Listen in: 21st Century Music History Shapers

Authors: Thyra Bankole
  • Reading time: 3 min.
  • Posted on: October 22, 2021

What role does music play in shaping history?

When it came to curating this playlist for Black History Month, I set out to select songs that have made the biggest impact for the black community this century, whilst simultaneously influencing a wider audience. All of the songs I’ve listed below have also specifically impacted my experience as a black woman in the UK.

I wanted to make sure that the songs I pulled together were a clear representation of how music can make a positive change for the black community. Some of these songs have been dubbed ‘protest anthems’. Each attempts to shed light on the injustices black people have suffered over the past decade. Songs like ‘Alright’ by Kendrick Lemar and ‘I Can’t Breathe’ by H.E.R highlight the history of the BLM movement and share their frustration with the harsh realities of racism. These are my picks for Black History Month.

Peng Black Girls by ENNY

ENNY uses her experiences as a black woman to inspire others like her to love their beauty, because for far too long black women have had to navigate a world that is heavily influenced by white Western beauty standards.

Black by Dave

In this song, Dave explores the issues that black communities have to go through on a daily basis. The passion in his delivery is obvious, but it’s the underlying tones of sadness and frustration that define this track. I would also highly recommend that you watch his 2020 Brit Awards performance as you can really hear the pain and frustration in his flow.

Introvert by Little Simz

The song reminded me of a rally cry with the message – with unity comes strength. Not only does she discuss topics of race, but she mentions topics such as mental health, gentrification and government corruption.

My wish to you this Black History Month is that you get a clear understanding of how music has changed the way we perceive the world around us in regards to political issues and racial injustices. Each artist brings something new to the table, be that a different delivery or musical style, yet they all share the same core truth – that we are all equal, but so far, in the 21st century that reality has still not been achieved.