On June 1st, Donald Trump officially declared the opening of the African-American Music Appreciation Month — yes, there are months for a whole bunch of things in the US. He then continues a tradition initiated by the Carter administration in 1979, which pays tribute to the Black community’s contribution to music.
Today, the idea of such a celebration may seem surprising: little girls dream of being Beyoncé and hip-hop is the most popular genre. That being said, this is an opportunity to remember that before nice white kids took over them, the foundations of several styles, from Rock’n’Roll to R’n’B, were born in the “slums”.
It is also important to stress the importance of the cultural contribution of an oppressed minority. As Trump’s ghostwriter would say:
African-American music has demonstrated its power to elicit comfort, healing, happiness, conviction, and inspiration — as well as its ability to unite people of all backgrounds.
In honor of these modern magicians, let’s listen to these five songs…
James Brown — Say It Loud, I’m Black And I’m Proud
On a heady funk tune, James Brown sings his pride to be black, in an America still gangrened by segregation. Particularly bold, Say It Loud marks the beginning of black empowerment in music, becoming a hymn for the Martin Luther King generation.
Algiers — Walk Like A Panther
Not from the Maghreb but from Atlanta, Algiers is still a discreet band. It mixes blues, punk and soul to create often politicized tracks, always with a unique DNA.
The little extra? The codes of its universe, quite graphical.
Kendrick Lamar ft. SZA — All The Stars
Last April, Kendrick Lamar won the prestigious Pullitzer Prize for his opus DAMN — a first for a hip-hop artist, recognizing his mastery of words.
A few months earlier, he signed the soundtrack of the already cult Black Panther. Excerpt from this album, long live the clip of All The Stars, which gives pride of place to la sape (an African tailoring style, editor’s note).
Solange — Don’t Touch My Hair
“Hair is incredibly spiritual, and, energetically, it really encompasses and expresses who we are.”, the artist tells us. With Don’t Touch My Hair, Solange sings an ode to black beauty and self acceptance, while underlining the normalization of racism. #BlackGirlMagic
Jimi Hendrix — Hey Joe
In the ’60s, Hey Joe was a popular song whose author nobody knew. Telling the story of a man on the run after shooting his wife, it comes to life thanks to Jimi Hendrix, his teeth vibrating his guitar.
A rock classic, it will inspire a multitude of artists, from our national Johnny Hallyday to this good old Cher… •