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Protest Songs by Kendrick Lamar, James Brown & More Experience Enormous Streaming Increases

Both older and newer songs of protest have experienced enormous bumps in streaming activity in the weeks following the killing of George Floyd, and the subsequent public protesting that has engulfed the world.

This Tuesday (June 2) in particular saw a number of timely songs spiking in streaming consumption, in large part due to the debut of Spotify’s Black Lives Matter playlist, introduced in the midst of the #TheShowMustBePaused and #BlackOutTuesday movements. James Brown’s 1968 hit “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud,” whose Pt. 1 leads off the 58-song playlist, experienced one of the biggest jumps, going from just over 2,000 combined audio and video streams the Tuesday before (May 26) to 375,000 streams this Tuesday, according to initial reports from Nielsen Music/MRC Data — an increase of 15,740%.


The two most currently popular songs on the playlist both broke a million streams for June 2: Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 To Pimp a Butterfly single “Alright” and Childish Gambino’s 2018 Billboard Hot 100-topper “This Is America.” “Alright,” which has since come to be viewed as a modern civil rights anthem, racked up 1.162 million streams on Tuesday, up from just 131,000 a week before (787% increase). “This Is America,” whose provocative video blazed through the Internet two years ago, was even more widely played this Tuesday, notching 1.826 million streams, compared to 273,000 seven days earlier (570% increase).

Several newer songs addressing police shootings also experienced huge Tuesday bumps. Those included The Game’s Michael Brown tribute “Don’t Shoot” (featuring Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, Diddy, Fabolous, Wale, DJ Khaled, Swizz Beatz, Yo Gotti, Currensy, Problem, King Pharaoh and TGT), Vic Mensa’s “16 Shots” and Killer Mike’s “Don’t Die” — all of which saw percentage increases in the tens of thousands from a week earlier. YG and Nipsey Hussle’s unforgettable 2016 screed against our then-soon-to-be-45th president, “FDT,” also boomed in listenership, increasing 1,106% in streams from the Tuesday prior.


Older songs also saw similar increases on Tuesday, including a pair of still-urgent ’70s soul classics in Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ “Wake Up Everybody” (up 1,363% from a week earlier) and the Five Stairsteps’ “O-o-h Child” (up 262%). Meanwhile, a pair of confrontational golden age rap protest perennials — Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” and N.W.A’s “F–k tha Police” — experienced a less-extreme Tuesday bump (likely due to their lower placement in the Spotify playlist) but grew incrementally in streaming consumption throughout the week, with “Fight the Power” rising 858% and “F–k tha Police” 655% from a week earlier.

Here is an alphabetical list of 15 of the protest songs that drew the biggest increases in streaming between last Tuesday (May 26) and this Tuesday (June 2):

2Pac, “Keep Ya Head Up” 
111,000 streams to 436,000 streams (292% increase)

Beyoncé feat. Kendrick Lamar, “Freedom”
36,000 to 264,000 (625% increase)

Childish Gambino, “This Is America”
273,000 to 1,826,000 (569.5% increase)

Five Stairsteps, “O-o-h Child”
73,000 to 265,000 (262% increase)


Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, “Wake Up Everybody”
13,000 to 195,000 (1,363% increase)

James Brown, “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud”
2,000 to 375,000 (15,740% increase)

Kendrick Lamar, “Alright”
131,000 to 1,162,000 (787% increase)

Killer Mike, “Don’t Die”
2,000 to 547,000 (36,254% increase)

N.W.A, “F–k tha Police”
77,000 to 579,000 (655% increase)

Public Enemy, “Fight the Power”
19,000 to 178,000 (858% increase)

Sam Cooke, “A Change Is Gonna Come”
64,000 to 239,000 (271% increase)

Solange feat. Lil Wayne, “Mad”
14,000 to 232,000 (1,700% increase)

The Game feat. Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, Diddy, Fabolous, Wale, DJ Khaled, Swizz Beatz, Yo Gotti, Currensy, Problem, King Pharaoh & TGT, “Don’t Shoot”
111,000 to 436,000 (292% increase)

Vic Mensa, “16 Shots” 
2,000 to 237,000 (15,022% increase)

YG & Nipsey Hussle, “FDT” 
19,000 to 233,000 (1,106% increase)