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 Phony Ppl sharing their soundtrack today.
“Black History Month is a beautiful month for all people. The influence of the Black community to the world is immense,” Phony Ppl tells Billboard. “From music to architecture to inventions, Black people have been pushing the boundaries for years.”
“Black people and their contributions should be celebrated and praised all year round because without the influence of these creatives, the atmosphere of the arts would not be what it is today — not as groovy, not as funky,” the group continues. “Black people bring the soul, feeling, and a different passion to all of what they create. This playlist is to celebrate some songs our parents played for us when we were young, songs that have a very empowering message for our Black brothers and sisters, and songs that we all as a people come together and feel great to.”
The Brooklyn-born collective, who seamlessly fuse hip-hop and neo-soul, break down the decisions behind some of the key tracks they chose for the playlist:
1. Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit”
Billie Holiday wrote this song to shine light on the lynching of Black people in southern America. Songs talking on topics like this are very important for all people and races; it’s imperative to educate people on the past so it can be prevented in the future. Billie Holiday did it in the best way she saw fit… through her music and voice.
2. Gil Scott-Heron, “The Bottle”
This song is a recurring story in a Black community. Gil speaks on father figures succumbing to alcoholism. Mostly in the Black community, there is a liquor store on every other corner, placed there to corrupt the community; people fall into this spiral and pollute the kids and people around them, halting proper teachings of how to grow, how to be disciplined, and how to live as a Black man in this world.
3. Bob Marley and The Wailers, “Get Up, Stand Up”
Bob Marley was an amazing creative. He spoke for everyone, he spoke for the love. He represented the little man and the people that weren’t being heard. This song is for everyone, but the message really resonates with Black people. As a race, we had to educate ourselves and physically get out there and fight for our rights to be treated as equal.
4. Queen Latifah, “U.N.I.T.Y”
Queen Latifah was an amazing advocate for women in the ’90s. She promoted empowerment and individuality in an era where most females weren’t being heard. This song “U.N.I.T.Y” is a powerful anthem for all women to listen to and not be disrespected and overlooked.
5. The Spinners, “It’s a Shame”
This song is just a fun song. Black people made some of the most entertaining, fun-to-listen-to songs. Motown really inspired a lot of the sounds in the music industry. Without the sounds of Motown soul music, funk music would really be lacking. This song reminds us of being young, and our parents playing great music for our young, impressionable ears.
6. Notorious B.I.G, “Juicy”
Growing up in Brooklyn was no easy feat. Even with all of the obstacles Biggie faced, he used his environment and his talents to bring him to a place of success. This song shows that even in the roughest environments, using your circumstances, talents, and time to develop your craft can lead you to success. Don’t settle and be content in the place where you are; there is always room to grow.
Phony Ppl dropped “Fkn Around,” their collaboration with Megan Thee Stallion, on Jan. 31. The groovy track was first teased on the rapper’s NPR Tiny Desk Concert in December. The group’s most recent album, m?’z?-ik, was released in 2018.
Enjoy their playlist below.