by Sarah Sunday
There is an immense ability that is within black music created by black artists. It possesses the ability to move us all as a whole. It has the potential to impact us on intimate individual levels, as well as to sway us as a larger societal whole. Black music contours political landscapes, shapes popular opinions, and directs currents of trends.
Music, in general, impacts us greatly; each individual has a completely singular and distinct reaction to every song, album, or artist in which they experience. Notes and tones swing into our ears, rush over our bodies, and pull at our heart strings. The rhythms slam us, lull us, and rock us. The feeling of being irrevocably moved by a piece of music is one of the most innermost, and yet interconnecting sensations one can experience. It tethers us to one another in a way that is akin to the power of electricity or that of the ocean. Black music is a rushing force, beautifully capable of reworking trends and stirring revolutions.
In each generation there are artists who move us all, incurring overcrowded stadiums and amassing the masses. They capture hearts and attention as their fame surpasses age and flows into following generations. These are the artist who alter social moods and impact opinions about what is likable, lovable, or even subject to hate. Identities have been shaped and carved by musicians such as these, and songs alone have had the power to give way to prominent changes in history.
Black artists today are largely representing that widely renowned group of musicians, flooding the musical sphere and saturating media platforms in a wondrous flood. They are changing the music game and, accordingly, changing the world in which we inhabit. Due to massive levels of exposure, representation has given way to a beautiful thing: education. Education and realization of the diverse cultures and lifestyles in the black communities that make up our world and our country. Exposure such as this allows for people of different races to become more in touch with those they might not be familiar with otherwise. It bridges a divide between individuals, setting the table for interconnectivity that surpasses skin color. Voices have been granted to the minorities and created stronger, more confident senses of empowerment. With representation and education comes the celebration and acceptances of differences in race, gender, politics, and sexual orientations.
Continuously breaking social barriers, some of the greatest female artists of our time are black women. Nikki Minaj, Cardi B, Rihanna, Alicia Keys, and Beyoncé are just some of many widely recognized names country-wide; each has created their own fame and acquired lengthy lists of accolades. There’s the exaggerated Nikki Minaj with her numerous BET Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, and People’s Choice Awards, among many, many others.
Fearless and unapologetic, Cardi B is the first black solo female rapper to win the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album and continues to top charts like it’s no one’s business. As for Beyoncé, her single-word name is known internationally and holds a degree of power unlike nearly any other artist today. She has become one of the best selling artists of all time and an icon in the eyes of many, influencing the masses by massive magnitudes with her pure talent for performance and her queen-like demeanor. These women, and many others, have empowered females and all genders alike on measures of strength and personal emancipation.
Politically, black artists have, time and time again, spoken out in song about race relations and social inequalities in the United States. Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 “Alright” become an anthem against police brutality and for the black struggle in America, gaining esteem from the Black Lives Matter movement and earning him an invitation by Obama to perform in the White House. Beyoncé’s 2016 “Formation” was a middle-fingers-up against racial discrimination that reverberated some of the aggressions and grievances of the people, mirroring black panthers symbology and fueling the masses with passion and indignation. In 2018, Childish Gambino released his startling and visually captivating songs, “This Is America.” Arguably incomplete without the visual imagery, the music video is layered with Easter eggs, historical indications, and implicit violence. Consequential of social frustrations and resentments, the repetitions of many of these song lyrics have been the vanguard of true social change.
Human beings are multi-faceted and diverse, as are the black artists who make up modern music culture.
From Kanye, to Jay Z, to Travis Scott; from Janelle Monae, to Solange, to Sampha the Great; from Tyler the Creator, to Anderson Paak, to Chance the Rapper; from artists catching their break such as Lil Nas X, Lizzo and Lil TJAY to breakout artist to watch out for such as Cautious Clay, Amyra and Kelsey Lu – each great artist holds a completely unique stance and offers a varying element of being. Every day we are bombarded by outside influences; advertisements, peers, television – and music. Musicians change the way in which we hold ourselves, what we invest in, and how we act, at times by very severe and tangible measures.
Black artists sharing their truths and being recognized by listeners and fans creates an increasingly heightened movement of social knowledge and understanding. Social movement such as this creates a generation of individuals that is more strongly in-tune with one other, and more tolerant of unusual or unfamiliar concepts and beliefs. Black music created by black artists, whether known by smaller circles of people, or by the masses, creates social ripples, playing a part in a movement of greater betterment. Through black music and black artists, trepidations and protests are voiced, color and diversity is celebrated, and a more well-rounded whole of people are thus moved into being.