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 and producer Orion Sun sharing her soundtrack today.
“Black history in 2020 and beyond is and will always be a celebration,” Orion Sun (whose real name is Tiffany Majette) tells Billboard. “Black history is a story of resilience and strength, creativity in its purest form; lemons into lemonade but also using those lemons to scent candles and dye shirts, etc. We are innovative, intelligent, versatile, adaptable … honestly, the list could go on forever.”
The singer continues: “I’m so proud and honored to be Black and my wish is to add to the growing list of amazing Black people making our country and our world a better place. Because of studying my past, I am equipped for today and beyond. Black history is now.”
The rising singer, who hails from Philadelphia, shares the inspiration behind some of the tunes found on her playlist:
1. Mary J. Blige feat. Lil’ Kim, “I Can Love You”
I have fond memories of rapping Lil’ Kim’s part with my mom as a kid. These women are so important to Black history. Such a great collaboration between women and just in general. BANGER ALERT!
2. The Notorious B.I.G, “Suicidal Thoughts”
This song has a special place in my heart because it was the first secular song I heard that showed me vulnerability in a man, but also a Black man. I felt his pain and couldn’t believe he was so brave to share how he was feeling.
I got into music mainly because I wasn’t the best at communicating how I was feeling a lot, and this song showed me that there is freedom in writing how I really felt. Before this revelation, I was that girl who addressed my journal as if the pages were gonna read themselves when I closed the cover. Some preteen girl in a movie s–t, haha: “Dear journal … goodnight, journal.”
Black people should have more freedom to express how they feel without being labeled stupid things like “angry Black women” or [people telling us to] “man up.”
3. Kirk Franklin, “It Would Take All Day”
Kirk Franklin is a huge [staple] in Black history to me. My mom rarely let me listen to things that weren’t gospel, and I didn’t mind that much ’cause Kirk made it fun. To this day the harmonies, messages, rhythms move me and make me feel grateful for life. Being a queer woman and loving gospel always feels like a paradox, but I can’t let this music go. It’s some of the most beautiful examples of organized sound.
4. Earth, Wind & Fire, “In the Stone”
LEGENDS. PERIOD! Every time I hear a song by these guys, it’s instantly sunny in my head. I’m also compelled to want to go out somewhere so I can dance! I wish people danced more.
5. Lauryn Hill, “Ex-Factor”
[This brings back] warm memories of laying in the back seat of a car my mom used to have, my eyes closed seeing orange whenever the sun bled through the car window. I was much smaller than I am now, listening to mom belt the bridge, “Care for me, care for me.” We were probably on my way to my grandma’s house to play outside all day. Ms. Hill was a comfort to me.
6. Ella Fitzgerald, “People Will Say We’re in Love”
Ella’s voice is so smooth. Her tone is everything. This was a song I listened to a lot when I was beginning to fall in love with my soul mate. Sending a song to someone is really romantic to me. I just wanna thank Ella for soundtracking so many people’s love experiences. I strive for her greatness.
7. Alicia Keys, “You Don’t Know My Name”
Woooo, this song when I first heard it sent me flying. Kanye West on production and Alicia Keys singing so beautifully and that little monologue in the middle of the song… *chef’s kiss* perfection. This song definitely made me really excited about music. It’s a perfect blend of hip-hop and R&B — which is my favorite combination — and is an iconic collaboration. Plus the video with Mos Def? C’mon now. Beautiful Black history.
Orion Sun recently shared new single “Coffee for Dinner,” which is found on her upcoming debut album, Hold Space for Me (out March 27). She will be supporting the LP with a spring tour that kicks off on April 22; get the dates and details on her website.
Listen to her BHM playlist below.