So, 2016 has sucked, for the most part. Still, there has been some really great music produced, and, although times are tough, I don’t know about you, but I am still all about finding a reason to dance.
This year, I’m recognizing my favorite black artists and black music in general. There are so many amazing singers and rappers out there that you might not know about because, hey, that isn’t your genre, and I get it, I really do. Still, I believe that in 2017, we should open our minds, our hearts and our eyes to what is going on around us and what better way to learn about culture than through music? The albums below represent a vast array of types of sounds, but they all ultimately have one thing in common.
This is fight music.
xoxo C. Diva
1) Untitled Unmastered by Kendrick Lamar
This album contains eight demos from Lamar’s previously released album To Pimp a Butterfly and they are exactly what is advertised–unmastered and raw. While you may have previously heard some of Lamar’s music, you haven’t heard anything like this before.
2) A Seat at the Table by Solange
This album is a mixture of music, stories and insight into the black psyche led by the ephemeral Solange Knowles. Intermingled with some very insightful and lyrical songs are real life interviews with her parents, who unabashedly talk about the wonderful and terrifying things that come with being black.
3) Coloring Book by Chance the Rapper
This is a mix of gospel, rap, hip hop and R&B that I did not see coming. Why did no one tell me about Chance?? His music is so inspiring (see my post on his Holiday release), every time I listen to this record, I feel like I’ve been to church. With appearances by Kirk Franklin, a well known (and one of my fave) gospel artists, and No Name, Chance doesn’t even consider this to be a real album, calling it a mixtape or EP, which makes me wonder…How badass is a “real” record by this dude gonna be?
4) Black America Again by Common
The original Common video for the title song to Black America Again is actually a 22-minute funeral march (click here to watch) that is so incredibly intense, it brought tears to my eyes. Common is articulate and honest, while his music speaks to the black experience in the United States in a unique and sincere way.
5) Here by Alicia Keys
Alicia Keys went and found herself in 2016, and this is the musical compilation of that journey. The 22 minute short film, named after a powerful tune on her 2016 album, “The Gospel”, is a story told through music and, while not each song on the album is played out in it’s entirety, there is enough sampling to make any viewer want to listen to the record in full.
6) Blonde by Frank Ocean
Apparently, the internet has been waiting for this 2016 release FOREVER, but I just discovered Ocean recently. The fresh take on ethereal pop is a beautiful listen through and through, and with a cameo by Beyonce on “Pink + White”, the album is a wonderful surprise from start to finish.
7) Awaken, My Love! by Childish Gambino
I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy this album, that is, until I listened to it in order, from start to finish. Then, all of a sudden, I awoke! My loves, this is a very different release than previous Childish Gambino, and yet, it fits in with the musical narrative of 2016 perfectly.
8) We Got it From Here…Thank You For Your Service by A Tribe Called Quest
I’ll be honest. ATCQ has never really been on my radar, just a peripheral rap group that sang lots of stuff in the 80s and 90s and not really my style. And yet…the raw and rough lyrics tell a story of an America that is fed up and ready to fight against fascism, which, honestly, is my kind of shit. Released the day after the 2016 election, the tracks feature folks like Andre 3000 and Kendrick Lamar and is definitely worth a listen, especially if you’re looking for a little rebellion with your rap music.
9) ANTI by Rihanna
This is the album I’ve listened to all year long, and I didn’t even know I like Rhianna before this release, honestly. Ri-Ri is all grown up, and represents a different type of black woman–the kind who will kick your ass and take your money because she’s a badass bitch. It isn’t for the faint of heart, and neither are her music videos.
*trigger warning for murder by badass bitch*
10) Lemonade by Beyonce
Of course I’m gonna include Queen Bey. See my multiple hot takes on her here. Here. Oh, and here. Just in case you haven’t heard, Bey came out at the January 2016 Superbowl swinging and she hasn’t stopped yet. The Lemonade visual album changed my life this year, and inspired me to create this list of musical artists who celebrate their blackness and willingly share their gift with the world, even as the world stays at the ready to pull them down.