If you’ve been following me here at The Playlist, you know I talk about the “friends in my head” quite often. This week’s co-curator, Tarriona “Tank” Bell, is the origin behind that story. The Nephilim of N’awlins is the voice of the Grammy-nominated band, Tank and the Bangas, and in 2017 they gathered in Brooklyn for a free performance during the lunchtime rush hour.

Tank, the boisterous and bubbly lead singer, and I were speaking about her NPR Tiny Desk win before hitting the stage. Full disclosure: my family is from all over Louisiana. It felt like home to talk to the New Orleans native. With ease we went from discussing our favorite artists to sharing recipes to her advising me on my health. (I hadn’t received my new kidney yet.)

That moment endeared me to the fierce front woman and former slam poet. She went on to perform, growing the crowd from a few people to a few hundred, flashing her billion-watt smile the whole time.

“I appreciate my friends much more now,” Ball shared with me via email last year. “My friend goals have changed, so every moment, every hug — if they feel safe enough to give me one — feels so much more intimate.”

Her pre-COVID-19 back-and-forth with bandmates Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph, Norman Spence, and Joshua Johnson was what anchored the idea behind this weekly column: Music brings friends together.

“The fact that we can perform in the tiniest or biggest of venues and produce the same kind of energy is life,” Ball said about the band’s X-factor. “Every show is important and special to us.”

While albums like Live Vibes 2 and Green Balloon are grand examples of the band’s dynamic musicality, it’s their recent release — Friend Goals — that reintroduces Tarriona’s artistry. “Everyone can get a deeper level of appreciation for their friends, their relationships with those around them, and definitely shake in the process!” she says of the project.

Like good étouffée and gumbo, you can never have enough when it comes to the love of real friends. Use this playlist to grow closer to yours and maybe even make a few new ones.

1. Tank and the Bangas — “Friend Goals” (ft. Pell)

“Of course I had to choose my own song,” Tank writes. “It’s the quintessential positive, loving, warm, and all-around cool song that promotes healthy relationships and building honest nurturing ones at that.”

2. serpentwithfeet — “Fellowship”

This warm and embracing new single by serpentwithfeet is just the uplifting number needed during these trying times. Co-written and co-produced with Sampha and Lil Silva, serpent expresses love and gratitude for friends and the love they share.

3. Dinner Party — “Freeze Tag” (ft. Cordae, Phoenix & Snoop Dogg)

For the sake of The Playlist, “Freeze Tag” was chosen despite our co-curator’s love for the entire EP. “First of all, I couldn’t pick just one,” she shares. “The whole project is dope and about love, life, and being Black. It makes me feel special about being a part of an industry that makes music that feels like this.” No cap, the entire project (and its remix companion) are worth adding to your must-hear list if you haven’t done so already.

4. Patrick Paige II — “So They Say”

You may best know Patrick Paige II as the cooler-than-most bassist of the L.A. collective The Internet, but he is also a compassionate and creative solo act. Caught at an impasse, “So They Say,” is an offering from his as-yet-to-be announced second project, and allows Paige to express his gut feelings about the world he inhabits. The four-note guitar riff is hypnotizing, making Paige’s newest groove one to keep close and in constant rotation.

5. Brasstracks — “Not Far Away” (ft. Tarriona “Tank” Ball & Jackson Lundy)

Must be something about Brooklyn, eh? This track by the Brasstracks, which features Tank, might not have been made in Kings County, but it certainly takes the cake when it talks about traveling and being apart from those you love.

“When I was first approached to do this song, the message was so powerful to me,” Tank writes. “It’s like people were writing in the future, as if they knew they were going to be away from their family and friends.”

6. Nubiyan Twist — “Flow” (ft. Cherise)

This marks the second time The Playlist has featured this Leeds/London collective. Built around an original beat by Tom Excell, “Flow” is an apt soundtrack for anyone who is going through it. Cherise’s vocals add color to the pressures that life brings, while her lyrics offer advice on how to “let loose” to escape the ebb and flow that comes with being anxious about our current times. This effortless blend of soul, world, and jazz music is a must-have for any fans of top-level musicianship and wordplay.

7. George Duke — “Someday”

From the first line, this classic number by George Duke will capture you and your friend’s hearts with an inescapable groove.

“I’d recommend you to light the candles and just play this on repeat,” Tank muses. “This one is gonna make you feel real good. I first heard this in Japan [and it] made my trip that much better.”

8. Victoria Monet — “F.U.C.K.” (Friend U Can Keep)

Victoria Monét and her longtime friend and collaborator D’Mile give those looking for FWBs over a regular homie-lover-friend a song to vibe to. On “F.U.C.K.” (Friend You Can Keep), Monét flexes her pen and shows us why this kind of track isn’t her first rodeo. If you, too, embrace the idea of friendship without society’s conditions and restraints, then this story is one that will be liberating wherever you play it.

9. Joyner Lucas — “Will” (Remix) [ft. Will Smith]

“Will [Smith] just put an extra diamond in his crown,” Tank says, saluting the Joyner Lucas/Fresh Prince collaboration. “No curse words. Honoring family and honoring friendship, [while] remaining confident and positive! Man, he killed that verse!”

If your friends don’t support you like this, then turn the volume up on this and be your own motivation.

10. Freddie Gibbs — “Gang Signs” (ft. ScHoolboy Q)

Freddie Gibbs is no stranger to putting out dope work for the clique. The charismatic rap star connects with ScHoolboy Q to close out this week’s The Playlist with some warm and breezy vibes. “Gang Signs” is a song where these two longtime friends check-in on one another to reflect on their respective street pasts and their recent successes. For any frenemies reading this now, tread lightly before pressing play — this one is for real gangsters only.

Catch new editions of ESSENCE’s The Playlist on Fridays and follow us @ESSENCE and @KevitoClark on socials to stay in tune with us online.

TOPICS: