This week, Black people in America were reminded just how much this country doesn’t care about Black lives when a grand jury in Kentucky failed to charge any of the officers involved with the killing of Breonna Taylor. The verdict, delivered on the 65th anniversary of the acquittal of the men who murdered 14-year-old Emmett Till, finds Black America suffering another traumatic blow by a justice system that refuses to provide anything approximating justice when the victim is Black.
Yet, here we are, shaken, but not deterred from the goal of liberation and freedom.
This week’s edition of ESSENCE’s The Playlist is a special celebration to Black lives, Black resistance, and Black music, with Spillage Village co-founders EarthGang. WowGr8 and Olu, the Atlanta duo behind the musical collective, which also features Mereba, J.I.D, 6lack, and more, share their “songs of testimony” selections as co-curators for your favorite audio adventure.
With EarthGang and the indelible supergroup’s highly anticipated album, Spilligion, out today (Sept. 25) — their focus is to serve as a beacon of change that unites people and communities under a banner of solace to face everything that has been thrown at us this year. As one of my all-time favorite duos, EarthGang gets a groundswell of support from yours truly, and I am excited to deliver their soul-serving picks with you to listen to and enjoy.
1. Bilal — “Sometimes”
The first pick for this week’s The Playlist comes from WowGr8, who selects a pure classic from Bilal, one of Black music’s most unique voices. “‘Sometimes’ is one of the most transparent and focus records I’ve ever heard,” the Spillage Village co-founder shares with me via email. “There is a relatable line for any self-aware person on earth to connect to. Additionally, the musicality in this song is perfect. The song moves, sways, climbs and falls much like a human’s emotional landscape.
2. Sango — “Quanto Tempo” (ft. Luccas Carlos & Jao)
Sango has always been about Black people and the culture. His most recent single, “Quanto Tempo,” which features Luccas Carlos and Jao, is a modern interpretation of the Rio de Janeiro sound. Mixing brega funk with the sound of the Bay Area and Seattle gig culture, “Quanto Tempo” is a hard-to-sit-still-to bop meant to reconnect us to Brazilian music and show how “Black music belongs to Black people.” A fact that we all wholeheartedly agree on.
3. Spillage Village — “Hapi” (ft. Mereba & Big Rube)
For Olu, the second selection is “Hapi,” the latest single from the musical collective’s new album, Spilligion. Olu says, “[This song] reminds me of the music [that] Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, and their peers made during the troubles of the 60’s and 70’s. Those songs that always instill hope and keep the fire burning inside.”
4. Love Mansuy — “Thrill”
Montreal-born, New Jersey-raised talent Love Mansuy (pronounced “món-swee”) has been excavating his past in order to make sense of the present. On “Thrill,” which features the exceptionally awesome Liv.e (pronounced “Liv,” the ‘e’ is silent), Love shares the beginning of his journey through the dynamism in his sound. A perfect song for anyone making the shift towards true self-betterment, add this one to your morning routine.
5. Denice Williams — “Silly”
Up next, WowGr8 with the third pick will make lovelorn folx sick with this one. “‘Silly’ by Deniece Williams is just a musical masterpiece all the way around,” he confesses to ESSENCE. “From the arrangement and composition to the light, but strong vocals provided by Williams, my mother would play it in the car during my childhood. It would always bring a feeling of self-acceptance and warmth [to my ears].”
6. Matt Muse — “SHOTGUN [PHILIA]” (ft. femdot)
Matt Muse is a reminder that rap is in really good hands. “SHOTGUN [PHILIA],” which originally appeared on his Love & Nappyness album, gets the remix treatment and features fellow Chicagoan Femdot. A powerful and deeply spiritual cut, this track throws back to high school and examines how different friendships from that time manifest in the love that Matt shows to his friends today. We could all use those vibes now more than ever, so share this one with your Day Ones and spread love to your people!
7. Lil Baby — “The Bigger Picture”
Anyone who has been to an EarthGang or Spillage Village show knows how high octane it can get. According to Olu, his next Playlist selection, Lil Baby‘s “The Bigger Picture,” has all the right ingredients for any audiophile who have a dynamic vigor for life. “I love the energy,” he exclaims. “It’s galvanizing and makes me want to go outside and make a change… and also turn up [laughs]!”
8. Naïka — “Head in the Clouds (Remix)” (ft. TeaMarr)
French-Haitian pop ingenue Naïka is unlike anything you’ll hear this week. Her remixed new single, “Head in the Clouds,” is all pran fil, no filter, and finds her teaming up with her fellow Haitian zoe, TeaMarr for a truly intimate adventure. Crafted as a song about finding intimacy for yourself, “Heads in the Cloud” is a melodious journey that anyone can enjoy while learning and unlearning new ways to love.
9. Spillage Village — “PsalmSing” (ft. Mereba)
To close out this week’s The Playlist, EarthGang chooses “PsalmSing,” another ethereal track from Spilligion. Recorded while Spillage Village members were huddled together under quarantine, this joint is an otherworldly vibe that uplifts souls, while showcasing Hollywood JB‘s stellar production skills. Lock this one into rotation and keep it handy for those meditative moments.
10. Travis Scott — “FRANCHISE” (ft. Young Thug & M.I.A.)
Cactus Jack is on flipping work with ease, and I’m not talking about those Happy Meals. The man better known as Travis Scott and his latest work, “FRANCHISE,” featuring M.I.A. and Young Thug, is art in motion with the video shot on location at Michael Jordan‘s legendary Chicago mansion. A song that is sure to get you off your feet and in motion, this pick is for music lovers who want their dreams to be off the ground and activated.