To paraphrase Bruno Mars, American music is black music.
When you consider that black people had a hand in creating or influencing just about every music genre—rock, pop, blues, R&B and even country—Bruno ain’t wrong.
In 1979, President Jimmy Carter declared June to be Black Music Month in order to recognize the contributions that black folks have made to music (President Barack Obama rebranded the celebration as African-American Music Appreciation Month in 2009). To his credit, Donald Trump—or someone on his staff who might actually listen to black music—managed to release a respectable proclamation acknowledging the monthlong celebration.
We here at The Root will be celebrating black music with all kinds of content featuring stories, interviews and video of past, present and future music stars throughout the month. And every Friday, we’ll also be doing a Spotify playlist that’s inspired by the news of the week.
1. “You Haven’t Done Nothin,’” by Stevie Wonder
I can’t think of a better way to kick off this playlist than with this timeless classic, which, even though it was written in 1974, perfectly sums up the total fuckery of the Trump administration. Let’s look at this past week alone: the Russian scandal that is now consuming his own family; the indecipherable tweeting in the wee hours of the morning; his ongoing assault on women’s rights with a plan that will allow employers to deny contraceptive coverage. The past six months of this administration have been a hot pile of garbage, and I imagine that four years from now, this song will still apply.
2. “Portland,” by Drake
While the president got all hot and bothered about Kathy Griffin’s ill-advised attempt at humor involving a photograph, it took him three days to call out actual violence perpetrated by a white supremacist who killed two men who were defending a couple of teenagers against his anti-Muslim rant on a Portland, Ore., train. These kinds of attacks, particularly against black men in Maryland, California and New York City, are the latest form of domestic terrorism that can be directly traced back to the racist rhetoric of the president.
3. “In America,” by John Legend
Let’s pour one out for Underground, the hit slave drama that was canceled after WGN America’s parent company was acquired by Sinclair Broadcast Group, which wants to create a new Fox News. Legend is an executive producer of the show, and he took to Twitter to assure fans that the show would find a new home:
4. “Black Spiderman,” by Logic
The thing I love about this track by Logic is that it’s all about embracing your identity—or identities—no matter what people may think or say about you, including about not being black enough. Sydney Caesar, a junior high schooler in Texas, had her blackness questioned when she was given the horrific award of “Most Likely to Blend in With White People.” White supremacy, in all forms subtle and horrible (see No. 2), is that gift that generations keep regifting to the next.
5. “Bitch Better Have My Money,” by Rihanna
6. “If I Ruled the World,” by Nas, Featuring Lauryn Hill
I think we can all agree that Nas, who blasted our racist president in an open letter that was everything, would be a better world leader, all things considered.
7. “Say My Name,” by Destiny’s Child
My colleague Stephen Crockett wrote a funny but well-reported piece on the gentrification of black baby names, which I’m all for, since research shows that black-sounding names on a résumé are less likely to get that high-paying job.
8. Bonus Track: “Call Me,” by Skyy
I may be aging myself here, but when I heard the story about our dumb president giving out his personal cell number to foreign leaders—which is a security risk—I couldn’t pass up the chance to use this 1981 funk classic. You youngsters can keep your “Hotline Bling.”