Happy Juneteenth everyone!
Today we celebrate a day that signifies the freedom of our ancestors from slavery, and the decades of hard work each generation afterwards put in to the culture so that many of us today and those in the future can live in a society built on equality.
There’s no one way to celebrate Juneteenth, whether you’re getting even blacker on the beach or throwing something on the grill to break bread with loved ones. However, none of those activities are complete without some good tunes to set the mood.
That’s where we come in!
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From the soulful sounds of ’60s and ’70s R&B to the hard-hitting beats and rhymes heard in hip-hop during the ’80s and ’90s, the theme of Black empowerment has played a pivotal part in how our culture remained both entertained and woke to what’s going on. We decided to put together a few songs for today’s special occasion that not only sum up what Juneteenth means to Black people everywhere but also because, well, it’s Black Music Month, too! Get some good headphones, or maybe a few amped up speakers, and press play on these 15 powerful bangers that were made especially to uplift Black people everywhere.
We threw in a few obvious picks, like Public Enemy speaking facts on Fear of a Black Planet and Beyoncé adapting afrobeats for The Lion King: The Gift and its accompanying film/visual album BLACK IS KING. You’ll also find a few on here that may surprise you, or maybe even never heard before. All we hope is that you enjoy the vibes and let the music remind you how beautiful it is to be Black!
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Keep scrolling to hear 15 songs that each highlight Black empowerment in their own way and will definitely have you jammin’ for Juneteenth:
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1. Marvin Gaye – “What’s Going On” (1971)
Even though this song is over 50 years old, the lyrics couldn’t be more true in describing what we’re still going through today as a race.
2. Beyoncé – “BLACK PARADE” (2020)
King Bey actually dropped this for Juneteenth a few years ago, and it still slaps with a powerful message and a side of turn-up.
3. Public Enemy – “Fight The Power” (1990)
If you need something to get you in a protest state of mind, let this classic Public Enemy banger be the soundtrack to your rally cries.
4. Billy Paul – “Am I Black Enough for You?” (1972)
Some of us out there can surely relate to these lyrics, and probably had to remind someone recently of our Blackness!
5. Kendrick Lamar – “Alright” (2015)
If you’re currently going through something in life and need a quick reminder, here you go!
6. James Brown – “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud” (1968)
Has there ever been a chorus more fun to shout your lungs out singing along to?
7. Erykah Badu – “Back in the Day [Puff]” (2003)
Soothing and sure to put you in a nostalgic mood for the good ol’ days. If nothing else, it also makes for a good Electric Slide jam.
8. Solange – “F.U.B.U.” [feat. The-Dream & BJ The Chicago Kid] (2016)
For us, by us. Simply said.
9. Childish Gambino – “Feels Like Summer” (2018)
Aside from the breezy instrumental and Marvin Gaye-inspired vibe overall, the lyrics actually have significant meaning on taking time to slow down and appreciate what’s around you. Let that inspire your Juneteenth plans for sure.
10. Prince – “Sign o’ the Times” (1987)
If ever you needed a groovy hit that also spoke to the issues that plague our people on the daily, Prince always was the one to deliver. We miss you, king!
11. Janet Jackson – “Rhythm Nation” (1989)
People of the world today are still looking for a better way of life, which is why this song will always be a staple to our culture.
12. Bob Marley & The Wailers – “Redemption Song” (1980)
With just an acoustic instrumental to back him up, the late great Bob Marley found a way to perfectly serenade our souls while reminding us to emancipate from mental slavery in order to truly be free. Legend, indeed.
13. Mariah Carey – “There’s Got to Be a Way” (1990)
Not only does the original deliver a beautiful message of change and equality, the a cappella version Mariah sang live on Instagram in 2020 following the tragic death of George Floyd gave it even more significance today.
14. Chronixx – “Black is Beautiful” (2017)
The Black history he’s spitting on this one, all while holding a harmonious tune, is both innovative and 100% accurate.
15. Aretha Franklin – “Respect” (1967)
Because even in 2022, we’re still asking for it! The Queen Of Soul spoke for all of us with this one.