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6 Powerful Protest Songs Released in Support of #BlackLivesMatter

06-27-2020 by Dalila Bevab

  ( © H.E.R./YouTube)  


Music has always been at the forefront of major social movements. There’s no denying the power of music and its ability to convey different feelings, whether negative or positive. The #BlackLivesMatter movement, protesting police brutality and the injustices faced by Black Americans, has become re-energized in the last few weeks, and artists have not let this go by unnoticed. Celebrities have been huge supporters of the movement and the protests, often showing solidarity by being activists on social media and protesting. But a notable few have released powerful anthems to draw more public attention to what’s going on today, and we’re mesmerized. Let’s get into the five chillingly beautiful songs released in honor of #BlackLivesMatter.



1. “Black Parade” by Beyoncé

Bow down to Queen Bey, everyone! We haven’t been blessed with a soloBeyoncé song in almost a year, and the wait was so worth it. She released “Black Parade” on June 19 to celebrate the important holiday of Juneteenth, which commemorates the day slavery officially ended in the United States in 1865. Beyoncé has always been openly proud of her black heritage, and she posted a touching message to fans on her Instagram saying, “Please continue to remember our beauty, strength and power.”




And if you need more of a reason to love the Queen, her official website states that the song’s proceeds will benefit her initiative, "BeyGOOD’s Black Business Impact Fund, administered by the National Urban League, to support Black-owned small businesses in need.” Her website also has a directory of black-owned businesses for consumers to support.

The song references the rich history of Black Americans by reminding us “We birth kings (We birth kings), we birth tribes (We birth tribes),” and on her website, Beyoncé reminds fans that, “Being Black is your activism. Black excellence is a form of protest. Black joy is your right.” The Beyhive expressed their excitement and feelings about the song on Twitter, and not one negative review was seen!





Now, take a second to imagine how iconic the live version of “Black Parade” will be. We’re so excited! Slay, Queen B!



2. “I Can’t Breathe” by H.E.R.

Grammy-winning artist H.E.R. was not about to sit in silence too. “I Can’t Breathe” demands an end to police brutality and includes everything the #BlackLivesMatter movement is fighting against. She took a rawer approach with a painful song inspired by George Floyd andEric Garner, whose last words were “I can’t breathe” when they were killed by police brutality. The melody and the background vocals are chill-inducing and truly beautiful, coupled with the deep lyrics calling out years of racial injustices and systemic racism. H.E.R. reminds those who do not show solidarity and “refuse to remember” the victims that they were people with families, a name, and a story, and that silence is not excusable whatsoever.




What makes the song even more powerful is the emotional third verse where she’s deservedly fed up with everything going on and tells us that we should also be fed up. H.E.R. says, “Saying the protector and the killer is wearing the same uniform / The revolution is not televised / Media perception is forced down the throats of closed minds,” referencing the popular phrase during the Civil Rights Movement, which was further immortalized byGil Scott Heron in the song “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.”


In an interview with ELLE Magazine, H.E.R. said, “With everything going on in this country, and even in this world, as an artist, I have a responsibility to write about it and make people aware. Music heals, it teaches, and it sometimes creates change."




Listeners call the song a “future classic soul protest song” and it is just that. We see another Grammy or two in H.E.R.’s future!





3. “The Bigger Picture” by Lil Baby

Lil Baby is one of the many celebrities who’s been protesting and has been vocal about police brutality and systemic racism. He filmed the music video for “The Bigger Picture” at the Atlanta protests in early June and shortly thereafter delivered the song, which tells the story of what it’s like to be a Black man in a country with racial tensions and prejudices.






The intro induces serious goosebumps and is a reminder that we’re experiencing a crucial moment in history, and it brings us back to what kickstarted the new wave of protests—George Floyd’s death. Lil Baby does not hold back at all, and we’re here for it. It’s refreshing to see a song with a relatable message that can apply to millions of people, and he tells us that he’s experienced racism all his life too. He highlights the unfairness of the justice system and says, “They killing us for no reason / Been going on for too long to get even / Throw us in cages like dogs and hyenas / I went to court and they sent me to prison.” He even calls out the fact that many black Americans are “products of our environment” and in certain circumstances that are completely out of their control, yet they get blamed for it.


Lil Baby also highlights the fear and anxiety faced by Black Americans on a daily basis with the lyrics, “I see blue lights, I get scared and start runnin’ / That sh*t be crazy, they ‘posed to protect us.” In the chorus, he says, “It’s a problem with the whole way of life,” and although change won’t come immediately, the protests are a good place to start.


You don’t have to be a hardcore fan of Lil Baby to appreciate the powerful message of his new song. Fans across social media are praising the rapper for capturing what it’s like to be a person of color in the United States. There’s no denying that Lil Baby snapped with this #BLM anthem!







4. “Snow On Tha Bluff” by J. Cole

J. Cole has also been protesting racial injustices, and he took a different approach to his protest song and it’s… WOW, amazing. “Snow On Tha Bluff” is enlightening and its namesake is that of the 2012 drama film about a robbery and drug dealing in Atlanta. But the song seems to be inspired by Noname, an American rapper and political activist from Chicago, whose tweets have received backlash for their controversial content, though J. Cole hasn’t verified this theory. Most notably, Noname criticized top rappers for not using their platforms to bring attention to the #BlackLivesMatter movement in a deleted Tweet that read, “Poor black folks all over the country are putting their bodies on the line in protest for our collective safety and y’all favorite top selling rappers not even willing to put a tweet up. n****s whole discographies be about black plight and they no where to be found."




J. Cole recognizes that Noname is angry at what’s happening and says, “She mad at these capitalists, mad at these murder police,” and that she’s mad at the ignorance of rappers for not doing enough activism. He takes a moment to ask her how she’s going to attack the very same people who she wants to be more vocal and that she should help educate the rappers instead of dissing them, but at the same time he respects and understands her. He urged his fans to follow Noname in a tweet because he believes she’s doing more to help than he is.



In the song, J. Cole also realizes that he could have been doing more to help #BlackLivesMatter and that he feels like he betrayed his fans by saying, “I done betrayed the very same people that look at me like I’m some kind of a hero,” and that “deep down, I know I ain’t doing enough.” In the last verse, he begs the listener (or Noname) to walk with him so that he can be filled with wisdom and courage, possibly to try to work together to fix the deep-seated racial injustices in the country or to at least talk about them. It’s not every day you see an artist being publicly as vulnerable as J. Cole and it’s admirable.



5. “I Cry” by Usher

Usher has given us some nostalgic bangers over the years to help us heal over heartbreaks, and his newest single, “I Cry”, will soon join that list. That man always knows what to say and how to get the tears rolling, so grab your box of tissues and prepare to cry. The upbeat piano melody is very late-2000s Usher and is coupled with his smooth signature voice that just tugs at your heartstrings in a weird way (but we’re not complaining).




In a Twitter statement, Usher said he was inspired to write the song because he wanted to teach his sons that “it is ok for a man to feel emotions deeply and to cry.” He added that all the events that recently transpired, like George Floyd’s death and the “slaughter of Black men and women, the protests and the events that unfolded,” he became “very connected to the wider universal feeling of hopelessness.” Usher took advantage of his platform to draw attention to the sons and daughters that families have tragically lost to police brutality and violence.



Like Beyoncé, Usher also Tweeted that the proceeds from the song will go to the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) to help support “Black-owned small businesses and Black-led community organizations.”




Justin Bieber showed his support for “I Cry” in a Tweet that called Usher his “big brother” -- aww!





6. “Perfect Way to Die” by Alicia Keys
Alicia Keys did not hold back and delivered a melodic and powerful piano masterpiece, accompanied by her raspy and soothing vocals that come alive at the ending in signature Alicia Keys style in “Perfect Way to Die”. Keys captures the unseen heartache of a mother losing her son to police brutality and the song is about a mother’s last words to her dying child: “Baby, don’t you close your eyes / ‘Cause this could be our final time / And you know I’m horrible at saying goodbye / I’ll think of all you coulda done / At least you’ll stay forever young...”
Keys recognizes the sad reality that doesn’t normally get addressed—young lives full of hope and dreams are taken away when actions of injustice happen in our very own streets. In case you thought the song couldn’t be any more heartbreaking, Keys performed the emotional track at the 2020 BET Awards with sadness in her eyes while victims of police brutality were highlighted on the screen behind her.
If you’re unable to help out by protesting on the frontlines or donating money to help the #BlackLivesMatter movement, listening to these songs and sharing them with friends, family, and on social media is also helpful. Music is a way to heal and to share our individual experiences with the world, and these five artists did just that by releasing new music in light of recent events, and we’re grateful for it.