9 Songs That Celebrate Blackness
On Thursday (Jan. 2), some social media users were in a frenzy regarding a Vanity Fair film critic’s comments about Blue Ivy’s features (Blue Ivy, of course, is the daughter of Beyonce and Jay-Z). There was a separate issue (but a similar problem) where singers Ari Lennox and Teyana Taylor were being compared to rottweilers.
Houston rapper Megan Thee Stallion had taken to social media to share a photo of her, Beyonce, and Blue Ivy from a New Year’s Eve celebration. Vanity Fair‘s film critic, K. Austin Collins tweeted, “I have a feeling the Jay-Z face genes are about to really hit Blue Ivy and I feel so sorry for her,” which he later deleted and apologized for.
A so-called fan of Ari Lennox tweeted, “Ari Lennox and Teyana Taylor’s ability to have dangerously high sex appeal while simultaneously looking like rottweilers will always amaze me.” Lennox retweeted the tweet and commented, “People hate blackness so bad” before continuing to send out a number of passionate tweets about the subject.
However, Lennox wasn’t done with the situation. She also did an Instagram Live session where she fully discussed her disdain for what was said about her and Teyana Taylor. During the session, she pointed out how black women are torn down and disrespected in ways that other women are not.
The two disheartening events caused a myriad of people to discuss colorism, misogynoir, anti-blackness, self-hate, and racism on social media. As a counterclaim to the false notion that Black women and Black girls’ features are less than desirable and are any less beautiful than anyone else’s, we’ve put together a list of 9 songs that celebrate Blackness.
James Brown’s “Say It Loud-I’m Black and I’m Proud”
James Brown’s “Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud” is arguably the most unapologetic song that celebrates blackness. Released in August 1968, months following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the single landed at the top of Billboard‘s Rhythm and Blues singles chart, and remained there for six weeks.
Beyonce “Brown Skin Girl” ft. Blue Ivy Carter, Wizkid, and SAINt JHN
Beyonce’s “Brown Skin Girl” featuring her eldest daughter Blue Ivy Carter, Wizkid, and SAINt JHN is from the Houston singer’s compilation album The Lion King: The Gift which served as a companion record to The Lion King‘s 2019 soundtrack. The song is a beautiful ode to brown skin black girls, and on August 3, 2019, it peaked at No. 1 on Billboard and garnered the Ashford & Simpson Songwriter’s Award at the 2019 BET Soul Train Awards.
Ari Lennox’s “Shea Butter Baby”
Ari Lennox’s “Shea Butter Baby,” which is the title track to her debut album, is a sweet and sultry ode to lovemaking while having one’s skin moisturized in the finest of shea butter. Known for its healing properties and multiple uses, including in hair products and soaps, shea butter is widely used by people of the African diaspora.
Ciara’s “Melanin” ft. Lupita Nyong’o, City Girls, La La Anthony, and Ester Dean
In 2019, Ciara rounded up actress Lupita Nyong’o, singer-songwriter, Ester Dean, Yung Miami of the City Girls, and her “BFF’ La La Anthony for her single “Melanin.” The track is a fun anthem celebrating melanin. On “Melanin” other black artists such as Megan Thee Stallion, Cardi B, Rihanna, and Mary J. Blige received a shout out.
Lady of Rage “Afro Puffs”
Lady of Rage’s 1994 single “Afro Puffs” was an assertive proclamation about how tough the Los Angeles rapper was. However, the song was also an unapologetic celebratory anthem for afro puffs, which during the time wasn’t necessarily a trending hairstyle in the black community. The song was featured on Above the Rim: The Soundtrack.
Solange’s “Don’t Touch My Hair” ft. Sampha
Solange’s “Don’t Touch My Hair” is another celebratory black hair anthem. The single came from Solange’s highly-lauded 2016 album A Seat At the Table. On the record, the Houston singer talks about how her hair is so much more than just hair, it’s a part of her soul.
Wale’s “BGM” from his 2019 album Wow…That’s Crazy is an ode to black women from a black man’s perspective. The D.C. rapper talks about the inequalities that black women face in America and how he feels obligated to honor them on the song. The video for the track also highlights many different shades of black women.
Nitty Scott’s “La Diaspora”
Nitty Scott‘s “La Diaspora” is a proclamation for the proud Afro-Latina rapper who ends the track by saying “Yo soy Negra y Latina,” which is Spanish for “I am Black and Latina.” The Black Puetro Rican artist honors her indigenous roots on the record which is featured on her 2017 album Creature!. In fact, the entire album was also dubbed a “rich proclamation of Afro-Latina womanhood” by Remezcla.
Beyonce’s 2016 single “Formation” from her sixth studio album Lemonade subtly celebrates the singer’s black Southern roots. However, it’s the song’s music video that hits home. Directed by Melina Matsoukas (Queen & Slim), the video was highly praised for depicting black Americans who aren’t frequently featured in mainstream media. “Formation” won a Grammy Award for Best Music Video.