The Soundtrack: Our Stories Through Song

February 10, 2012  |  
1 of 10

Music is important to all people; but this fact becomes particularly pertinent when you’re talking about black people. As a “race” who have had to endure some of life’s worst hardships, many times, creating, listening to or dancing to music has been our only escape. I’m convinced that without music, quite a few of us wouldn’t be able to cope. Music is therapeutic. So in honor of uplifting and inspiring ourselves, here’s a list of songs that do just that. This list is in no way exhaustive. In fact it’s a continuation of a list I created last year about this time. Check out the original list and be sure to add your suggestions in the comments section below.

1. “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now”- McFadden and Whitehead

I know we’ve got a long long way to go, yeah
And where we’ll end up
I don’t know
But we won’t let nothing hold us back
We gonna get ourselves together
We gonna polish up our act, yeah
And if you’ve ever been held down before
I know that you refuse to be held down any more…

Last year, one of our readers suggested I include this song on the list. They were so right, I can’t believe I forgot it. I mean, this song was so popular and so moving that people began to refer to it as the new “Black National Anthem.” There’s so much passion and hopefulness behind the delivery, that you can’t help but be encouraged.

2. “Black Gold”- Esperanza Spalding

Now maybe no one else has told you so
But you’re golden, baby Black Gold with a diamond soul
Think of all the strength you have in you
From the blood you carry within you
Ancient men, powerful men
Built us a civilization

This one is pretty new but I have a feeling that it’s going to become as classic as modern day songs can become these days. Not only is Esperanza one of the most talented artists in the game right now, she spreads a positive message. Imagine how much better off we would all be if we recognized we were black gold?

3. “Buffalo Soldier” – Bob Marley

Buffalo soldier, dreadlock rasta:
There was a buffalo soldier in the heart of America,
Stolen from Africa, brought to America,
Fighting on arrival, fighting for survival.

One of the greatest things about Bob Marley is that he was able to speak to people all over the world with the intelligence he infused in his lyrics. Although he was raised in Jamaica, he was able to write a song about American soldiers fighting in the Civil War. There’s so much depth in the few lyrics of this song. Here these men were robbed of their freedom and later had to fight, with their oppressors, to get it back. The fight for survival lasted long after the Civil War ended.

4. “You Gotta Be”- Des’ree

Herald what your mother said
Read the books your father read
Try to solve the puzzles in your own sweet time
Some may have more cash than you
Others take a different view
My, oh, my

I remember my dad playing this in the house when my sister and I were younger. Even as a youngster, I knew this song was deep. While the message could apply to any person on earth, regardless of race, this song reminds us that we have to keep pushing.

5. “Yes We Can”- Will I Am (Various Artists)

We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics who will only grow louder and more dissonant.
We’ve been asked to pause for a reality check.
We’ve been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope.
But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope. We want change!

Some of you might not be digging President Obama like you were feeling Senator Obama back in 2008; but present feelings aside, did this song move you or what back in the day? I know I can’t be the only one. If there’s one thing our President can do well, it’s give a speech. (And we know that’s not the only thing he does well.) The song and the speech both were so relevant because it spoke not only to our personal struggles but our collective struggle as a country to do better. I’m not the most patriotic person in the world but listening to this song, just last night, gave me goosebumps. 2008 was such a good year for America.

6. “Move On”- Heavy D

“It must be something in the water or the system,
No matter where we go, no matter where we move, we are the victims.
I pray to God but who says God has blonde hair and blue eyes?
How could Jesus one color, when it’s so many other colors?
They shown us fictional flicks, that the Lord gave us a slave ship, told us to climb aboard.
Four hundred years we cried, four hundred years we were ignored.
My time is slippin’, I’m trippin’, it feels like I’m losin’.
But I can’t look back black, I’ve got to keep movin’.

This is my favorite Heavy D. song ever! While he sang about being an overweight lover, this rapper also had some very positive, very real and very uplifting things to say. This song tells a story. It details how this young black man endures some much trouble throughout his life; but instead of getting caught up in it, he keeps pressing forward and moving ahead. That’s all of our stories, really. Our history in this country, and in other parts of the world, has been bleak, to say the least. But we can’t dwell on it. We have to acknowledge it and keep moving. So real.

7. “I Can”- Nas

Before we came to this country
We were kings and queens, never porch monkeys
There was empires in Africa called Kush
Timbuktu, where every race came to get books
To learn from black teachers who taught Greeks and Romans

How often is that we get modern day Hip Hop artists encouraging and educating the younger generation to excel and achieve?  In the mainstream? Not often. This is why Nas’ “I Can” was so brilliant and refreshing. Although this message is geared toward children, plenty of adults were and still are inspired by this song today.

8. “Brown Skin”- India Aerie

Every time I see your lips, it makes me think of honey-coated chocolate
Your kisses are worth more than gold to me
I’ll be your almond joy, you’ll be my sugar daddy

Just because we’re talking about elevating, doesn’t mean we can’t be Hot with it. Who didn’t love India’s ode to blackness with “Brown Skin”? The song is sultry, it’s sensual and it’s celebratory. Love for our physical selves is a part of the healing some of us still need.

9. “U Will Know”- Black Men United

Your dreams ain’t easy
You just stick by your plan
Go from boys to men
You gotta act like a man
When it gets hard, y’all
You just grab what you know
Stand up tall and don’t you fall

You will know

Do you remember this song from the “Jason’s Lyric” soundtrack? It was so awesome to see so many black men come together and lend their voices to such a powerful piece. Naturally, it’s geared toward men, but we all have dreams and obstacles we need to overcome, within ourselves and society, to achieve them.

10. “Ooh Child”- The Five Stairsteps

Some day, yeah
We’ll get it together and we’ll get it all done
Some day
When your head is much lighter
Some day, yeah
We’ll walk in the rays of a beautiful sun
Some day
When the world is much brighter

**Deep sigh of contentment and inner peace** Lol This song oozes optimism. You can’t help but to see the world through rose colored glasses after you listen to it.

Alrighty, part two is complete! We know there are more songs out there, with the exception of the songs in part one, what did we miss?


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