"Lockdown" by Anderson .Paak

Anderson .Paak's song "Lockdown" and the accompanying video focus on themes of police brutality and racial injustice. (Courtesy of Pitchfork)

Music has always been an avenue for being outspoken. In a time when many are flooding the streets to support the Black Live Matter movement, musicians are using their talent to spread a message. It can help call people to action. Many prominent musicians such as Beyoncé, Anderson .Paak and Noname have released music that speaks to the confusing world we are all traversing, along with music that intertwines with the spirit of the BLM movement. 

It helps to look at these songs as a time capsule for 2020, and to note that they all speak to a similar message of the history of malpractice toward Black people. They also note infighting that happens because of the diversionary tactics a  patriarchal society has instilled into our culture. 

For example, Noname released her first single of 2020, “Song 33,” which was a response to J. Cole’s “Snow on tha Bluff.” Noname points out how black men must help support women as well as themselves, yet Black men can reject the real struggles that come with the intersectionality of being a Black woman. J. Cole’s song proved her point by putting his ego before the problems at large. In the song he raps, “She mad at our ignorance, she wear her heart on her sleeve. She mad at the celebrities, lowkey I be thinkin’ she talkin’ bout me.” Cole decided to make a song about how Noname was in the wrong for making her statement. Noname highlighted the double standard that some big-name artists have on Twitter; the majority of their discography is about black struggle, but when real struggle happens they stay silent. Noname has apologized for her song, saying on Twitter, “My ego got the best of me.”

Beyoncé released “Black Parade,” a song that celebrates her heritage. Despite somewhat hectic production it does highlight Beyoncé’s voice well. It also reinforces the pride that people can have in their complexion. While this isn’t directly a protest song, it was released on Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery. On that day of all days, it is important to celebrate Black Americans’ history. 

Beyonce is not the only artist to release a song on Juneteeth, Anderson .Paak released “Lockdown,” in his usual groovy tone, delivering a strong message. In his typical jazz and blues fusion, .Paak tells the story of the current unrest. He creates images of the chaos happening all across America, even layering the sounds of protests in the production of the song. Drawing on his experiences from the Los Angeles Black Lives Matter protest, he portrays intricate detail in his typical soothing voice, creating an exciting contrast of chaotic lyrics and incredible harmonies. 

While these songs were released recently, there are other songs that the BLM movement has gravitated towards. “This Is America,” by Childish Gambino is a perfect example of this. The song is massively political, explaining in plain view the problems within American society, not just in the song but in the music video as well. The song mixes extremely happy-go-lucky choruses with dark verses that depict the abuses Black people have to deal with. 

These songs describe many aspects of the Black experience in America. While they attempt to show unity, they also show that not everyone experiences the same treatment, even within their race. Songs like this can highlight these problems, make people aware and inspire them to attempt to change the systemic issues in our society.