5 Albums That Got Me Through Black History Month

by Yemi Ikotun

Black History Month 2021 is truly like no other. With Bobby Shmurda finally home, JoJo Siwa v. Dababy (2021), Lil Uzi Vert’s $24 million forehead diamond, and all the discourse around Lori Harvey, each day is a little more explosive than the last, but in the best way possible. To celebrate the culture, I made it my goal to listen to primarily black artists. I may have exhausted my Spotify with the hours I clocked, but here are the 5 albums that got me through Black History Month.

#1: Ctrl, SZA

One thing about me is that I am a creature of habit. Have I streamed this album a thousand times? Yes! Is the album a hit? Yes! SZA is one of the trailblazers for the resurgence of the supremacy of female artists. Regardless, this album is full of songs that stick like grits, simple! R&B is one of the most versatile genres out today, and this album is proof of that. I’m looking forward to what Ms. Solana will give us in the future.
Notable Tracks: "Go Gina", "Broken Clocks" (a nice classic to scream), "Doves in the Wind"

#2: The Best of the Black President, Fela Kuti

Afrobeats is going to be one of the most popular genres of music, mark my words. With hitmakers like Tiwa Savage, Burna Boy, Yemi Alade (hey twin!) and WizKid, Afrobeats is a serve. Behind all these hitmakers, Fela Kuti is considered the Father of Afrobeats. As a Nigerian-American, I love getting to know more about my culture, and diving into Kuti’s activism is quite inspiring. Hearing him talk passionately about how his people deserve better is motivating, and works in context with the #EndSARS and Black Lives Matter movements. His impact and influence is undeniable, so stream The Best of the Black President!
Notable Tracks: "Sorrow Tears and Blood", "Shakara", "Army Arrangement" (part 2)

#3: Painted, Lucky Daye

Imagine this: you just got your wisdom teeth removed, and in your post-surgery haze, you hear something melodic on the radio. That is quite literally how I discovered this album, and I will never forget how much peace hearing this album for the first time brought me. For Black History Month, I made it my duty to get more into the album, and it was well worth it. Lucky Daye is one of the most talented young Black musicians, so get into him NOW!
Notable Tracks: "Roll Some Mo’", "Paint It", "Real Games"

#4: To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar

This album had a HOLD on me when I was in high school, a HOLD. The way I would manipulate my Spotify free subscription to listen to Wesley’s Theory….. whew. The themes discussed in this album are so important in uniting the Black community, such as combating colorism, Black culture, mental health struggles, and systemic racism. Music at times can be so poetic, and Lamar is here to show us how it’s done. It was only right that this album was in my rotation for the month, and it will be in the rotation permanently, trust me.

Notable Tracks: "These Walls", "Wesley’s Theory", "King Kunta" (in my top 20 songs EVER)

#5: Midnight Marauders, A Tribe Called Quest

I’m going to say this once: A Tribe Called Quest is the greatest rap group to ever exist. I’m not going to argue with anyone about this because I know I am right! This is one of the greatest rap albums of all time. The production, the rhyme, the cover art, the storytelling? All I have to say is PURRRRRRRRR! It’s just iconic! Even though this was initially released in 1993, the whole work is timeless, and it was only right that I streamed!

Notable Tracks: "8 Million Stories", "Electric Relaxation", "God Lives Through"

Honorable Mentions: Who is Jill Scott? by Jill Scott, The Lo-Fis by Steve Lacy, Crush EP by Ravyn Lenae, and Shea Butter Baby by Ari Lennox