“Violence can both ignite and snuff out a voice,” Georgia Anne Muldrow shared with Pitchfork when she described “This Walk,” one of the first singles from Mama, You Can Bet, her recently released project under the name, Jyoti.
She’s not wrong.
We’re almost 200 days in since Breonna Taylor’s murder, and while her killers walk free, those in power are actively avoiding seeking justice for her death. It took months after Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed before any arrests and charges were made, and a full year before the name Elijah McClain even struck the public consciousness.
Michelle Cusseaux still deserves justice as her assailant was only demoted and never criminally charged with her wrongful death. And while around the world, human beings cry out that “BLACK LIVES MATTER,” Jacob Blake, paralyzed from the waist down after being shot multiple times in the back, is currently handcuffed to his hospital bed.
Even though we’re under constant assault, Black genius continues to flourish to fight against the negative currents flooding in our direction. It is with this energy that your favorite audio abolitionist partners up with the other half of G&D to present these 10 songs of freedom as the theme for ESSENCE’s The Playlist.
“I love us,” is a phrase that I associate with Georgia Anne Muldrow’s funky and hypnotically soulful music. Her power to not only captivate an audience, but to encourage them to think and act, and do more than just simply survive is evident when you learn she’s the reason why everybody’s so “woke” now.
Alongside one of the most forward-thinking artists of our time, this week’s edition is a call out for those who live and breath the chorus of “before I be a slave, I’ll be buried in my grave.”
Be sure to play these song selections loudly, support organizations that are on the frontlines, wash your hands and check on your friends!
1. Georgia Anne Muldrow — “Orgone”
For those not in the know, Jyoti is the name of Georgia Anne Muldrow’s one-woman jazz ensemble. It was the name given to her by family friend and fellow composer, Turiya Alice Coltrane. Georgia’s first pick for The Playlist is rooted in the energy we’re going through and acts as a song of direct protest. “I choose ‘Orgone’ because it is the way [that] I’m feeling about this whole situation,” she tells ESSENCE. “And maybe in it, you can hear why I love all of these [other] songs [I picked].”
2. Ezinma — “Beethoven Pleads The Fifth”
Violin sensation Ezinma (pronounced eh-zeen-mah), who performed the Black National Anthem alongside Beyoncé at Coachella, delivers this exhilarating and poignant reimagination of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. She was only 13 years old when she saw another Black string player, which makes “Beethoven Pleads The Fifth” a much needed song that celebrates the freedom of bold imagination and vision. The re-envisioned hip-hop infused classical track, produced by Brandon Korn (Lil Wayne) and Steven Epstein (Yo-Yo Ma), is from her upcoming untitled EP, and I hope you all listen and respect the “heartstrings” this virtuoso artist is delivering.
3. Pam Bruner & Thundercat — “Christine” (ft. Harold Johnson, Asia McGlover & Ron Bruner Sr.)
The Bruner family is responsible for a lot of unique changes in the music world, plus Live in Leimert Park is a joint you shouldn’t sleep on. For Georgia Anne Muldrow’s selection, “Christine,” she salutes the “freedom of sight and heart” as Thundercat, his mother (Pam Bruner) and father (Ron Bruner Sr.) join Harold Johnson and Asia McGlover on this sublime soundtrack. “Everything about this song is fresh,” Georgia comments. “Perspective and encouragement for the sexually abused children of the world who grow up to be adults. [On “Christine”] the Bruner family and company show off some top-notch compassion, core-care-bear funk right there!”
4. Robert Glasper — “Better Than I Imagined” (ft. H.E.R. & Meshell Ndegeocello)
One of my best friends in my mind, Robert Glasper, readies the third installment of his Black Radio series with this beautiful new song called “Better Than I Imagine,” which features H.E.R. and the incomparable Meshell Ndegeocello. The track, for me, symbolizes the freedom to love free and be Black AF, and I echo the Grammy-winning producer’s statement where he says, “Black lives matter and so does Black love.” If people are ready to open their eyes to systemic racism in this country, then they can also celebrate and encourage conversations about how it affects the love we share and give to one another.
5. Oisima — “Blue Shade” (Yoruba Soul Mix ft. Jimetta Rose & Osunlade)
“If you haven’t noticed by now,” Georgia says about her next pick, “I adore Textural Black Vocals.” Who wouldn’t agree when listening to Oisima‘s Naija-infused soul track, “Blue Shade,” which also features Jimetta Rose and Osunlade. “This jam is all about the freedom of soul and memory. Jimetta Rose is truly a mystic diva and her moving imagery from honoring the elders to all we’ve lost due to police brutality is an original testament of pain and wonder over a boss Afrocentric house track remix by Brother Osunlade.”
6. reggie – “SOUTHSIDE FADE”
I’m telling you now, please don’t sleep on reggie. The Houston native might now be getting shine while being in Los Angeles, but “SOUTHSIDE FADE” is an uplifting anthem for Space City, and showcases the freedom to be authentic amidst adversity. reggie’s controlled cadence over this laid back beat feels like the perfect marriage between beauty and grit, while offering listeners a slice of “coming of age” rap from an artist who emphasizes other to not live for other people’s approval.
7. Anderson .Paak — “Lockdown” (Remix ft. J.I.D, Noname & Jay Rock)
Anderson .Paak is a master at subtly, yet directly infusing revolutionary composition into his work. “Lockdown” had already snuck by police barricades with its infectious groove, but as Georgia Anne notes on her pick, “This [song] brings me serious pride and two-step energy.” Featuring J.I.D, Noname and Jay Rock, the “Lockdown” (Remix) is, according to the experimental artist, “a song signaling the freedom to defend ourselves and organize. I love it when interpolated G-funk goes for higher stakes and realizes it fullest destiny as warrior music. Everybody put their foot in this song and the song is sticking its foot up the system’s ass.” Yes, lawd!
8. Big Sean — “Deep Reverence” (ft. Nipsey Hussle)
On “Deep Reverence,” Big Sean and Nipsey Hussle rap about the pressures of life—from the gang perspective, the hip-hop industry and their own personal struggles. For me, hearing the two MCs examine their problems fills me with the freedom to forgive one’s self and others. From Sean Don opening up about his rumored beef with Kendrick to hearing the late Neighborhood Nip talk about his aspirations to connect with others outside the West Coast, my takeaway is that I need to absolve any issues in my life to keep these blessings flowing and not mess up my Wikipedia.
9. Ledisi — “Wake Up” (ft. Sa-Roc & Robert Glasper)
Ledisi‘s sixth overall album and first under her own indie imprint, Listen Back Entertainment, The Wild Card, is full of shake-the-table music. “[Wake Up] is a bioelectric tonic anthem that is for the freedom of clarity and progress,” Georgia says about her final pick for The Playlist. “It gives us the charge to recognize where we are… and move purposefully.” Featuring D.C.’s own Sa-Roc and Robert Glasper, “Wake Up” embraces not only how far they and we have come as a unit, but is “fresher than a shot of activator on a great day at Dockwilder Beach!”
10. Tom Misch & Yussef Dayes — “Tidal Wave”
My last pick for this week’s The Playlist is one of my favorite cuts from Tom Misch and Yussef Dayes‘ experimental experience, What Kinda Music. “Tidal Wave,” which incorporates the best of both artists, is a calming ode to environmentalism that signifies the freedom of harmony between humanity and the planet. Dayes’ hollow-sounding drum rolls and Misch’s soft vocals present a mesmeric groove that is refreshing and an unique break from the stresses and strains coming from those who live only to harm anything in sight.
Catch new bi-weekly editions of ESSENCE’s The Playlist on Fridays and follow @KevitoClark on Instagram and Twitter.