I recently read this article about how male rappers can get it wrong so often when trying to speak for or empower black women. As a result, I’ve decided to compile a list of five songs where they get it right. These songs are not men trying to speak for women. These are songs of encouragement and appreciation
1.) Africana by Los Rakas
Los Rakas are a Panamanian-American duo from Oakland, California. They are made up of the cousins Raka Rich and Raka Dun and combine elements of reggae, dancehall, and Hip-Hop. In this song, off their most recent album El Negrito Dun Dun & Ricardo, Los Rakas are able to appreciate black female bodies without hypersexualizing those bodies. Oh, and it’s in Spanish.
2.) Brown Skin lady by Blackstar
Blackstar is the combination of Mos Def (Now Yasiin Bey) and Talib Kweli, two formidable emcees in their own right. In their singular album, Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Blackstar, Blackstar touch on a plethora of social topics salient to black America. One of these is the negative portrayals of black women. In this song, they admit, “we’re not dealing with the European standard of beauty tonight/Turn off the TV, put the magazine away.” Like Africana by Los Rakas, Blackstar are able to celebrate black women without the stereotypes and hypersexualization.
3.) The Beauty Within by Dead Prez
Dead Prez is known for their politically charged raps and Afrocentric themes. This song by the group is dedicated “not to America’s next top model, but to the natural girls right next door” With storytelling lyrics, this song is styled almost like a love story. Definitely one to throw in the rotation.
4.) Black Girl Pain by Talib Kweli ft. Jean Grae
With a powerful chorus sung by kids, Talib Kweli and Jean Grae both expertly express the pain associated with being a black girl. “She got a black girl name, She living black girl pain.” But they still manage to give it a hopeful sound. With his typical lyrical wizardry, Talib Kweli’s ode to black girls is strong and emotive. Jean Grae’s repetition of names is equally stirring and creates a level of closeness that emphasizes the message.
5.) Keep Ya Head Up by Tupac
Last but not least, Keep Ya Head Up is probably the most famous song on this list. Off Tupac’s album Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z; this song is for the women. With lyrics like, “Some say the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice, I say the darker the flesh then the deeper the roots,” the theme centers on empowerment. In contrast to many rappers, Tupac is able to implicate the men who put women in tough situations to begin with and to acknowledge that “ since a man can’t make one, he has no right to tell a women when and where to create one.” This song could serve as a blueprint on how to make a song appreciating women without mansplaining all over it.