Last year, as part of Billboard’s Black History Month celebration, we asked Black artists spanning all genres to compile unique playlists exclusive to Billboard‘s Spotify account. Everyone from Normani and Khalid to DJ Premier and Rapsody shared tracks that represented their love for the culture across the diaspora — from childhood favorites to songs that make them feel free. We continue the celebration in 2020, with R&B/pop singer Ella Mai sharing her soundtrack today.
“My Black History Month playlist is a combination of songs that tell the story of my childhood and others that have shaped my sound,” Ella Mai tells Billboard. “In many ways, playlists like these become the soundtrack to our experiences. Black History Month this year and beyond is about both honouring our past and celebrating the contributions currently elevating our culture.”
Below, Mai dives into some of her favorite tracks on her playlist.
1. Beyoncé, “Formation”
To me, this represents an empowering layer of acceptance: owning exactly who you are, where you are from and what you represent.
2. Jah Cure, “Never Find”
This song reminds me of my best friend Nicholas. We used to blast this in the summertime and feel like we had no cares in the world.
3. Ella Mai, “Naked”
This is one of my favourite songs [I’ve created] to date. It’s so special to me because it is very vulnerable. It represents self-love as well as knowing how to accept when someone is loving you.
4. Lauryn Hill, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”
This whole album [The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill] is a representation of my childhood as my mum would play it nonstop, but this song in particular has always made me happy.
5. Lemar, “Someone Should Tell You”
Growing up, Lemar was one of my favourite homegrown artists. He showed me that it was possible to be an R&B artist from the U.K., which wasn’t common (especially considering the timing), but was very inspiring.
6. Al Green, “Let’s Stay Together”
This is one of my grandma’s favorite songs. It reminds me of the love my grandparents shared.
Following Ella Mai’s 2018 self-titled debut album, which scored a Grammy nomination and peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard 200, the singer teamed with Usher for last December’s “Don’t Waste My Time.” She is currently in the studio working on new music.
But before her new tunes arrive, enjoy her BHM playlist below.