project, The Album. Beyond the star-studded talent she was able to assemble, Taylor stepped her game to a new level on this 23-song, 78-minute record, putting her lyrics and emotions in the foreground of each track. To commemorate Juneteenth, Teyana was determined to incorporate a strong focus on racial equality and police reform, and while she didn’t stray too far from her characteristic love-engrossed style, the current fight for justice brought a new energy to Teyana’s bars. With or without an A-List guest, each track on The Album is bursting at the seams with talent and electricity, making this project one of my favorites of the year so far.
Highlights: “Wake Up Love (feat. Iman)”, “Still”, “Lowkey (feat. Erykah Badu)”, “Bare Wit Me”, “How You Want It (feat. King Combs)”
SAULT // UNTITLED (Black Is)
Under a shroud of secrecy, the unresearchable UK-based Sault released UNTITLED (Black Is), the trio’s third career studio album, on Juneteenth. It is impossible to procure any information about the group, however, where the incognito band lacks any path for exploration, the group makes up for it with deeply personal music. Their third project in just 13 months, UNTITLED spotlights the beauty of blackness, providing a beautiful celebration of Juneteenth. The 20-song, 57-minute project delivers an immensely intimate narration of modern day racism from an unmediated drum, guitar, piano, and vocals, and each track pursues a new facet and dynamic in the fight for black lives. SAULT has set sail for stardom, and while it may be a few years until we learn about the trio, we have a lot to learn from them in the meantime.
Highlights: “Wildfires” “Black” “Why We Cry Why We Die” “Bows (feat. Michael Kiwanuka)”
Anderson .Paak // “Lockdown”
Employing some of his most reliable R&B vocal styles, Anderson .Paak brings a down-tempo variation of the modern protest song with “Lockdown.” Poignant lyrics atop a stripped-down drum-and-bass beat make plenty of room for contemplation of the US’s inequity; “‘Cause they throw away black lives like paper towels / Plus unemployment rate, what, forty million now? / Killed a man in broad day, might never see a trial / We just wanna break chains like slaves in the South.” The video, which features an amazing verse from Jay Rock, displays Anderson struggling with anti-black racism in his places of comfort, from behind the piano to on the couch with his son.
Public Enemy // “State of the Union (STFU) feat. DJ Premier”
They haven’t dropped anything since 2015, but the wait proves irrelevant, as Public Enemy has returned to the spotlight with an unflinching attack on the “nazi gestapo dictator” in office. Along with insults alleging facsim, the track’s refrain gets right to the point “State of the Union / Shut the fuck up / Sorry ass motherfucker / Stay away from me.”
John Legend // Bigger Love
As his sixth career studio album and first project since 2016’s Darkness and Light, 41-year-old zaddy John Legend was electric with his 16-song, 56-minute Juneteenth release Bigger Love. While the silk-spitting singer continues his streak of making music for you, me, our moms, Ryan Secreast, Disney, radio stations, and everyone in between, this release comes forward with a fresh hard-hitting energy. From the funkiness of “I Do” and “One Life” to the bars on “Favorite Place” and “Remember Us”, Legend explores some newly self-paved avenues for his sound with Bigger Love. The project does not include many features, but the five songs that do exhibit Legend’s industry-leading ability to effortlessly adapt and incorporate during collaborations. In its entirety, Bigger Love stands as Legend’s most complex, layered, and challenging project to date and is a must listen for all fans of vocal perfection.
Highlights: “Remember Us (with Rapsody)”, “Ooh Laa”, “U Move I Move (feat. Kehlani)”
Wale // The Imperfect Storm – EP
Just eight months after his October 2019 release of Wow… That’s Crazy, Wale honored Juneteenth with 6-song EP, The Imperfect Storm. At just 19 minutes, this EP needed to pack a serious punch to relay the emotion and content Wale planned for, and he flawlessly pulled through. With an unapologetic “no justice, no peace” mentality, unrelentingly bouncing beats, and undoubtedly top-shelf bars, Wale huffed, puffed, and blew the house down with this project. Altogether, this EP is chalked full of the messages, anthems, and bumps desired at this moment, and we have no doubt you’ll be encountering these Wale tracks for months to come.
Highlights: “EMPTY WISHING WELL”, “BLUE YELLOW GREEN PINK WHITE”, “MAAJO”
H.E.R. // “I Can’t Breathe”
H.E.R.’s newest performance, a music video for “I Can’t Breathe,” is a chilling memorial for the uncountable black lives slain at the hands of white supremacy, a rallying cry for justice amidst the slow awakening of America’s collective consciousness, and a stirring rendition of the all-too-common iteration “I Can’t Breathe.” H.E.R. captures the emotion behind the recent Black Lives Matter uprisings, while calling out those who are privileged enough to turn their backs on the injustice that defines the United States of America. Beginning with her soulful and clear melodies and ending with a powerful spoken word segment, this track from H.E.R. will make you feel *some* of the many emotions in play in America’s public sphere.
Dayon Greene // “Free (prod. cpsl0ck)”
Rapper-singer-songwriter Dayon Greene continues to build a name for himself with consecutive exciting releases. This past single, celebrating freedom and pursuit of happiness, sees Greene floating around a lovely and inspiring instrumental skillfully arranged by Maryland’s cpsl0ck. Greene flexes his technical rapping ability on the track, further proving his talent as one of D.C.’s best young artists: the go-go legacy is absolutely alive through his music.
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