We have nothing good to say about you, 2020.
God knows we’ve been surviving and striving to be our best selves, while remaining prayed up and healthy, but in some weird way you have to admire just how dedicated 2020 has been to being the absolute worst, right up until the end.
For yours truly, it has been an honor and a pleasure to guide you all on this audio journey for ESSENCE’s The Playlist. I want to thank Cori Murray, Rachaell Davis and the rest of the team for allowing me this chance to do something different when it comes to creating playlists and showcase veteran and rising artists and music that you need to add to your rotation.
In a year that often stood still, the music never stopped. From co-curating The Playlist with Busta Rhymes, Leikeli47, and EARTHGANG to launching official playlist versions for Cuffing SZN and Christmas (Christmakwanzakah) — this franchise has become an energetic chance to share how different songs resonate with each of us. Whether these tracks helped us through an obstacle or gave us an escape from these COVID-19-laced streets, ESSENCE’s The Playlist soundtracked 2020 in its own way.
With that in mind, yours truly wants to thank you on day 1 of 365 alongside a venerable icon, Mr. Charlie Wilson. My favorite musical uncle (outside of Snoop Dogg) and I select songs full of gratitude for the purpose of connecting you all to our greatest joy — the love of music. Happy New Year to you all, may you and yours stay safe and healthy, and I personally raise my glass to all you beautifully melanated people to toast to your continued blessings as we embark on another revolution around the sun.
1. Charlie Wilson — “I’m Blessed”
Charlie, last name Wilson, has been a consummate performer and cherished personality in our lives since before many of us were born. For his first pick on this post-NYE edition of The Playlist, the multiple BET and NAACP award winner shares his own effort from I’m In It to Win It. “Connecting with my fans is one of my greatest joys,” Wilson says via email. “I could meet them through my music on stage. Now, we mostly connect virtually, but their stories and their love for me and my music is what keeps me going. ‘I’m Blessed’ is my [personal] theme song. No matter what life throws at me I must always remember that I am blessed.”
2. Alicia Myers — “I Want To Thank You”
An oldie, a goodie, and an undisputed classic. Alicia Myers is my go-to song when I want to let the world know how thankful I am for all that my God has done for me. From overcoming kidney failure to having strength to navigate life’s many obstacles, “I Want To Thank You” is a constant friend to me and my playlist rotation, and one that I share with you, ESSENCE reader, with the hope that it shines positive light and love on your new year.
3. Sly & The Family Stone — “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”
“When I first wake up in the morning the first thing I do is pray and the last thing I do before I go to sleep is pray,” Uncle Charlie says about his second pick for The Playlist. “I always pray to God to let my music and word touch people [and Sly’s music] is divine because it has the funk!” Sly and The Family Stone are many people’s all-time favorite groups, so if you really want to smudge the filthy energy of 2020 away, play this song loudly and dance good vibes into your life and new year.
4. Quelle Chris & Chris Keys — “Sacred Safe”
Quelle Chris and I have crossed paths in the past, which makes me excited to add him to this 2021 playlist. Alongside the wonderfully talented Chris Keys, “Sacred Safe” is a standout cut from Innocent Country, and serves as a soundtrack entry for my healing journey after my divorce. A musical reflection of the place to go to when you want to be protected and away from hurt, “Sacred Safe” is a healthy number to add for those thankful to have a second chance at peace and serenity.
5. Snoop Dogg — “Beautiful” (ft. Pharrell Williams & Charlie Wilson)
“There are some very talented youngsters [that] I’ve had the pleasure of working with,” Mr. Wilson says of his recent adventures into sound with Tyler, the Creator, Aminé, Chika, and Guapdad 4000. But for many of us “seasoned” listeners, his work with Snoop Dogg and Pharrell is forever immortalized by “Beautiful.” “When I hear this song, it makes me thankful for two of my favorite nephews — Snoop and Pharrell. We always have a good time together.” If you have some people in your life that make you feel this way, please don’t wait another moment to share this song with them and let them know what they mean to you.
6. (Liv).e — “High Ceilings”
I am personally thankful for the style, sounds, and soul of Olivia Williams. Better known as (Liv).e — the “e” is silent — this child of Booker T. Washington in Dallas, Texas (also the home of Erykah Badu and Roy Hargrove) is a much needed voice in the overwhelmingly crowded lo-fi space. Her carefree risk-taking vibes are essential for us as we are all eager to jump off the ledge into 2021!
7. K-Ci Hailey — “Jesus Saves”
The fourth pick by Charlie Wilson for this 2021 episode of The Playlist is from the indomitable K-Ci Hailey. “K-Ci is a good friend of mine and we have been through similar struggles in life,” Wilson shares with me. “Jesus saved us both. He’s back in the studio and we’re all looking forward to his signature voice blessing us once again.” I say that we all need some spiritual cleansing as we embark deeper in 2021, so press play and be sure to send up a few prayers for all of us in need.
8. KAMAUU — “MANGO” (ft. Adeline)
KAMAUU is an incredibly gifted artist and voice from Washington, D.C. Adeline is a singer, songwriter, and extremely funky bassist who is no stranger to us here at The Playlist. Together, they have made the definitive song that I am thankful for this year with “MANGO.” Rooted in truth and candidness, this song is easily the most healthiest love song outside anyone not named Jhené Aiko. In instilling much-needed lessons on how to cherish one another, KAMAUU and Adeline have given us an anthem with a purpose that is timeless and beautiful.
9. The Four Tops — “Ain’t No Woman (Like The One I’ve Got)”
“I have been through many seasons of my life — from humble beginnings to being on top of the world to losing everything,” Charlie Wilson says of his final playlist selection. “I have been homeless and battled addiction, but with [this song] it shares a message that resonates with me. All those things represented a season that too shall pass. The Four Tops’ classic is a message to that special lady in a man’s life that stays with you, has faith, and is constantly prayed up. I love this song and even did my own rendition of it last year.”
10. TOBE NWIGWE — “A MILLION”
To double down on Uncle Charlie’s comments about having faith and being gracious to God, Tobe Nwigwe is faith-made-flesh, in my humble opinion. Fresh off the release of his Cincoriginals project, the Southwest Alief-repping, Houston native has, indeed, made purpose popular, and celebrates a new milestone with the song “A MILLION.” This year has been full of crazy ups and downs for us all, but if Tobe and his family have proven anything — it’s that being thankful is a triumphant testimony all its own.