Editor’s note: Every Friday for the month of June, aka African-American Music Appreciation Month, aka Black Music Month, we created a Spotify playlist based on the news of the week. Check out the stories behind playlist No. 1, playlist No. 2, playlist No. 3 and playlist No. 4.
How fortuitous that the end of Black Music Month comes right before the four-day weekend celebrating the Fourth of July, Independence Day, America’s birthday. Now, America may not always love us black folks, but that hasn’t stopped us from creating most of what passes for culture in this place. When it comes to music, black people had a hand in all of it—rock, pop, blues, jazz, country, folk, EDM, etc., etc., etc.
From sea to shining sea, black artists have created the soundtrack that puts America at the center of the musical universe. For the last playlist of the month, we’re celebrating black artists from all regions of the country, so spark up the grill, push play on the boom box, and sit back and enjoy!
The West Coast
California, my home state, is big enough to carry the sound of the entire west side of the country, and the music from the Golden State has so many vibes: It can be laid-back, like a warm, summer breeze; or heated and angry, like a raging wildfire. But no matter which way the musical wind blows, West Coast joints always sound good booming from a car window.
1. “Tell Me When to Go,” by E-40, Featuring Keak da Sneak
2. “Under Control,” by the Internet
3. “Blow the Whistle,” by Too Short
4. “It Was a Good Day,” by Ice Cube
5. “Element,” by Kendrick Lamar
6. “Chill Bill,” by Rob Stone
The Midwest is the heart and soul of the country—home to the Motown sound and Kanye (before he fell into the sunken place), and where Common and Chance woke up. Sure, Nelly was born there, but some things can be forgiven.
7. “All Falls Down,” by Kanye West
8. “I Wish,” by Stevie Wonder
9. “I Want You Back,” by the Jackson 5
10. “I’m Coming Out,” by Diana Ross
11. “The Light,” by Common
12. “Summer Friends,” by Chance the Rapper
The South, Dirty or Otherwise
Music from the South is like those country cousins who show up at the cookout dressed too loud and speaking too loud in equal measure. We city folks may laugh at them, but secretly we wish we could be as free as they seem to be.
13. “Knuck if You Buck,” by Crime Mob, Featuring Lil Scrappy
14. “On My Block,” by Scarface
15. “What About Your Friends,” by TLC
16. “Shake Ya Ass,” by Mystikal
17. “7/11,” by Beyoncé
18. “Rosa Parks,” by Outkast
19. “Other Side of the Game,” by Erykah Badu
The East Coast
Old school, new school, no school—the East Coast is like the elders holding court at the dominoes table. New jacks think they can step to them, but then they are reminded that there are levels to this shit, son.
20. “Doo Wop (That Thing),” by Lauryn Hill
21. “Hypnotize,” by the Notorious B.I.G.
22. “Don’t Sweat the Technique,” by Eric B. & Rakim
23. “Brooklyn Girls,” by Charles Hamilton
24. “The Next Movement,” by the Roots
25. “Golden,” by Jill Scott
26. “Electric Relaxation,” by A Tribe Called Quest