FYI, music is an essential part of Black history and certain songs that have transcended generations are regarded as cultural anthems of the Black community.
As Wesley Morris on the 1619 podcast states, "What you're hearing in Black music that’s so appealing to so many people of all races across time is possibility, struggle. It is strife. It is humor. It is sex. It is confidence. And that’s ironic. Because this is the sound of a people who, for decades and centuries, have been denied freedom."
Here are 47 Black cultural anthems that should be on everyone's playlists.
1. Boosie Badazz's "Wipe Me Down" featuring Foxx and Webbie is a smooth anthem that activates any fraternity, sorority, or college student to get real nice with it.
2. Meek Mill's "Dreams and Nightmares" will either be the soundtrack of a sports highlight video or have every student in the room proudly shouting the lyrics.
3. Fast Life Yungstaz's "Swag Surfin'" will get any HBCU or college football game crowd rocking and swaying with pride for their campus.
4. Bone Crusher's "Never Scared (feat. Killer Mike, T.I.)" is the perfect anthem to get your team pumped up, whether that team is playing sports or fighting in the streets.
5. Crime Mob's "Knuck If You Buck" featuring Lil' Scrappy is an anthem that has the same power as classic jock jams like Queen's "We Will Rock You" or 2 Unlimited's "Get Ready For This."
6. Gil Scott-Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" is a true anthem for Black revolutionaries, and every sentence reminds you of the plight of Black America.
7. Public Enemy's "Fight The Power" is an anthem of civil unrest because of the unfair or unequal treatment toward the Black American communities, which has lasted since the inception of this country.
8. James Brown's "Say It Loud – I'm Black, and I'm Proud" is a feel-good song that doubles as an anthem for mobilizing the Black community in the face of oppression.
9. Tevin Campbell's "Can We Talk" is one of the most iconic '90s jams that had everyone falling in love with his voice and each other.
10. 112's "Cupid" is the anthem you play when you're confident you could be a better partner than their ex-flame.
11. Nelly and Kelly Rowland's "Dilemma" had the teenage crushes in a chokehold with this girl/boy next door anthem.
12. Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come" became an anthem back when Black Americans were denied their most basic rights, and even though it caused a political stir, he didn't back down.
13. Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions "People Get Ready" is an anthem that energizes the culture to be proud of who we are, where we came from, and where we're going.
14. Like Sam Cooke, Billie Holiday's defiance in the face of injustice and oppression keeps "Strange Fruit" an important anthem in the history of Black America.
15. The O'Jays' "Family Reunion" makes it very clear when and where this cultural anthem should be played.
16. Maze featuring Frankie Beverly's "Before I Let Go" is the pinnacle of Black anthems and the number one hit at every Black American function.
17. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince's "Summertime" can hit up a few categories, but regardless of what season your family is hosting a cookout, this song is getting played.
18. Montell Jordan's "This Is How We Do It" featuring Wino is the one party song I can count on everyone knowing the lyrics of.
19. DMX's “Party Up (Up in Here)” is 100% a party anthem in every culture, and I will battle anyone who disagrees.
20. Kool & The Gang's "Summer Madness" has no lyrics, but the funky jazz instruments are all the sound needed to have you looking back at your life and saying, "Oh Lord."
21. Ahmad Lewis's "Back in the Day" will have any Gen Xer or millennial sitting on the porch watching the kids play, thinking to themselves, "Damn, I grew up too fast."
22. The Notorious B.I.G.'s "Juicy" is a flashback of when the triumphs of today are a direct result of your past struggles.
23. The Isley Brothers' "Between The Sheets" is so synonymous with love-making that I think it's best to wear protection whenever the song comes on — just in case.
24. Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" is pretty on the nose with the fact it's meant for getting your significant other or one-night fling in the mood.
25. Roger Troutman and Zapp's "Computer Love" is sonic foreplay that's up there with chocolate-covered strawberries, candles, and incense.
26. Boyz II Men's "End Of The Road" is used so often that people forget it's not about a funeral or falling in love but the complete opposite — a breakup.
27. Fugees featuring Ms. Lauryn Hill's cover of Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly With His Song," is the perfect track for when you're down bad and feeling pitiful.
28. Keyshia Cole's "Love" is the song you belt out alone in the shower and car when you let a good one get away.
30. Marvin Gaye's "Got To Give It Up - Part 1" is the go-to for Soul Train lines at family functions, weddings, and backyard barbecues.
31. Cameo's "Candy" is another song perfect for the electric slide if you want to add a little spice and a good slap to the dance floor.
32. Mary Mary's "Shackles (Praise You)" is the song you want to play when your prayers have been answered, or you're feeling blessed and highly favored.
33. Kirk Franklin & God's Property's "Stomp" started a revolution by blending hip-hop and gospel music, and it brought together generations of believers everywhere.
36. Experience Unlimited's "Da' Butt" is a college jam that will have the entire dance floor throwing that ass in a circle.
37. Juvenile's "Back That Azz Up" featuring Manny Fresh and teenage Lil' Wayne is the ultimate shake-your-booty beat.
38. Heatwave's "Always and Forever" is perfect for wedding dances, second dates, and rainy nights sitting by the window in each other's embrace.
39. Rick James and Teena Marie were in their bag with "Fire and Desire," the "please take me back" song that brought my older brother into the world.
40. Goapele's "Closer" is a song for when things are going really well and you just want to kick back with boo and think about your future together.
41. Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" has reunited couples on the verge of separation or indifference for decades.
42. The O'Jays' "For the Love of Money" is a song for every occasion involving money, whether its a paycheck, a bank robbery with social activist undertones, or hitting the lottery.
43. Johnny Kemp's "Just Got Paid" is bar for bar, the most legitimate theme song for any payday just before the weekend.
44. Diddy's "It's All About the Benjamins" featuring The Notorious B.I.G., Lil' Kim, The Lox, and Stevie J is the perfect background track for when you know that tax return is about hit any day now.
45. Boyz II Men and Mariah Carey's "One Sweet Day" is a '90s classic that is probably one of the most popular modern-day funeral songs.
46. Diddy's "I'll Be Missing You" featuring Faith Evans and 112 took The Police's "Every Breath You Take" and turned it into an anthem that honored the lost lives of family, friends, and The Notorious B.I.G.
47. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony's "Tha Crossroads" is not an easy song to sing along to because of the group's impressive lyrical skill and the heartbreaking message behind the words.
What are some of your favorite cultural anthems?
Let me know in the comments.