This week on Apple Music, we are talking about families again. This time, we are talking about the way familial relationships impact the rest of our lives. Apple Music looks to celebrate the resilience that Black artists have shown through the years, acknowledging that “Blackness, and the influence it radiates, has been marked by survival.” This week, we have eight categories, jam-packed with nourishment in the form of music, to look at: Featured Short Film, Featured Guest Playlists, Artists to Know, Foundational Albums, Songs to Hear, Essentials, Watch More, and Listen Now, the lattermost of which I will, as mentioned last week, skip over reviewing.
Featured Short Film
This week’s short film, “Black History Month: Nourishment and Resilience,” is a very moving, 3-minute production with narration about what it means to be root-bound, and how to escape this entanglement of restriction. The various narrators in the film speak about inspiring new generations and overcoming the way the U.S. treats Black people. One narrator was moved to tears as she spoke about how Black people are considered cool, but do not have equal access to education and health care. The films thus far have been very symbolic, and this week is no exception. Director Abdi Ibrahim included plants in every shot, with the narrators nourishing them for most of the film. It’s a perfect mix of appreciating strength while being angry at the world for forcing Black people to be strong in the first place.
Featured Guest Playlists
Some of the playlists from this week overlap ones from the previous two weeks, but the new playlists include one by Apple Music entitled “Nourishment & Resilience,” and playlists by Lauren Von Der Pool, Olympia Auset, Ron Finley, and Common under the same title. I personally don’t have a favorite playlist, as I appreciate each one’s diversity and true show of strength, but there are a few songs that were featured in more than one of these playlists. These include “Water No Get Enemy” by Fela Kuti and “UMI Says” by Mos Def, both of which are worthy of recommendation. I would also like to mention “85 to Africa” by Jidenna as a great, upbeat song to listen to casually.
Artists to Know
Of all three weeks we have spent with Apple Music so far, this week’s ‘Artists to Know’ category had the most musicians that I am a personal fan of — Jhené Aiko, SZA, Kendrick Lamar, Bob Marley, Public Enemy, Lauryn Hill, and The Roots. I’m excited to finally be able to recommend Kendrick Lamar from one of the categories this week; I’ve been looking forward to seeing his songs featured somewhere. His album for the Black Panther movie (entitled Black Panther The Album Music From And Inspired By) is very appropriate for this week’s theme. Although it wasn’t made entirely obvious in the film, Black Panther was a very family-oriented movie, and it was all about Black people overcoming injustice and coming together to thrive. The impact of this film on the Black community was great, too; Black children finally had a superhero to look up to, thanks to Chadwick Boseman fighting through stages of cancer to fulfill this legacy.
While we are on the topic of movie-inspired albums, Judas and the Black Messiah: The Inspired Album is, right next to Black Panther The Album (again), my top recommendation for this category. Just like Black Panther, Judas and the Black Messiah is a wonderfully family-oriented movie, though with a much bleaker, and far more in-your-face political, ending than the former film. (I digress.) Being such a brand new film, I was a bit surprised to see the album dedicated to it featured here, but it’s good to know that Apple Music is actually keeping up with ground-breaking Black media.
Songs to Hear
There are a lot of good songs in the category this week, although, thematically, they are sort of random and disorganized. “Free Your Mind” by Jazzmeia Horn is a very powerful, uplifting song about being in love and letting go of negative feelings, while “Liquid Spirit” by Gregory Porter is a fun, upbeat song about being free and partying. I almost feel like these songs would have fit more appropriately with last week’s found family theme, given that they are about unison in love and community. My top recommendation, though, perfectly aligns with Apple Music’s description of a familial structure — particularly, the culture that Black people grow up with.
Released in 2018, “Black 2” by Buddy speaks to social issues that Black people have dealt with for years. Anything Black is seen as ‘trendy’ on social media. A lot of ‘challenges’ come from Black people (the most recent of which is the “BussIt Challenge” that TikTok popularized). This also includes things like African-American Vernacular English, make-up trends, cornrows and dreads, and most forms of modern music. It is exhausting to see people popularize things that Black people were, and are, bullied for, or otherwise scrutinized over. (Seeing Black children kicked out of school for their hair, and then watching white adults destroy their scalps with that same style, is especially frustrating.)
There are few artists in this category that have not been featured the previous two weeks: Fred Hammond, Kirk Franklin, CeCe and BeBe Winans, and Fantastic Negrito. Placed at the bottom of the list, Fantastic Negrito has some of the most unique songs I have heard in a while. I had never heard any of his music before, and I’m happy that Apple Music introduced me to him. All of the songs in his essentials playlist were fantastic, but, if you’re looking for one song to start with, try “Lost in a Crowd.” It’s very captivating, and, at first listen, my favorite of the 17 songs listed.
The videos in this category are around 10 to 30 minutes in length, and, though some are left over from last week, still hit the nail on the head when it comes to discussions about progressing the Black community and escaping the shackles of society. We also hear about artist’s families, like Jhené Aiko’s, whose talk is the first featured for this week. She speaks about her father’s surname, ‘Chilombo’ (meaning wild beast, or monster), and how she came to embrace that name after being embarrassed about it for years. It’s a perfect anecdote to fit the theme of being comfortable with yourself, and your cultural upbringing.
This week was a wonderful follow-up to last week. From choosing found families to embracing blood relatives, there are an endless amount of ways to grow, and to become comfortable existing in a deeply misshapen society. No one is expected to understand or sympathize with oppressors, which is a common misconception people have when Black people become comfortable in their own skin. The music from this week expresses comfort and anger in a way that shows how the two can co-exist, and how accepting yourself does not equate to accepting the world.
Featured Photo: Courtesy of Abdi / @abshoots via Instagram