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/soul singer Mereba sharing her soundtrack today.
“Every time this month comes around, [the feeling] is empowering yet bittersweet,” Mereba tells Billboard. “Growing up, there were times and certain environments where I was one of the only Black children there to represent my people as a whole.”
“It felt like February came and all heads turned toward me; [it was] a time for my culture to be ‘celebrated,’ but only one time,” she continues. “Once February was over, we were back to learning white history as the standard for what all other histories were born from. It took so much energy to unlearn.”
The singer adds: “So when I’m asked to celebrate my culture specifically for the month of February, I’m still naturally cautious. But what I will say is that Black history has been born a billion times. Our contributions to the world reflect who we are as a people: vibrant, creative, resourceful, and limitless.
“I think almost everyone has heard a Black history fact that has surprised them, unaware that a Black person was responsible for something so useful in their lives. We are everywhere. Our spirit and footprint stretch all across the world. And our music is the magical heartbeat of it all. So, basically, put some respect on our name — every month of every year.”
Below, Mereba dives into some of her favorite tracks on her playlist.
1. Stevie Wonder, “Higher Ground”
For me, Stevie Wonder is the prototype of Black liberation by way of music. His music drifted through our household my whole childhood, and this is just one of the many songs he’s made that encourages his people and seeks to elevate us spiritually.
2. The Roots feat. Erykah Badu and Eve, “You Got Me”
This is one of my favorite songs of all time. It’s a Black love story that sounds so alluring, almost ancient in its elegance. Hearing Black Thought and Eve go back and forth about their relationship was one of the first love duets I heard in rap music.
3. Tracy Chapman, “Fast Car”
Tracy is a figure I don’t feel is celebrated enough. I remember hearing this powerful song about the urge to run away from the everyday burdens of being Black in America and thinking,“I want to make songs like this: protest music, Black folk music, music with a message.”
4. Erykah Badu, “On & On”
I played this song an unhealthy amount of times growing up. I was an extra deep kinda kid and fell completely in love with the southern Black angel singing so assuredly about her spirituality. It sounded like a mantra that I’m still living by.
5. EarthGang, JID, 6lack, Mereba & Jordxn Bryant, “Love Child”
We [Atlanta musical collective Spillage Village, featuring the aforementioned artists as well as Hollywood JB] made this song years ago, and I still come back to it often, because we really are love children. We’re each filled with a purpose that’s bigger than us, trying to unite people, free people through our music, and it’s just beautiful to hear all of us on a record together putting forth that message.
Mereba is celebrating the one-year anniversary of her debut album, The Jungle Is The Only Way Out, released last February. It features singles “Sandstorm” with JID and “Heatwave” alongside 6lack. The singer continues to honor Black History Month by creating a poem for Beats by Dre’s “Black Future Is Now” campaign.
Enjoy her playlist below.