Happy Black History Month! Apple Music is celebrating this month with a featured “Black History Month” category, which will have a different theme every week. To kick off the month, the theme is “Matriarchy,” and there are eight subcategories: Featured Short Film, Featured Guest Playlists, Music’s Matriarchs, Foundational Albums, Songs to Hear, Essentials, Watch More, and Listen Now. Let’s explore!
Featured Short Film
To preface their celebration of Black History Month, Apple Music featured a captivating film entitled “Black History Month: Matriarchy.” It is only 1:45 in length, and it’s all about Black mothers. The film was directed by India Sleem and featured beautiful imagery of families, pregnant women, serene scenery, and a narration by Sleem’s grandmother of a poem written by Nubia Yasim. The gentle cinematography mixed with the poem’s analogy of life under a mother’s care to the phases of the moon is a wonderful way to get started and settled with the theme of this year’s Black History Month celebration: Black women and mothers.
Featured Guest Playlists
If you’re looking for exactly 882 great songs to listen to, Apple Music has your back. The Featured Guest Playlists section has 12 playlists created by Black stars — including Corinne Bailey Rae, Monica, and Tracee Ellis Ross — and an additional seven with different themes, like the ‘matriarchs of Hip-Hop’ and ‘Black Lives Matter.’ My personal favorite playlist was the longest one, consisting of 130 songs, entitled “#TheShowMustBePaused: The Playlist.” It is a reflection of “Blackout Tuesday” that occurred on June 2, 2020. Apple Music observed this event by streaming Black music for 24 hours straight; “#TheShowMustBePaused” contains these songs. A couple of my favorites from this list are “This is America” by Childish Gambino, “Don’t Shoot” by Dave East, “Ghetto America” by TJ Boyce, and “Black Holocaust” by Locksmith. This playlist has over eight hours’ worth of incredibly beautiful and political songs, and the whole category has enough addicting music to last for days.
I can’t express how much I love scrolling through a list of beautiful, talented Black women. This category included 33 of the most iconic Black women in music, including Ma Rainey, Billie Holiday, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, Maya Angelou, Queen Latifah, Lauryn Hill, Mary J. Blige, Beyonce, and so many more. From this page, you can click on any of the bubbles containing these artists to go to their profiles and be met with their top songs, essential albums, music videos, and more. It’s a lovely way to discover Black women’s music that you may have never come across before. I can definitely say that my playlists are much fuller now that I’ve had time to explore this Apple Music page.
The title of this category is pretty self-explanatory, and although Apple does not clue us in as to why these specific albums were chosen, they all seem to have a big impact on the music industry. The content of it still surprised me. I expected to be met with a list of albums that were released before 2000, but the most recent album, Eve by Rapsody, was just released in 2019. Of course there are some older albums in this list — Whitney by Whitney Houston, Bad Girls by Donna Summer, Patti Labelle (Extended Version) by Patti LaBelle — but Nicki Minaj and Cardi B are featured right alongside them. It’s so hard to choose a favorite from this list, but Kaleidoscope by Kelis has a striking album cover and just over an hour of upbeat songs, so I’ll choose it as my top recommendation.
Song to Hear
This category contains songs by Black and mixed women, like Teyana Taylor, Alicia Keys, Jhené Aiko, and Rico Nasty. One song in particular, out of the 22 in this list, stands out to me: “Black Like Me” by Mickey Guyton. It discusses how the U.S. is not exactly “the land of the free” because of what Black people go through on a daily basis. What I love most about this song is its nostalgic tone. It feels like I grew up listening to it despite its recent release in the summer of 2020. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking, and definitely my favorite of this category.
As we near the end of this incredible collection, Apple Music makes sure to include essential songs from Black artists we have yet to see much throughout the other categories. Dionne Warwick, Bessie Smith, Roberta Flack, Yolanda Adams, and 13 more women each have about an hours’ worth of their most well-liked songs featured here. I was personally very excited to see a Salt-n-Pepa playlist, as I grew up listening to them with my mother (I’m a sucker for nostalgia). I’ve always idolized Salt-n-Pepa as the kind of bad—s women I wanted to be like someday, so their songs (especially “Shoop,” “Let’s Talk About Sex,” and “Twist and Shout”) are at the top of my recommendation list.
Time for extras! This category is a small collection of short videos that relate to Black empowerment. We have Rap Life traveling to Howard University to celebrate Hip-Hop and how it relates to activism; we have Alicia Keys talking about change; and we have a short but extremely impactful video entitled Black Music Matters. Various Black artists in this video talk about what music means to them and why they make music. Let me just say: I was so happy to see Khalid and Tierra Whack in here, in particular, being a huge fan of both of them. I’ve watched the video a few times over just to see how many artists I recognize and how many I’ll have to search up after writing this.
At the end of this very dense list, we have some radio content from Color Me Country on “Remembering Charley Pride;” The Estelle Show on “Iconic Queens: Nina Simone;” and Tamika Mallory sharing the soundtrack of her life. Of course, there are a few more shows featured here, all spanning from one hour to two hours. They seem like perfect things to listen to while doing other activities; I’m likely going to listen to these throughout the week as I work out and write my final paper for English. It’s just like listening to music while you drive — perfect tidbits of sounds to keep you focused on what you’re doing.
“Apple is dedicated to advancing racial equity and justice.”
Aren’t we all — and what a pretty bow on top of the incredible content we’ve discovered this week. But wait, there’s more! Not only will there be three other themes for the remaining weeks of Black History Month, Apple has also added multiple other features to highlight Black excellency this February. Apple TV will feature movies and TV shows with representation of Black families; Apple Books will feature various pieces of writing by Black authors; and so much more. As someone who loves music, and rarely ever takes a break from listening to it, Apple Music’s “Black History Month” is my favorite feature.
What I appreciate most about Apple Music’s celebration of Black History month is the inclusion of current artists. Most Black History Month celebrations focus on the past, celebrating late artists and reteaching Black movements from the ‘60s and ‘70s. History is not just what has already happened, though. We’re making history right now, and continuous Black empowerment is just as important as Black history.
It’s also incredibly symbolic to start off Black History Month with the matriarchy, considering the birth cycle that Apple Music so clearly highlighted during the featured film. The importance of this runs a bit deeper than symbolism, though. The fact is: it’s difficult to be a Black woman. The amount of privilege we have is minimal; our voices are ignored, we experience violence even within our own community, and we carry a lot of weight, especially in becoming a mother. It’s incredibly important to recognize the strength and influence of Black women, and I’m thrilled that Apple Music not only did this, but did this first, giving Black women the entire month to have their music featured.
Featured Photo: Courtesy of @indiasleem via Instagram