Before I start, I just want to state that We’re Still Cool is open to a wide variance of opinions and political stances. We obviously skew more progressive in our opinions of things, but this website is not a space for preaching our political views. That said, 2020 has been pretty intense. With a pandemic and social unrest some fantastic music has been created. I want to celebrate some of it here.
I’ve decided to pick 7 songs that were released post quarantine, that have music videos. I did not include RTJ because Ooh La La was released before lock down. Plus, I’ve already given their full album a review here. These rankings are mine and mine only. All these songs are fantastic, but not all of them are for young ears.
7/ Public Enemy
Public Enemy never fails. Even better, they’ve put their egos to the side so that the full team is featured on this song. It’s not really Public Enemy without Flavor Flav. It’s also a great touch to bring in Primo to add some old school scratching to the track. State of the Union finds itself at number 7, because the chorus feels a bit too 1989 for me. That said, these guys haven’t lost a step.
6/ Kanye West
What an intense gut punch Kanye’s Wash Us In The Blood is. And what a gut punch of a music video. For younger fans, who never heard Kanye at his heights, it’s music like this that forces us older fans of his work to complain when West puts little effort into a project. Mind you, everything is relative. Kanye putting in little effort is still phenomenal. But this is the sound of a motivated artist. I have it at 6 because, it’s not as easy to understand as some of the more direct songs higher on my list.
5/ Spillage Village, Earth Gang & JID
End of Daze discusses the current situation as a part of the apocalypse depicted in the Bible. It’s not as much protest music as it is a deflated and pessimistic observation of the times we are currently in. From the perspective of some of the best up-and-coming emcees currently in the business, this is not a happy song.
4/ Buju Banton
Speaking of music inspired by the Bible, Buju takes a different perspective to these times. He argues that those protesting during unrest are on the right side of the argument. Therefore, they are blessed by God. Don’t be confused. This is not a gospel song. It is destined to be a dance-floor anthem when nightclubs open.
3/ Dinner Party
Dinner Party is a super group featuring some of the biggest names in jazz and hip hop. Terrace Martin, Robert Glasper, and Kamasi Washington are joined by the legendary 9th Wonder. Soulful energy pours out of the lyrically intense Freeze Tag. A song that pleads, “I think you got the wrong one, I’m sick and tired of running…”
The list of songs that explain the daily threat of police on innocent Black lives, yet have a sonic warmth to them is limited. This song could fit comfortably in an early 70’s/late 60’s soul record.
2/ Lil Baby
Here’s a sentence that I never expected to write in my life: The most poignant song discussing the 2020 unrest in North America is from Lil Baby.
That sentence doesn’t even make sense in my head, but it’s true. When I think of Lil Baby, the first word that comes to my mind is ignorant. But here we are. It’s 2020, and Lil Baby has written arguably the most important song expressing the current zeitgeist.
1/ Anderson .Paak
Lockdown speaks for itself. Why do I have it number one? Maybe it’s the live instruments. Maybe it’s how it paints a vivid picture of the artist’s experience inside a protest. The tension that permeates, as the constant fear of violence from armed police, or people who’ve joined the protest for unscrupulous reasons grips marchers.
Lockdown is an honest look at the inside of a protest. It explains to the listener that the act of protest is not something to be done lightly. It tells all of us to join the protest, so that we can see that this is not something done on a whim to be on TV. It’s a genuine fight for equal rights and justice.