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 rap/R&B producer and 10 Summers label head Mustard sharing his soundtrack today.
“My Black History Month playlist is a collection of records that stood out to me while I was growing up,” Mustard tells Billboard, “some for their production that would later help me mold my sound, others for just showing me how big and impactful a record can become.”
He continues: “[These songs] are simply meaningful to me and represent moments in my life that have helped me obtain the success I’m blessed to have achieved so far in my career. Regardless of how or why, this is the list that best represents my Black history.”
Below, Mustard dives into some of his favorite tracks on his playlist.
1. Marvin Gaye, “What’s Going On”
The older I get, the more I appreciate records like this that speak to the injustices going on around the world. This was before my time, but will always be a staple in our Black history.
2. Al Green, “Let’s Stay Together”
Oldies like this stay on my personal playlists. It’s what my mom use to listen to while I was a kid. [The song is] so soulful and supports Black love.
3. Mustard feat. Migos, “Pure Water”
This was my first charting record as an artist. [Editor’s Note: “Pure Water” peaked at No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100] I had [achieved this] for other artists many times, but working on my own album and being responsible for the record’s success is a feeling I can’t describe. It helped me show the world I was more than a producer, by going No. 1 on multiple formats at radio and [hitting Top 40] on the Billboard Hot 100.
4. Mustard feat. Roddy Ricch, “Ballin’”
This record solidified my space as an artist, getting me to [No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topping the Rhythmic chart]. “Ballin’” made it clear that “Pure Water” wasn’t a [matter] of luck.
5. Nipsey Hussle feat. Roddy Ricch, “Racks in the Middle”
This will be a record I spin for Nipsey in all my sets; he’s a part of my history and it’s important to keep his legacy alive. He’s one of the most impactful Black history leaders of my generation.
6. Mustard feat. Nipsey Hussle, “Perfect Ten”
I have so much music with Nip I’ll never release, this record was one he started for my album, and although we lost him before he could finish, I still made sure it was on there. I didn’t feel right adding anyone else to the record, so I got creative and made sure I used only his words to finish my album right.
7. Jay-Z, “Imaginary Players”
Big homie [Jay-Z] is one of the biggest inspirations both inside and outside of the booth. This record is a good example of the types of gems he’s given us all that have shaped my outlook on this business and life in general.
8. Jay-Z ft Blue Ivy, “Glory”
I thought this was really dope; he put his daughter on a record and stays true to showing us his foresight to establishing his newborn with publishing, and instantly gives her a steady stream of income.
9. Kanye West, “Last Call”
I didn’t hear this when it first came out but listened to it years ago, and was inspired to do the same kind of outro for my album Cold Summer. I like how honest he was with his story for people listening.
10. Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg, “Nuthin’ But a G Thang”
11. Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg, “Still D.R.E.”
When Dr. Dre came back with this song as the single for his follow-up album, I remember it smacked everyone in the face that thought it was over for him. Look at him now; he’ll forever be my biggest inspiration behind the boards.
12. Meek Mill, “Dreams and Nightmares”
To this day — and probably forever — Meek Mill made the best intro song to an album we’ve seen. It goes up in the club like it came out yesterday.
13. YG feat. Jeezy & Rich Homie Quan, “My N—a”
This record took my brother YG to the next level. It put him on the map in a way he hadn’t been yet, and forever changed both of our lives. [Editor’s Note: Mustard co-produced “My N—a” alongside Mike Free.]
14. 2Pac, “Ambitionz Az a Ridah”
The beat was simple, the lyrics as honest as they come. This record was before my time, but nonetheless is still relevant to people younger than me. It’s timeless.
15. 2Pac, “Keep Ya Head Up”
This is a classic record that I know speaks to everyone growing up in communities like I did, around the world.
16. 2Pac, “Dear Mama”
This song is still the best mama-dedicated record I’ve ever heard.
Mustard’s latest album, Perfect Ten, was released last June. It features singles “Pure Water,” “Baguettes in the Face” and the Grammy-nominated “Ballin’.”
Listen to his playlist — which also includes Jay-Z’s “Glory” featuring Blue Ivy and Dr. Dre’s “Nuthin’ But a G Thang” with Snoop Dogg (both aren’t available to stream on Spotify) — below.