Celebrate Black History Month with music


It’s officially February, which is better known as Black History Month. What better way is there to celebrate than listen to these iconic albums and songs from legendary artists? From the classics like N.W.A’s “Straight Outta Compton” to Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly,” here’s a look at some of my favorites, and what you could listen to during your daily commute or in your spare time.


“To Pimp a Butterfly” – Kendrick Lamar

Released after the Ferguson Riots and the emergence of “Black Lives Matter,” Kendrick expresses his frustration of violence and systemic racism against African Americans in this album. Most notable from this album are songs “Alright” and “The Blacker the Berry,” where Kendrick addresses his opinions on black crime. This album has since gone Platinum, and received the Best Rap Album award at the 2016 Grammys Awards.


“Straight Outta Compton” – N.W.A

This album shows the brutal truth of what life was like living in Compton and South Central Los Angeles during a period of police brutality and black on black crime. The album also focused on racial profiling, especially in songs “Straight Outta Compton.”


“Things Fall Apart” – The Roots

The Roots fourth album, “Things Fall Apart” addresses racial issues in New York. What’s also powerful about this album is the cover art, a photograph taken during the Civil Rights riots in the streets of Brooklyn.

“4:44” cover art. Photo//Roc Nation

“4:44” – Jay-Z

The thirteenth album by rapper Jay-Z touches on many topics, especially stereotypes and racism in America. One of the most notable songs from this album is “The Story of O.J.” which discusses what it’s like to be black in America.

“Lemonade” cover art. Photo//Columbia

“Lemonade” – Beyoncé

This album touches more on the empowerment of African American women, touching on the negative stereotypes that they receive, and being comfortable in your own skin. In her song “Formation,” Beyoncé discusses her heritage while radiating the theme of being unapologetically black. It’s definitely one of the best albums to uplift black women.


Honorable Mentions:

“Awaken, My Love!” – Childish Gambino

“DAMN” – Kendrick Lamar

“Black Panther (Soundtrack)” – Kendrick Lamar and Various Artists

“2014 Forest Hills Drive” – J. Cole

“Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) – Wu-Tang Clan

“Fear of a Black Planet” – Public Enemy

“The Score” – The Fugees

“The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” – Lauryn Hill

“Stankonia” – OutKast

“Black on Both Sides” – Mos Def


Want to curate a playlist featuring hits from some of these albums? Check out this one I made below for suggestions:


Ultimate Black History Playlist

  1. “Rosa Parks” – OutKast
  2. “The Blacker The Berry” – Kendrick Lamar
  3. “Freedom” – Beyonce ft. Kendrick Lamar
  4. “Glory” – Common ft. John Legend
  5. “Don’t Touch My Hair” – Solange
  6. “Spiritual” – Jay-Z
  7. “Shook Ones, Pt. II” – Mobb Deep
  8. “We The People….” – A Tribe Called Quest
  9. “Keep Ya Head Up” – 2Pac
  10. “Fu-Gee-La” – Fugees
  11. “Rise Up” – Andra Day
  12. “Alright” – Kendrick Lamar
  13. “This Is America” – Childish Gambino
  14. “Pray For Me” – The Weeknd ft. Kendrick Lamar
  15. “People Get Ready” – The Impressions
  16. “a lot” – 21 Savage ft. J. Cole
  17. “UMI Says” – Mos Def
  18. “Forgive Them Father” – Ms. Lauryn Hill
  19. “What’s Going On” – Marvin Gaye
  20. “Say It Loud – I’m Black And I’m Proud” – James Brown