By Sonny Gillespie
Black folks and music go together like coconut oil and dry ass scalp, or like shea butter and dry ass scalp, or even like a jar of Blue Magic and…
My point is that music has been a long-celebrated staple of melanated lives since we emerged from the motherland itself. When civilization was born, I imagine Lucy said “Someone drop me a dope beat”.
Ask any black person and most of us will tell you a song, album, or artist that is integral with our development as a human being. We connect to music in a way that goes beyond enjoyment. Any of us can immediately tell you what the old school song your momma played on a Saturday morning means, as well as tell you which song we’d like to play every time we enter a room if that were possible.
We connect with music spiritually, so much so the songs that our ancestors sang who were “involuntarily employed” are referred to as “freedom songs.” Songs like “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” “Down by the Riverside,” and “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” were a means to maintain a triumphant spirit in a time of agony and tribulation. They also doubled as instructions for living and possibly escaping into freedom.
As we enter the first half of the twenty first century music has become no less important to the black soul, and it is for this reason I believe that a few new songs should be inducted into the official list of new millennium freedom songs –selections of our time that carry on the same tradition of proud determination, ambitious spirit, and uplifting messages that help us push forward through our struggles. Here is my list of songs to nominate into this prestigious category.
Master P – I’m Bout It As soon as the menacing squeal of the Casio keyboard hits your ears you automatically feel like you can take on the world. There’s no feat to big or too small whether you’re picking cotton, repping your side of town or tripping off that “water,” Master P and Mia X make sure you’re ready to look the world in the face and proclaim “I’m Bout it.” Harriet Tubman was ’bout it. Denmark Vessey was ’bout it. Frederick Douglas was ’bout it. The question now becomes “Are you Bout it Bout it?”
Crime Mob – Knuck if you Buck No other song in the history of Negrodom charges up melanated millenials like this classic tune from the Atlanta-based ghetto gospel choir of Crime Mob with it’s simple message of “actions speak louder than words.” When this song pops up in your playlist, you have no choice but to put some pep into your workout routine or push your way through that 200 slide PowerPoint of customer safety regulations. There are little-known slave narratives that say “knuck if you buck” were the last words of Nat Turner’s master.
Ceelo Green – Fuck You Someone, somewhere in your life prompts you to tell them the title of this song at least once a day. Its easygoing, pleasant tone allows you to silently sing this jaunty tune to yourself and pretend you’re delivering the message from the mountaintops. Whether you’re about to receive a lashing from “massa,” getting fouled on the court or Linda in HR made a reference to how you change your hair color every week, Ceelo’s freedom song has probably stopped more new age revolts and uprisings than we can count.
V.I.C – The Wobble – This song is the ultimate confidence builder for anorexically-challenged women. Wherever there’s a dance floor, there is a big girl just WAITING for this selection to play so she can display her rhythmic prowess and proud physical stature in all it’s glory. Fellas like myself who like their women with more bubble for the snuggle also use this song as a quasi-mating call. There’s no way you can not be reminded of the campfire celebrations slaves danced around in historical film when the floor gets full on this one.
Juvenile – Back Dat Azz Up I don’t even need to justify this one, just hear the words “Cash Money takin over for the nine nine and the two thousand” and you’ll see why this is quite possibly the BIGGEST New Negro spiritual in history for our time.
DMX – Party up Aside from the fact that the song lyrics themselves involve no party to speak of, this tune is filled with quotables that enlighten moods and implore you to release your inner pitbull. The turn up might be too real sometimes, as this song is more suitable for leaving the plantation behind, than starting your cotton-picking shift with, lest you be influenced to start an uprising. Be careful where you play this song. Comcast’s customer service doesn’t need too many Nat Turners.