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 Dreamville Records’ own Lute sharing his soundtrack today.
“To me, Black History Month is a time to highlight and remember those who have contributed and paved the way for us to be who we are and where we are,” Lute tells Billboard. “No matter the road ahead, our ancestors had it tougher. It’s a time to reflect on how those same people inspired us, and a reminder to push those boundaries. We have an obligation to make the road a little smoother for those that are following us.”
Below, the Charlotte, N.C. rapper breaks down the decisions behind some of the key tracks he chose for the playlist.
1. Kendrick Lamar, “Alright”
This is one of those songs where you can’t help but be proud to be Black. Usually, I turn my music down when I’m riding through neighborhoods. But when this song plays, I don’t care what neighborhood I’m in, I turn it up to the max! “Alright” makes you feel proud of being Black, and reassures you that your struggles don’t define who you are.
2. Rufus feat. Chaka Khan, “Sweet Thing”
This song reminds me of my aunt that was killed in 2009; “Sweet Thing” was her favorite. Whenever it came on, we would dance to it. She had an apartment downtown Charlotte next to a bridge, and I always remember the train passing by and the smell of spring flowing through the window. “Sweet Thing” brings me a lot of joy and comfort whenever I hear it.
3. Lauryn Hill, “So Much Things to Say”
Lauryn Hill’s MTV Unplugged performance is one of my all-time favorites. I play this particular song [originally found on Bob Marley & The Wailers’ 1977 album Exodus] whenever I feel that I’ve lost my way or become frustrated with life. It gets me back on track and going in the right direction. I love a lot of songs, but this one speaks to my soul like no other. I play it when my anxiety is at it’s highest; Hill’s voice heals whatever doubt or fear of success that I may have. “So Much Things to Say” reminds me that it’s all right to feel the way I feel, but to also never forget who I am.
4. Kanye West, “Family Business”
The first time I heard this song, I almost shed a tear; it reminded me of my own family and how we would come together. Regardless of our ups and downs, we always have each other. Family dinners and get-togethers aren’t the same since we lost a few of our family pillars, but this song always brings back those [feel-good] memories.
5. The Notorious B.I.G., “Juicy”
I didn’t appreciate this song until I became an adult, because I didn’t realize how much I could actually relate to some of the things he was saying. My favorite lines are: “Putting five karats in my baby girl ear/ Lunches, brunches, interviews by the pool/ Considered a fool ’cause I dropped out of high school.” These lines are my life!
Lute was among the many collaborators on Dreamville’s Revenge of the Dreamers III that was nominated for a 2020 best rap album Grammy. Earlier this month, the rapper released the video for his new single, “GED (Gettin Every Dolla),” marking his first solo effort since 2017’s West 1996 pt. 2 album.
Enjoy the video and Lute’s Black History Month playlist below.