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19 Times Modern-Day Black Artists Used Their Music to Speak on Real Life Issues

From Lizzo to The Weeknd, to the Queen Bee.

Since Black History Month is ending, what better way than to celebrate black musicians that are actively using their platforms to promote real conversations in the world.

From Lizzo to The Weeknd, to the Queen Bee, these artists have all used their music to discuss what's going on in our world whether it's police brutality, mental health, or body positivity.

I've gathered a list of nineteen black musicians that have used their platform to talk about real issues in the world:

19. Lizzo

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Lizzo has a few anthems that the girls are loving these days. Her openness with the true struggles of being black and overweight in the media shows her authenticity. Lizzo's music will for sure get you in a good mood and her song "Juice" is the total body-positive anthem. 

This song may be one of Lizzo's best-known songs and preaches the importance of self-love and self-confidence. Also, a quick history lesson on the word "juice," which actually means power and respect. Lizzo did not come to play!

18. Vic Mensa

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Vic Mensa has used his platform multiple times to speak on social injustice within the black community. He's even teamed up with power players like Kanye West, Chance the Rapper, and Pusha T. 

His latest song, "Shelter," was inspired by the real world and what was going on. In a press release, Mensa mentioned how the song alluded to Americans' real struggles in poverty and undeserving areas are facing. He even references the devastating deaths of Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, and Elijah McClain advocating further for Black Lives Matter. 

17. Lil Baby

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Lil Baby took a different approach to his lyrics with "The Bigger Picture." Usually, the rapper sticks within the genre of money, hustling, and women in his songs but "The Bigger Picture" was an anthem for Black Lives Matter. 

The song highlighted the heat of the intensified racial protests triggered by the unjust killings of black people in summer 2020. America was fed up, and so was Lil Baby. Indeed, the song was a tipping point in his career where he rallied around his fellow peers to provoke change. He used his platform to speak about what was really going on in America.

16. Tyler the Creator

Tyler the Creator at the 2021 BET Awards

15. Frank Ocean

Frank Ocean at the 2021 Met Gala red carpet.

14. Alicia Keys

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Alicia Keys was another classic artist to hop on the social injustice train and used her platform to speak on the real world. "Perfect Way to Die" is a song about the innocent lives lost in America due to racism. 

She explains the song on her Instagram. "I have felt called by music like I never have before. I have before. I have been following its lead. It has led me to the song 'A Perfect Way to Die.' The song title is so powerful and heartbreaking because WE are heartbroken by so many who have died unjustly." 

13. H.E.R.

H.E.R. at the 2022 Urban One Honors

12. Chance the Rapper

Chance the Rapper performing at the 2021 Freedom Experience in Los Angeles, CA

11. Lil Nas X

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Though Lil Nas X isn't my favorite artist, there's no denying the constant vulnerability he shows through his music and in his music videos. Lil Nas X admitted the song was inspired by his own name (Montero) and called the person he has fallen for by their name. Also, a historical fact, the song is inspired by the movie Call Me By Your Name

In a Genius interview, he breaks down the lyrics, verse to verse. He points out Hollywood party culture and hiding your life, like "in the closet." The song is about a quick relationship between him and a person who isn't true to himself, basically hiding his genuine emotions. The song is deep when you listen, though it's catchy. Lil Nas X is speaking about a culture. 

10. The Weeknd

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"Gasoline" is just one of The Weeknd's many songs that address substance abuse. The Weeknd has been very open about his past addictions to hard drugs and their toll on his mental health. 

One of my favorite songs on Dawn FM, "Gasoline," breaks down The Weeknd's relationship with his partner. He is entirely reliant on her as he is afraid he will overdose because he has used drugs as a "crutch" in life. He knows she will look after him, and if he does overdose, he rather be poured in "gasoline" because life didn't mean much to him without her. The video is brilliant and shows him versus his older self.

9. Usher

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Usher doesn't really turn to music to release his frustration with ongoing issues worldwide, but something changed in "I Cry." The black and white theme music video was released during summer 2020 and shows Usher in the center singing about Black America and wanting a better future. It transforms back into the 60s with police brutalities and the struggles of Black Americans to turn around the social climate for a better future. It finally ends in color with words saying, "We Are the Change."

8. John Legend

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John Legend has always had a way with his words in songs and in "I Preach" the video highlights how history is repeating itself concerning Black America. With police brutality and the US criminal system. Legend seeks a change in America and is very hopeful when he delivers this powerful message. 

7. Lil Wayne

Lil Wayne performing for 2022 All Star Weekend in Cleveland, OH

6. Jay-Z

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The Story of OJ has got to be one of Jay-Z's best lyrical songs of all time. Obviously, the song references the infamous OJ Simpson and his very public lawsuit that captured a nation. However, the song hints that OJ only got away with what he did due to wealth, fame, and notoriety. Throughout the chorus, he says, "I'm not black, I'm OJ." This suggests his wealth, fame, and notoriety can blind some to forget his race. But argues at the end of the day, black is black. 

In an interview with iHeartRadio, he broke down what the song really means. He says, "really a song about we as a culture, having a plan, how we're gonna push this forward. We all make money, and then we all lose money, as artists especially. But how, when you have some type of success, to transform that into something bigger."

5. J. Cole

J. Cole performing live at the 2021 iHeartRadio Music Festival

4. Janelle Monáe

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Janelle Monáe sung her heart out in "Q.U.E.E.N." In an interview with Fuse, Monáe addressed the meaning and acronym for her song, which is for everyone that is marginalized. 

The "Q" represents the queer community, "U" for the untouchables, "E" for emigrants, second "E" for excommunicated, and "N" for those labeled "negroid." She says, "It's for everyone who's felt ostracized. I wanted to create something for people who feel like they want to give up because they're not accepted by society."

3. Kendrick Lamar

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Kendrick Lamar's "Alright" is the ultimate Black anthem. Though the song was released six years ago, the lyrics still carry heavy weight in today's society. Even this video speaks volumes about a genuine acknowledgment of the social climate and racial tensions. Lamar won six awards from the song, Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance, Grammy Award for Best Rap Song, MTV Video Music Award for Best Direction, and many more!

2. Beyoncé

Beyoncé at 63rd Annual Grammy Awards

1. Childish Gambino

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"This is America" is probably one of the most outstanding visuals for a music video of all time. Childish Gambino used America as his true theme in the video, analyzing police brutality, gun violence, mental health, all in a seemingly perfect choreographed video. 

"This is America" has reached nearly one billion views on YouTube and is truly one of the most remarkable ways a modern-day artist has used music and visuals to speak on fundamental issues. If anything, "This is America" makes me wanna get out of America ASAP! Gambino will be known for a lifetime because of this video.

Who else would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments.

Make sure to head right here for more of BuzzFeed's Black History Month coverage.

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