Add these activist artists to your self-care soundtrack and you’ll soon find yourself inspired into action.
by Danielle Dorsey
When Gil Scott-Heron declared that “The revolution will not be televised,” I doubt he imagined it’d be happening on social media instead. And yet here we are.
A blathering, egotistical man-child has been elected leader of the so-called “Free World,” and many of us fear our country is regressing. We watched suspiciously as he assembled a cabinet of like-minded deplorables whose only shared qualification was a lack of criticism towards his policies and ideas. We questioned whether his rivalries with celebrities were a choreographed distraction, or if a grown man could truly be so recklessly impulsive. Many of us struggled to work alongside people who defended his words, had to share meals with loved ones who ignored the intersections of our identities. He’s still #notmypresident.
We’re all a bit stumped as to how to move forward. We know which organizations need our support, we’ve got our scripts ready and know which representatives to call, but what will long-lasting change look like? Will this movement be able to hold our reduced attention spans? It’s difficult to be patient when these freedoms are long overdue.
For centuries, artists have provided a voice to societies under siege. They have incited movements with their eloquence and reminded us to dance during harrowing times.
There’s no doubt we have a lot of work ahead of us, but we can only do as good for others as we’re doing for ourselves. Add these revolutionary artists to your self-care soundtrack and you’ll soon find yourself inspired into action:1. Madame Gandhi
Kiran Gandhi is an LA-based musician, artist and activist who uses the name Madame Gandhi for her live music performances. You might remember her from the 2015 London Marathon, where she made a bold statement by free-bleeding throughout the race. Former drummer to M.I.A, Madame Gandhi’s electro-leaning music reveals her activist leanings in songs like “The Future is Female,” which proclaims that, “I am just talking about loving the femme/I ain’t talking bout nobody else/Toxic masculinity has to end.” Blast her Voices EP while you scribble angry postcards to local representatives.
After keeping fans waiting for two years, Chicago rapper/poet Noname released her debut mixtape Telefone to critical acclaim in the summer of 2016. Formerly known as Noname Gypsy, she dropped the second part of her stage name when she learned of its problematic implications. Expertly fusing hip hop with R&B, Telefone is gospel-like in its reverence of Black culture and a bittersweet tribute to the city that raised her. Created when Noname didn’t have a computer and her entire life existed in her phone, Telefone explores heavy subjects cloaked in optimistic beats. Plug it in during a relaxing bath to complete your self-care ritual.
3. Xenia Rubino
Afro-Latina musician Xenia Rubino’s sophomore album Black Terry Cat is a retrospective jam session that touches on issues of police brutality, the intersections of identity and inequalities in the work force. On “I Won’t Say,” she borrows lines from Civil Rights activist Abbey Lincoln’s 1966 essay “Who Will Revere the Black Woman?” and in “See Them” she revisits synthy punk themes from her first album, saying, “You know where to put the brown girl when she’s fuckin’ it up. Where you gonna put the brown girl now she’s tearin’ it up?” Though Rubino at first shied away from making political music, the current climate has encouraged her to be more open about her experiences as a Brown woman in America.
4. Helado Negro
Helado Negro is a veteran in the music industry, but it was his fifth studio album, Private Energy, that earned him the most mainstream appeal. Much of that can be credited to his understated single “Young, Latin, and Proud,” which came like a battle cry at the height of Trump’s racist declarations. Another track from the album, “It’s My Brown Skin,” is a tender ode to self-love and a celebration of diverse hues. Singing in both Spanish and English, Helado Negro’s music ventures into psychedelic pop while remaining rooted in a light-hearted grooviness that your toes can’t help tapping to.
If you’re looking for in-your-face rebellion, try queer, Afro-Latina artist Princess Nokia, who pays homage to the Riot Grrl movement by insisting that women be allowed to the front of the crowd at her shows. In her witchy single “Brujas,” she repeatedly warns, “Don’t you fuck with my energy!” And in “Tomboy,” she exalts, “My little titties and my fat belly,” praising alternative forms of female expression. Let Princess Nokia’s self-released 1992 EP be your hype music before the next march.
6. Jamila Woods
Another Chi-town staple, you probably recognize Jamila Woods from her standout vocals on Chance the Rapper’s single “Blessings.” The rapper, along with Noname, Saba and other local talents, are featured on Woods’ debut album HEAVN, which was hailed as one of the best of 2016. Chock-full of affirmations and expertly placed social criticism, Woods’ poetic roots shine through on tracks like “Blk Girl Soldier” that celebrate the resilience of Black women without stripping them of vulnerability.
7. Shea Diamond
Trans musician Shea Diamond began writing her single “I Am Her” shortly after being released from men’s prison in 2009. She served 10 years, but during that time was able to bond with other incarcerated trans women who helped her embrace her truth. Fans are still waiting for a full album release from the artist, but “I Am Her” is a bold and bluesy anthem for the meantime.
Released at the beginning of this year, Killer Mike and El-P set the bar high with their third release, Run the Jewels 3. The duo have carved out a new genre of resistance rap, taking systemic oppression and all its accomplices to task. Freedoms are already being challenged and it’s clear a Trump presidency will require us to step up in new ways; this album won’t let you back down.
Danielle Dorsey is a pansexual, kink-positive Black womyn who is native to Southern California and currently resides in Los Angeles. She is passionate about lending her voice to support worthwhile causes, and is the founder/organizer of Free the Nipple Yoga, a monthly womyn’s workshop that promotes body positivity and empowerment. Danielle is a regular contributor to The Africa Channel and Matador Network, and you can find her personal blog at DanielleDorky.com.