Image by Youtube/ OutKastVaultVEVO
Since I posted my 15 Songs Full of Black Girl Magic playlist last year, I’ve been wanting to do the same thing for Black men for the longest. Over the years, I noticed how much music has played a therapeutic and creative role for Black male creatives, and it’s been a learning experience on how Black men experience joy and freedom, especially during these trying times where it seems like Black men are not appreciated enough.
Well, I want to celebrate them with 15 songs, and highlight just a few artists who I enjoy listening to and love learning about.
1. Jaden Smith – Icon
I wanted to start off with this song because it’s simply my anthem of the year. Whenever I listen to it, I feel such a rush of energy and confidence, and I can easily begin my day with a positive spirit. Jaden’s video alone shouts out “Black Boy Joy”, and I love how he has created his own lane and movement outside of his famous parents. The Syre album is one of my favorites to just groove to, especially for the summer.
2. Michael Jackson – Remember The TIme
Of course, I’m going to put the King of Pop in this list. I love the concept and overall look of this video because this is really the first time in mainstream culture where we first witnessed a dark-toned Black man as a king, and to have Eddie Murphy portray that role makes it even more brilliant. Plus, I love the various cameos in the video, and it’s so great to see Michael clearly having fun; with smiles and a dance number that I almost have memorized.
3. Lost Boyz – Jeeps, Lex Coups, Bimaz & Benz
This group was one of the first in Hip Hop to capture “Black Boy Joy” in a unique way. A few months ago, I watched the Lost Boyz’ episode of Unsung on TVOne, and I learned so much about how they all grew up together, why having the street element in their music was important, and how brotherhood played a big part in both their success and unfortunate end of the group. Although one of the members, Freaky Tah (who is known as the hype man of the group) was murdered in 1999, the legacy of the group remains alive and well. Plus, you can tell in nearly all of their videos of how much fun they had.
4. Playa – Cheers 2 U
This is one group that I don’t believe has gotten much recognition, and they were extremely talented. I didn’t learn about them until I started researching about the late Static Major, and his songwriting for artists like Aaliyah and Ginuwine. I’m such an R&B fan, and I can listen to these kings all day.
5. Migos, Drake – Walk It Talk It
The creativity and homage to Soul Train in this video is so perfect, and it works so well with the song. It took me a while to listen to Migos because I used to be that type of Hip Hop fan who didn’t understand this “trap” sound. However, their music is really fun, and I’ve grown to like them even more ever since watching their live performance at Coachella via live stream this year.
6. Prince – Partyman
No other Black male artist has ever blended masculinity and femininity as well as Prince did. Clearly, he was such a fan of Batman, that most of his videos from the movie’s 1989 soundtrack stayed true to the theme of the movie. This particular video and song is my absolute favorite, and it shows a very humorous side of Prince.
7. NxWorries (Anderson .Paak & Knxwledge) – Scared Money
Just recently this month I started listening to Anderson .Paak, and I’m so behind. Although I enjoy his solo music, everything from NxWorries are masterpieces to me, and I’m not exaggerating. I love the homage to the movie, Paid in Full, for this visual, but my favorite part begins at 2:06, with the remix of “Best One.” Such a mood.
8. Earth, Wind and Fire – September
Legends! So carefree, groovy, and talented. This song will never get old, and their legacy spans to nearly 50 years. Last year, I got Maurice White’s autobiography that he wrote just before he passed, and I’m so excited to start reading it because I heard so many good reviews about it.
9. John Coltrane – On Green Dolphin Street
There are so many incredible Black male jazz musicians and artists like Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, and Duke Ellington, but this particular song stood out to me the most. When I first started listening to jazz, I went to my local record store, and found nearly every record of John Coltrane. Out of his collection, A Love Supreme is my current favorite. This isn’t the type of song that I can write to unlike slower jazz pieces, but it definitely has me tapping my foot and head-bobbing. The jazz rendition of this song was first recorded by Miles Davis, but I really enjoy Coltrane’s version.
10. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – Summertime
This would not be a true Black Boy Joy admiration without including Will Smith. Even today, he has always been the goofy and high-spirited person, and his energy and wisdom has definitely helped many men get through hard times. I watched DJ Jazzy Jeff’s interview a month ago when he talked about him and Will’s journey regarding money and fame, and it’s a blessing that they were able to create more opportunities shortly after their group ended. I would be so happy if they ever decide to make another album now. It’s needed.
11. New Edition – Hit Me Off
When their BET miniseries premiered last year, the “Black Boy Joy” movement really took off to the extreme. Their story of brotherhood, survival, trials, and evolution is so inspiring, and I’m even more proud that they grew up in Roxbury, Massachusetts. I wanted to show a video of all six members because Home Again is one of my favorite albums, and I really wish they could ALL reunite and do a tour.
12. Tye Tribbett – He Turned It
I thought this playlist would be incomplete if I didn’t have gospel music, and Tye Tribbett was “Black Boy Joy” before that term was even created. Growing up, I loved how his music appealed to my youth, and he knows how to blend sounds of hip hop, R&B, and gospel very well and different than most contemporary gospel artists. This song got me through some tough times, as well as some great ones during college.
13. OutKast – Ms. Jackson
Another legendary group. This was a hard pick because all of their videos have elements of joy and creativity in them. This video however shows them both staying positive during a crazy thunderstorm, and the pets around them just makes the visual even more mesmerizing to watch. Plus Andre 3000’s smile at the end can light up an entire room.
14. Sheku Kanneh-Mason – No Woman No Cry
Ever since his performance at The Royal Wedding, I’ve been listening to his work. I love his rendition of Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry, and I especially love that he’s performing next to Marley’s mural. Sheku also has a recording of “Hallelujah”, and it’s really beautiful.
15. Chance The Rapper, Saba – Angels
The lyrics explain it all. I noticed that most of Chance’s music provides positive and uplifting messages, especially for Black men, that encourages them to succeed. He represents “Black Boy Joy” because he has always stayed true to himself, continues to be an advocate for Chicago, and isn’t afraid to having a little fun.
So, there you have it. This list was so hard to make because I wanted to find 15 visuals that show Black men in a realistic, fun, and positive light. Hopefully, I can do this playlist again another time, because there’s so much more music that really captures Black Boy Joy. During these crucial times, make sure to you let your fellow Black male friends and family know how important they are, and remind them that they are loved and worthy. I hope you enjoyed this musical journey with me.