London-based soul singer and songwriter Iyamah delves into an exploration of her identity in her second Truth EP – growing up with a white mum in Brighton, moving to London and the passing of her Black father set a journey in motion of discovering her roots and connecting with her Black identity.
Iyamah’s selected ten songs which reflect this experience. Listen to Truth EP 2 on this playlist or stream here.
Iyamah’s 10 Best Songs About Black Identity
MARVIN GAYE – WHAT’S GOING ON?
This is such a heartfelt song, yet so enjoyable to listen to and makes you want to move. Why is that? It could be that the music is positive but the message is meaningful.
However, it’s not until this pandemic that I listened back and realised how relevant the lyrics really are still today. It just makes you think how many generations have been fighting for the same things, for world peace. Great song.
ARETHA FRANKLIN – RESPECT
You can’t hear this song, or any songs sung by Aretha for that matter, and simply not sing along.
Her vocal is probably the most powerful out of the bunch, and there aren’t many voices like hers today.
To release a song about having ‘Respect’ for a black woman is something that will never get old, as it’s something women are still fighting to this moment. This is a classic, and have big RESPECT for the empowerment!
SAM COOKE – A CHANGE IS GONNA COME
I think it’s a song that everyone has listened to at least once this year. It’s sad really, that we still sing it with such hope that a change really is going to come, because without hope, what do we have?
JILL SCOTT – THE FACT IS (I NEED YOU)
I found it difficult to pick one song from Queen Jill as she is certainly in my top 3 female artists, however this song has always stuck with me. I feel that as black women especially, we are always promoting that we are strong individuals who don’t need anyone, and that we are enough on our own, which is very true.
However, I believe it’s a beautiful thing to say that ‘even though I can do all these things by myself, the fact is… I need you.’
Because let’s be honest, sometimes, women need men, just as equally as men need women. We need each other, and that’s what makes the world go round.
If we can learn to work together, respect each other and support each other in the right ways, then maybe we will see that it isn’t such a bad thing!
MOS DEF – SUNSHINE
Here is another timeless artist, who I simply will never get bored of. It’s originality, perfectly chosen and placed samples and the most satisfying drums that hit hard that make Mos Def a favourite of mine.
‘Let the sunshine in’ is something that we must do often, see the light in tough times, and remember that no matter how dark it feels inside and out, the sunshine will always come back, if we let it.
INDIE ARIE – BROWN SKIN
This song is my favourite from Indie Arie, so effortlessly simple and and naturally sang. I feel that we don’t say enough just how beautiful our skin really is, and it’s definitely something to be noticed and celebrated.
We are often aware, but to take the detail into such a way which is a love song of course, yet paying attention to the details in it, which are sometimes missed. “Apparently your skin has been kissed by the sun”.
LAURYN HILL – I GOTTA FIND PEACE OF MIND
Being trapped in your own mind, the struggles of finding peace in your own mind. This is the rawest form of a song you can find, and it hits you hard.
Lauryn is another favourite of mine of course, but this MTV performance is something else. You feel the pain she’s feeling, and the emotions that the audience are receiving, as she fully immerses herself into the song, allowing herself to be fully vulnerable. This is the power of a true artist.
JOEY BADASS – LAND OF THE FREE
“We can’t change the world unless we change ourselves”… Joey Badass has always been extremely gifted at lyricism but here he is very clearly stating emergency on America, pointing out the exact problems in which we are facing, and what is needed to be done in order to make a change.
You could learn more about black history from this song than you ever did in your history lessons at school. Speaking to everyone as a whole world, that this is urgent, and this needs to be heard.
SAMPA THE GREAT – ENERGY
Something we all don’t talk about enough, even though it’s all around us, we can feel it but don’t quite understand it enough.. is energy. In fact, Sampa puts it so well, the pain, the lies, balance, the Divine Feminine… she speaks about it all.
If we were all more aware of the power we have through energy, then I feel we wouldn’t need to be so easily fooled by the elite. Energy doesn’t lie.
SACRIFICES – EARTHGANG, J.COLE, SMINO, SABA
It’s hard to understand some of the lyrics in the verse, however, having a voice as captivating as Jonny Venus, it’s hard to not pay attention to the emotion conveyed in the message, with a powerful chorus which speaks from a very honest place of asking “Maybe that’s what life is, bloody sacrifices”.
This is a powerful collaboration, including J. Cole bringing his own sauce to the table. This is a tune you will listen to over and over again.
All being well, catch Iyamah at London’s Jazz Cafe on 2 February 2021.