A Playlist for the Ages
Fifty provocative and sometimes unexpected songs that capture the mood of our nation — from one music fanatic’s perspective.
As a nation, it can feel like we are polarized on everything from mask-wearing to Hawaiian shirts. But what does a divided states sound like? After all, these fissures run long and deep, but music has the potential to bring us together, in fandom, on the dancefloor, or even as a release valve.
We ask one of our favorite music curators, Naivasha Colette Thomas (seriously check out her Spotify playlists), to put together a playlist of 50 tracks that, for her, brings to life the state and mood of our nation today.
The result is an artfully sequenced journey that makes you think. And boogie. And rage. Press play to start the playlist, or click on the Spotify icon to open in the app:
⚠️ It *must* be consumed with the companion piece she’s written below, which gives insight into her selections with the power of poetry:
"My brother and my sister don't speak to me
but I don't blame them."
We, the people, honor and protect a land built on freedom yet stolen from its natives - our brothers and our sisters. You say exploration, I say colonization. Potato, potato; we all eat the same maize. The first step in cleansing our fruit is removing impurities yet the blood of America covers our roots. Instead of just washing off, it leaves an active fungus on the skin— flaring up when the camera is on or just when it's time to steal again. In the land of milk and honey, things aren't as fair as they seem, the factory supply is tainted and unable to sustain our needs. Doesn't matter now, we're all vegan or keto. Dichotomy comes in everything but pure nature. There is no comparing water, earth, or air but human behavior will make a challenger out of anything. People make the world go round yet we all come from somewhere else. Destined to penetrate Mars while seemingly unfamiliar with the bottom of Earth's oceans. We're all just walking contradictions.
We, the people, know everything but nothing except for the fact that Wu-tang Klan ain't nothing to fuck with. A sabotage of the mind to think about how many punk movements evolved from gossip to gospel, just to rage against the machine. Welcome to the jungle where we are all losers but don't kill us just yet. Not before we taste the devil's pie after a hit of crack music. Black music, the first punk movement. An impossible knot to untangle as we still have to fight the power to be heard. With enough time, twelve minutes and sixteen seconds to be exact, we can imagine a change of guard to our oppression or maybe just our oppressors. Evil Nigger, guess this is the best time to let you, the reader, know that I'm black. Black woman, liberator, instigator but most importantly, a boss in a fucking dress. A pretty paradox to social expectations.
We, the people, requested "Smack My Bitch Up" in the nineties and wonder why women still don't feel liberated. Even though what we do it wrong, we often mask it as our best efforts. This is America. Cowboys and Indians and the celebrities that play them in movies. Talking about my generation. From LA to NY, the streets stay on fire. Not just Watts riots or the Bronx burning but the little ghetto boys that long to be seen as more than a monolith. Gil said that this show would not be televised but that was before screens controlled our lives. No names, just handles. Steered like cattle through a weary mad world. Who's gonna save your soul? Who is going to tell you that precious little island that you call paradise is just Alcatraz? It's all a dividing line.
"It's the mystery of Inequity
Said it's the misery of Inequity
Said it's the history of Inequity
When it all
All falls down
Telling you all
It all falls down"
We, the people, with hands raised up to heaven or just the wind for any feeling. A fight for redemption in a nutshell. Don't nobody know our troubles but God. We try to love something higher that can release us from ourselves. "He made this world, took it and gave it back again, And we learned, no-thing." A blazing volcano of truth where we escape merely crosseyed and painless. As I watch my old church home drown in the news, I'm unbothered. It was all expected. Been losing my religion since my youth but the spirit will always raise up. A joyous observation of them changes, life changes. Slow like molasses or fast like the streets of Baltimore. "Mazes in black, fire in the west." This playlist is sort of a revolution. A softening to the contrast that is our existence. United but divided, we the people, must turn up the volume in order to live in this moment— don't mute it, don't lose it.
"now picture a ppl w/ vision
a ppl not pressured
no fear and oppression
religion or gender
they poison thee water
we not Buddhist or Muslims
or born again Christians
we upping thee ante
we ain't thee systems
feel all these feelings
and live in this moment"
I NEVER LEARNT TO SHARE - JAMES BLAKE
BLOOD OF AN AMERICAN - BOBBY WRIGHT
LAND OF THE MILK + HONEY - FLYING LOTUS
PEOPLE MAKE THE WORLD GO ROUND - THE STYLISTICS
TRIUMPH - WUTANG CLAN
SABOTAGE - BEASTIE BOYS
HEAVY CROSS - GOSSIP
KILLING IN THE NAME - RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE
UNTITLED 03 - KENDRICK LAMAR
WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE - GUNS N' ROSES
LOSER - BECK
DEVILS PIE- D'ANGELO
CRACK MUSIC - KANYE WEST FT THE GAME
IMPOSSIBLE KNOTS - THOM YORKE
FIGHT THE POWER- PUBLIC ENEMY
BOSS - LITTLE SIMZ
SMACK MY BITCH UP - PRODIGY
WHAT WE DO - FREEWAY
THIS IS AMERICA - CHILDISH GAMBINO
MY GENERATION - THE WHO
AIN’T IT FUN - PARAMORE
STREETS ON FIRE - LUPE FIASCO
LITTLE GHETTO BOY- DONNY HATHAWAY
THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED - GIL SCOTT- HERON
BLAXPLOITATION - NONAME
WEARY - SOLANGE
MAD WORLD - TEARS FOR FEARS
WHO'S GONNA SAVE MY SOUL - GNARL'S BARKLEY
YOUR CHANCE OF A LIFETIME - ALCATRAZ
MYSTERY OF INIQUITY - MS LAURYN HILL
REDEMPTION - NATHANIEL RATELIFF
NUTSHELL - ALICE IN CHAINS
TROUBLE SO HARD - VERA HALL
LIFE AS A FISH - N.E.R.D.
CROSSEYED AND PAINLESS - TALKING HEADS
LOSING MY RELIGION - R.E.M.
RAISE UP - KINDNESS
THEM CHANGES - THUNDERCAT
BALTIMORE - JAZMINE SULLIVAN
SORT OF REVOLUTION - FINK
BLK SYMPOSIUM - DEFSOUND
LASTLY! If you resonate with MTTR’s mission and purpose — to come together around what divides us to create understanding and common ground — please join our new Slack Community. In it, you’ll see channels for the Collections we’re working on; books, music and podcasts that inspire us; events we’re tuning into; things that we’re rethinking and unlearning; opportunities, announcements, and more. It’ll also be a way for you to have the first look at MTTR's platform as it comes to life.