Six albums to listen to during Black History Month
3 October 2022, 14:43
Here are some must-listen to albums during Black History Month that celebrate and champion black history and culture.
This Black History Month, we have endeavoured to bring you coverage across the cultural and arts sector celebrating and championing the lives of Black people.
Amongst some of the most influential works of art are albums from a variety of RnB and Rap artists, who have shaped music and culture for their generation and generations to come.
We have run through some of the most influential albums to celebrate Black History Month, and here is a selection of the very best.
Stormzy – Gang Signs & Prayer (2017)
Stormzy’s debut studio album received critical acclaim when it was released in 2017 and became the first grime album to reach number one.
The most successful tracks from the album include ‘Shut Up’ and ‘Big For Your Boots’, which both charted in the top 10 singles chart.
Throughout the run of the album, Stormzy documents his battle with faith and destiny, as well as depicting black male adolescence through the medium of music.
Stormzy embarked on creating a vision in his performance at the 2018 Brit Awards as he sung a medley of Blinded By Your Grace PT.2 and Big For Your Boots.
This now iconic performance featured rainfall on the rapper, as well as a choir wearing black balaclavas.
He also freestyled a rap during his performance, which featured the iconic lines “Yo, Theresa May, where’s that money for Grenfell?” and “Raised up by black girl magic, what did you think, huh?”
Stormzy followed up this work of art with 2019’s Heavy is the Head and 2022’s comeback single “Mel Made Me Do It” to cement his status as the GOAT.
Must Listen: Lay Me Bare
N.W.A – Straight Outta Compton (1988)
N.W.A took their unfiltered descriptions of life in Compton, California and made them into a seminal album and made their mark in history.
The album is now over 30 years old, but its significance and shaping of hip-hop has only grown stronger and remains strong and unashamedly bold.
Straight Outta Compton became the album which forced the world to pay attention to the West Coast and became the soundtrack which highlighted the disenfranchised black youth.
N.W.A’s lineup is stacked with legendary rappers: Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and MC Ren have had great careers as solo artists, and DJ Yella has been behind the scenes changing the fundamental sound of hip-hop.
It’s unapologetic depiction of the urban nightmare of Compton in the 1980’s resonated with those worldwide, and gave a voice to the unspoken-for youth.
Must Listen: F*** the Police
Beyoncé - Lemonade (2016)
Arguably one of the most poignant albums in a generation, Beyoncé's 2016 release Lemonade is a thought-provoking and special artefact in music history.
Along with twelve stellar tracks, Queen Bey also released an hour long film and the album received nine Grammy award nominations.
Beyoncé calls out middle America and Police brutality across the Black Lives Matter movement and champions intersectional feminism.
Beyoncé is unashamedly herself in Lemonade - she embraces her identity as a black woman in the song Formation among others.
"I like my baby heir with baby hair and afros / I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils."
Five years on from the release of the seminal album, Beyoncé has created a work of art so unique and treasured by those who the album speaks for and lets speak in their own way.
Must Listen: Freedom
Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly (2015)
Kendrick’s 2015 masterpiece is arguably one of the most influential black albums of recent times and is the rapper’s response to the political climate of its time.
He addresses institutionalised racism and the origins of the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as calling himself out as he tackles his feeling of ‘survivors guilt’.
Kendrick followed up this album with 2017’s DAMN.
Must Listen: The Blacker the Berry
Dave - Psychodrama (2019)
British rapper Dave released his debut studio album Psychodrama in 2019 to critical acclaim.
The 11-strong track record features hits such as 'Location' and 'Disaster', as well as suitably poignant tracks such as 'Psycho' and 'Black'.
Psychodrama is a concept album and follows the narrative of a therapy session - as Dave recounts his struggles with mental health, relationships, and growing up in London.
The album won the 2019 Mercury Prize and 2020 Brit Award for Album of the Year.
Alexis Petridis from The Guardian called Psychodrama "the boldest and best British rap album in a generation."
Dave's debut album also hit number one in the charts and depsite being three years old, will cement a place in history as one of the greatest British rap albums of all time.
Must Listen: Black
Kelis – Kaleidoscope (1999)
Kelis’ debut album was released at the turn of the century and became a must-listen to for all RnB enthusiasts.
It can best be described as a coming-of-age tale mixed with rhythmic beats as Kelis paves a way for the alternative black genre.
Kelis was only 20 at the time of releasing the album, and much of its influence is from the 80s and 90s and feels like a mixture of pop culture and adolescence.
Must Listen: Good Stuff