In increasingly divisive times, with xenophobia, racism, sexism and homophobia on the rise, it is more important than ever for the artists of our day to inspire us in the fight against bigotry. Below is a shortlist of Aneel and Mélina's favourite anti-racist songs. We will be using these songs to mourn, to revitalise and to motivate us all to continue the fight for equality into 2020 and beyond.
1) Lowkey’s 'Letter to the 1%’ (feat. Mai Khalil)
In this moving music video, Lowkey breaks down global wealth inequality (the 1% are the richest and most powerful) and, instead of focusing on the most powerful, he turns the gaze to the 99% and sends them power by naming and honouring them. A timely reminder that, even when it all feels hopeless, collective action and global solidarity goes a long way. As we enter a new decade, we should continue to record the stories of injustice and resistance as Lowkey does and we should use them to commemorate, to inspire and to protest.
“Power to those still strong enough to dream Power to those that chose not to be a cog in the machine Power to those that love first and hate never Power to those that sleep on the streets through grey weather (...) You'll never find a better diagnosis than collective psychosis It's getting quite hopeless but hope is all we have Tryna cultivate the positive, not focus on the bad But the globe's under attack ”
2) Pravini’s ‘The Injustice: La La Land’
Mélina came across Pravini’s music at a screening of her musical documentary called ‘The Uprising’ which tells the story of resistance against racism in Europe. Mélina would recommend the whole album as well as the film, but this is her favourite song because it critiques the colonised versions of history we are taught, whereby the mediocre white man is hailed as a saviour and a saint, regardless of the atrocities he committed. This skewed but mainstream version of history is what makes resistance against racism so difficult today. In order to challenge the racist narratives of today, we need to challenge the white-washed narratives about our past.
"It must be nice, living in La La Land. A celebration of the European man. (…) And when you kill it’s an honest mistake - forgiven, forgotten, it’s done. And when you lie you don’t discriminate - cos’ you are the rational one. And when you steal you are honoured with pride - we thank you, we make you a saint. And all lives matter 'cos we are colour-blind - it's all part of La La La Land."
3) Kano's 'Hoodies All Summer'
Aneel's favourite album of the year– a collection of songs so powerful that he decided to include the whole record as a recommendation to anyone concerned about racism in the UK and beyond. Kano has produced a searing social commentary on what it is to be a minority in Britain today over a soulful melting pot of genre spanning sounds ranging from hip hop to dancehall, garage to grime. This vital soundtrack for our times will speak volumes to anyone who has felt marginalised or ostracised from mainstream society – an instant classic.
(S.Y.M) “They want throw banana skins at John Barnsey's They tell us to go fuckin' back to our own country But they won't even give us back our own countries Every entrance to a door, has a footprint left by the ones that came before”
4) Stormzy's 'Superheroes'
Empowering anthem from Grime’s first Glastonbury headliner. Taken from his superb new album, Heavy is the Head, this song pays tribute to all the black British people who deserve to be praised and celebrated.
“Live and you learn, they'll always hate me for my tone For the shade of my skin and not the courage in my bones"
5) Dave's 'Black'
Released as the first single of his Mercury Music prize winning debut, Psychodrama, South London rapper, Dave, addresses themes of racial and social inequality while celebrating blackness.
“Our heritage been severed, you never got to experiment with family trees, 'cause they teach you 'bout famine and greed and show you pictures of our fam on their knees”
6) Loyle Carner's 'Looking Back'
South London hip hop artist, Loyle Carner, provides us with his experience of being mixed race on this track featuring on his new album, Not Waving, But Drowning.
“I'm thinking that my great grandfather could've owned my other one and that shit is weird”
7) Britanny Howard's 'Goat Head'
The Alabama Shakes front-women’s’ unfiltered account of growing up mixed race in the American South.
“Who slashed my dad's tires and put a goat head in the back? I guess I wasn't s'posed to know that, too bad"
8) Mona’ Hayder’s ‘Beautiful Barbarian’
Hayder cleverly exposes the double standards and alienation that woman of colour constantly face. She urges us all to decolonise our beauty standards and our minds.
“Barbarian? That's how you really feel? Like you didn't start war over oil fields? Opium, poppy seeds, money moves, Cardi B Tried to make me hate me For my hips and nose Now they got imposters On a spread in Vogue"
9) 47Soul's 'Hold Your Ground' (feat. Lowkey)
47Soul is a Palestinian Jordanian band known for pioneering the Shamstep electronic dance music movement in the Middle East. Their catchy music is a creative form of resistance against Palestinian occupation. This new release featuring Lowkey reminds us that our struggles are connected and our resistance should be collective.
“Out here it’s madness, got to hold your ground. Won’t let you down, even if you left to sort things out. (…) Bump Trump, Boris connected like plug socket, love profit… Exploiting our difference, they poison our influx, a voice from the distance, our choice is resistance”
10) The Skints' 'The Island'
The Island is a razor-sharp commentary of contemporary UK delivered in the unrepentant spirit of the great 70s punk bands.
“It might be what you fed them, it might be what you read them on the news at Ten, because they don’t play well with others and cant process different colours”
11) MakeWar's 'No Excuses'
Furious punk rock calling out the bigots from the multicultural, New York based MakeWar.
“This place used to be different. Everyone was nicer. Some of you would even help another. Now we fight about the differences, that some of us just carry in our blood and in our genes and in the place my mom was born”
12) Michael Kiwanuka's 'Hero'
Taken from his critically acclaimed third album ‘Kiwanuka’
“Please don't shoot me down I loved you like a brother It's on the news again I guess they killed another”
13) Anti-Flag's 'Christian Nationalist'
The latest offering from political punk icons, Anti-Flag, is a typically powerful anti-fascist anthem condemning supremacy and bigotry.
“Off on the crusade of a century With a vengeance in your veins for your enemies Hate in your heart and division in your eye”
14) Millencolin's 'Caveman's Land'
Swedish punk band, Millencolin, make mockery of tribalism and division on this witty yet vital track.
“Even with the Internet you find the logic is hard to get when your mindset is all Jurassic, you're still a troglodyte”
15) The Menzingers' 'America (You're Freaking Me Out)'
Scranton punks, The Menzingers, express their anger towards the current American administration in typically rollicking fashion. Accompanied by a fantastic video too.
“Oh, ain't it a shame what we choose to ignore What kind of monsters did our parents vote for? Lately I feel like I'm in puppet Vichy, France tryin' to teach the devil how to dance”
16) Gary Clark Jr's 'This Land'
A brutally honest account of growing up Black in the American South and his experience of living in today’s America.
“Go back where you come from We don't want, we don't want your kind We think you's a dog born" Fuck you, I'm America's son This is where I come from”
17) Little Simz's '101 FM'
London MC, Little Simz, is in reflective mood on this track from her critically acclaimed record, GREY Area.
“Tears in my eyes real tears Ken got nicked (Ken got nabbed). Tore everyone apart but the law don't give two shits (don't give two fucks). Just another bblack boy in the system doing time in bin (True). But he had a heart full of gold, good intent with a smile so big"
18) Skepta's 'Glow In The Dark' (feat Wizkid)
North London grime pioneer, Skepta, followed up his Mercury Prize winning album, Konnichiwa, with the superb Ignorance is Bliss in May. This track showcases his political side with support from Nigerian singer and songwriter, Wizkid.
"I knew what is was to be black way before I was on the GQ cover. How you gonna question me about colour? What you know about Nelson Mandela? Man I get anti as ever. Yeah, I can do serious, I can do mean. Tell a supremacist that I'm supreme."
19) The Killers' 'Land of the Free'
Not particularly known for their grand political statements, bona fide rock and roll superstars, The Killers, offer a heartfelt lament inspired by events under the current American administration and past events in the US.
"When I go out in my car, I don't think twice. But if you're the wrong colour skin (I'm standing, crying). You grow up looking over both your shoulders in the land of the free"
20) Rapsody's 'Iman'
Taken from the North Carolina rappers new album, Eve, this track is self described as a “love letter to all Black women”.
“Go ahead and treat yourself better You're worth much more, so much more You better treat yourself better You're worth much more”