The best songs to start your semester

Jeffrey Kelly | @jeffkellyjr, Culture Editor

“Legacy” by Jay-Z

“Legacy” shares Jay-Z’s thoughts on what legacy he will leave his children. The lyrics are over an upbeat production, but details the various members of the Carter family and how they carried the name.

“BLACK EFFECT” by the Carters 

Starting with advice from an older and wise woman, Beyoncé and Jay-Z lay out various aspects of Black history, such as the Chitlin Circuit and cornrows, to paint a picture of where Black people and our culture stand now. As our culture develops and shifts, it will always rely on aspects of our history.

“Chaining Day” by J. Cole

Cole explores the culture of people equating success to materialistic items such as expensive chains. He continues by explaining how such chains hinder individuals and prohibit them from leaving behind a true legacy that holds value.

“If I Ruled the World” by Nas and Lauryn Hill

Nas and Lauryn Hill dive into what they would do “if they ruled the world.” This song touches on the type of legacy both Nas and Lauryn Hill would like to leave behind if they had all of the power to do so in the world. One topic the song touches on heavily is freeing people from the constraints of the world and revealing the power within the African diaspora.

“What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong

As Louis Armstrong quaintly reflects on the aspects of this world and what makes it wonderful, he settles on the idea that it is people and the legacies they leave behind that allow the world to simply be “wonderful.” 

“BIGGER” by Beyoncé 

Beyoncé’s call to see that our purpose is bigger than our individual experience is woven into the lyrics of “BIGGER.” This song is one to pick you up off the ground and help you “step in your essence” and rise to meet your truest potential so that you may pass on what you have learned in this life. 

“I Am Blessed” by Nina Simone 

With “I Am Blessed,” a track from her third album, “Broadway-Blues-Ballads,” Nina Simone is in perfect form. Her dramatic silky vocals over the jazzy production have a cinematic “end credit” quality to them that feels serene. As she sings about “a love worth more than gold” her voice mimics the intense feelings of yearning and peace the lyrics discuss. 

“Good Golly Miss Molly” by Little Richard

Little Richard’s legacy in laying the foundations of rock ‘n’ roll is indisputable. With the simple swing beat and melodic piano work with a toe-tapping string bass to match, every aspect of modern rock music is foreshadowed in this track. Little Richard was just one of many Black artists who triumphed in the face of adversity and racism to create one of the most world-renowned and celebrated music genres of all time.

“Turning Wheel” by Spellling 

“Turning Wheel” by Spellling, the Oakland artist otherwise known as Chrystia Cabral, is the titular track of her third studio album. Its upbeat yet languid production makes for an ethereal track that resembles the work of ‘80s pop artist, Kate Bush. 

“Bad Blood” by Nao 

On Apple Music, English singer, Nao describes her work as “wonky funk,” and with the track “Bad Blood” from her debut studio album, “For All We Know,” that definition seems to hold true. With the track, Nao’s angelic vocals skillfully dance between vocal registers as the bouncy funk production offers surprise after surprise until the track ends. 

“The Love I Need” by Girlhood 

In 2017, the London duo Girlhood was credited with making “some of London’s best new music” by Complex and with their track “The Love I Need” from their 2020 album “Girlhood,” they continue to uphold that mantle. The song embodies the joyous thrills of community and peace. 

Just the Two of Us by Will Smith

Will Smith dedicates this song to his first son Trey. It has a sample from a Bill Whithers song, also named, “Just the Two of Us” which is about a couple, but Smith’s rendition is about the love between father and son. 

“Mama” by Ray BLK 

From her debut album, “Empress,” the single “Mama” is a smooth R&B track that interpolates 2Pac’s “Dear Mama,” and evokes a similar emotion. BLK’s poetic lyrics seem to perfectly match the mid tempo production and the sentiment of love BLK seems to express through the song. 

This story was published in the Legacy Edition. View the complete issue here.

Questions? Email the Culture desk at culture@cw.ua.edu.