Happy Juneteeth weekend, beautiful Black people! Way before Trump claimed he made the 155-year-old holiday “very famous” and companies like Nike, Google and the NFL embraced it as if it was created by these brands — Black people enjoyed the cel-liberation with fun, food, and fantastic music. This year, Juneteenth, otherwise known as Freedom Day, has become a global rallying cry for us to center attention on Black love and joy as a force of resistance.
While many Americans are now seemingly more empathic and nuanced when talking about race than I ever thought possible, I am admittedly still concerned about certain public figures and brands’ intentions because it took an immeasurable amount of Black people to die in horrific and tragic ways for them to finally get it. It took over four centuries of Black people being abused, enslaved, disenfranchised, excessively imprisoned and publicly executed for folx like Jeff Bezos and Hillary Clinton to finally get it.
Juneteenth is much more our July 4, much more inlined with who we are as Black people and as a culture than “Independence Day” is to us historically.
With that said, as you and yours enjoy Friday off, and you get ready to hang out with your family, get the food together for the BBQ, and practice your Big Joker slam for that game of Spades — I wanted this weekend’s edition of ESSENCE’s The Playlist to be your official Juneteenth soundtrack filled with jubilee!
Listen below as Anderson .Paak, Kiana Ledé, Victoria Monét, and more offer some deep-rooted and funky sounds to play loudly during the Juneteenth festivities.
1. T.Nava — “Girlfriend” (ft. Durand Bernarr)
Since the release of the Free Nationals album, Ron Jerome Avant, better known as T.Nava has been a standout performer whenever you’ve seen or heard him. As the keyboard playing, backing vocal for Anderson .Paak’s band, The Free Nationals, I’m happy he’s the first to step into the spotlight with “Girlfriend,” a light, yet bouncy-worthy track that features singing sensation Durand Bernarr. Together, these two will have you running to get your special someone from running, taking over the dance floor.
2. Play Nice — “Staring Game”
Play Nice is a creative collective of friends and artists who encourage others to join in on the fun. With a host of singles flooding timelines everywhere, “Staring Game” is a smooth and well-arranged cut, featuring Tay Iwar, Bowtye, J.Robb and Insightful. The chemistry between the melody and the vocalists make this song an irresistible groove that sets the tone right for that special dance under the maple tree during the couples set at your Juneteenth jubilee.
3. Khruangbin — “Pelota”
It wouldn’t be a proper Juneteenth if I didn’t include Khruangbin on this list! The Houston, Texas trio has been making waves with their music and their latest song, “Pelota,” is no exception. The third single from their upcoming album, Mordechai, which translates into “Ball,” envisions the band as different spherical shapes as they process and observe the world. Over the guitar-led, polyrhythmic track, “Pelota” is a surreal and sunny number that will bring a smile to anyone’s face.
4. Kiana Ledé — “Dear Mr. President”
I’ve made it no secret how much I love Kiana Ledé and her pen game. With her first release since the arrival of KIKI this spring, “Dear Mr. President” reinterprets P!nk’s version as an emotionally-charged protest message that calls out first lady Melania Trump for her silence as police brutality and systemic racism plague Black people across the country. Through her pained-voice, Ledé sings about the fight of justice, as well as her own concerns like LGBT rights and immigration. All net proceeds from this song will go to NAACP Empowerment Programs, which encourage voter participation, work to create quality opportunities and much more.
5. Ric Wilson — “Fight Like Ida B & Marsha P”
Disco Ric is back at it again with more inspiring music. With a long history of fighting for Black people, the activist and artist has a profound history of fighting against issues that plague the Black community. From working with the Black Youth Project 100 and Chicago Freedom School, “Fight Like Ida B & Marsha P” is his sonic appreciation for “the bravest of us all” — Ida B. Wells and Marsha P. Johnson.
Meant to encourage people to study past movements and to fight for the liberation of Black womxn and Black trans womxn, which according to Ric, will “lead to the liberation of all Black people,” this song and message are two things with which I wholeheartedly agree. So play this on repeat and share with friends and family while slapping bones outside at the park!
6. Anderson .Paak — “Lockdown” (ft. Jay Rock)
I couldn’t mention The Free Nationals without talking about Cheeky Andy’s new song that reflects on the ongoing global protests against police brutality. “Lockdown,” which arrives in the form of a Dave Meyers-directed visual, finds Jay Rock, SiR, Syd of The Internet, Dominic Fike and rapper Dumbfounded addressing the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor in detail. It’s a genuine attempt by Anderson .Paak to be there for the fallen and use his platform—.Paak House—to donate to different charitable organizations. This means: cop the song, stream it a whole lot and help support those in need of bail funds and other assistance.
7. Buddy — “Black 2”
I really need to get Rose Gold on the line and see if she can help me become buddies with Buddy. The Compton musician has an uncanny ability to live in a song and bring you home into it as the listener, which makes “Black 2” such a momentous occasion. A sequel to “Black,” which featured A$AP Ferg, this song has all the smoke for people that jock Black culture. It’s just the joint that will make the real revolutionaries at the cookout yell, “Rewind that one back, selectah!”
8. Young T & Bugsy — “Don’t Rush” (ft. DaBaby)
“Don’t Rush” wasn’t long ago, but with everything going on, a new remix definitely helps to keep the Young T and Bugsey banger in rotation. With their debut album Plead The Fifth making waves in the U.S., this brand new remix featuring DaBaby will go well in breathing life into the Afro-swing movement with effortless ease.
9. Victoria Monét — “Experience” (ft. Khalid & SG Lewis)
With everything that’s been happening, I hope no one forgot that it is still both Black Music Month and Pride Month. Well, if you did, Victoria Monét and Khalid are quick to remind you. “My queer identity is another important celebration for me,” Monét explained in a press release for “Experience,” an uplifting and important song that features producer SG Lewis, and encourages persistence during these difficult times we’re in.
10. Wale — “Movin’ Different” (ft. McClenney)
If you read this, Wale Folarin, I want to know if you produced this album in a week because the subject matter on “Movin’ Different” is too raw and fresh for me to wrap my mind around right now. Since releasing Wow… That’s Crazy back in October, Wale has been on a tear, having been featured on verses for Westside Gunn (“French Toast”), K Camp (“Trill Love”) and Saweetie (“My Type”) to name a few. Never one to remain silent on issues that befall Black people across the diaspora, Wale took inspiration from protesting at the Black Lives Matter movement in D.C., and recorded The Imperfect Storm, a brand new surprise project. With R&B singer-songwriter McClenney on the hook, these two resilient Black men try to find a way out of this manic-depressive experience called America.
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