Celebrate Black History Month With These 20 Songs
“You Must Learn” — Boogie Down Productions
“No one told you about Benjamin Banneker / a brilliant black man that invented the almanac / Eli Whitney, Haile Selassie / Granville Woods made the walkie-talkie / Lewis Latimer improved on Edison / Charles Drew did a lot for medicine”
KRS-One tries to instill in his listeners a sense of pride by going over a bit of African American history, and criticizes the American school system in the process.
“Murder to Excellence” — Kanye West And Jay Z
I stink of success, the new black elite / They say my Black Card bears the mark of the beast / I repeat: my religion is the beat / My verse is like church, my Jesus piece / Now please, domino, domino / Only spot a few blacks the higher I go/ What’s up to Will, shout out to O / That ain’t enough.. we gonna need a million more” – Jay Z
A two-in-one track, which talks about both black-on-black crime and the need for a greater black presence in the upper echelons of society. The first half explores the pockets of America that are heavily concentrated with gang crime, particularly Kanye’s hometown of Chicago. The second half speaks of “black excellence,” as Jay Z articulates the details of a certain caliber of success attained by the likes of Oprah, expressing the need for more people like her (and himself for that matter).
“F**k Da Police” — N.W.A.
“F**k the police coming straight from the underground / A young nigga got it bad ‘cause I’m brown / And not the other color so police think / They have the authority to kill a minority / Fuck that shit, ‘cause I ain’t the one / For a punk muthaf**ka with a badge and a gun”
Released in 1988 by Compton’s staple gangsta rap group, “F**k Da Police” went down in history as a protest song that highlights the many tensions between the Black urban youth and the police. It also caught the attention of the FBI, which provoked them to caution N.W.A’.s record company about their lyrics.
“I Can” — Nas
“Be, be, ‘fore we came to this country / We were kings and queens, never porch monkeys/ There was empires in Africa called Kush / Timbuktu, where every race came to get books/ To learn from black teachers who taught Greeks and Romans/ Asian Arabs and gave them gold when/ Gold was converted into money it all changed”
Here, Nasir Jones motivates the youth to follow their dreams and touches on the royalty and elite from which Africans originate.
“Keep Ya Head Up” — 2Pac
“Some say the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice / I say the darker the flesh then the deeper the roots / I give a holla to my sisters on welfare / 2Pac cares if nobody else care / And I know they like to beat you down a lot / when you come around the block, brothas clown a lot / but please don’t cry, dry your eyes, never let up / Forgive but don’t forget, girl, keep ya head up”
Tupac Shakur may have been notorious for being a gangsta, but the West Coast MC was a poet who had feelings too. “Keep Ya Head Up” is an ode to the single, black mother (including his own, Afeni Shakur, who was also a Black Panther).