Songs we love from forthright women using music as a platform to raise social and political awareness.
Sri Lankan-British hybrid hip-hop artist, M.I.A. has established herself as an advocate for Middle Eastern and South-Asian rights throughout her mainstream music career by continuously setting out to empower minority women (“Bad Girls”) and promote ‘third world democracy’ (“Paper Planes.”) In her latest project, M.I.A. boldly tackles the sensitive issue of refugee rights. With combative lyrics such as “Your privilege/ What’s up with that?/ Broke people/ What’s up with that?/ Boat people/ What’s up with that?” M.I.A., a refugee herself, confronts the western world and those in positions of power, prompting them to take a step back and recognize the unjust treatment of refugees in the UK and around the world. The hard-hitting world music/rap single, “Borders” is the debut track from M.I.A.’s upcoming album, Matahdatah, which is scheduled for release within 2016.
On our playlist: “Borders”
2. Erykah Badu
After the American hip-hip hop artist took just over a half-decade musical hiatus to pursue philanthropic endeavors, in late 2015, Erykah Badu satisfied her R&B/soul-deprived fan base with the release of her 11-song mixtape, . In the mixtape (which Badu casually polished off in less than two weeks) Badu focuses her societal lens on an acutely contemporary phenomenon -- the millennial generation’s complicated relationship with mobile phones. Touching on themes of dependence, miscommunication and alienation, Badu fuses technology and emotion to create a cohesive, thought provoking soundtrack of R&B, soul and electronic vibes.
On our playlist: “Hello” (Featuring a cameo from Badu’s high profile hip-hop ex-beau Andre 3000), “Phone Down” and “Cel U Lar Device” (A cover of Drake’s own phone themed chart-topper “Hotline Bling”)
3. Syd Tha Kyd – The Internet
In 2011, Syd Tha Kyd, the sole female member of LA based rap/hip-hop collective Odd Future, branched out from the ‘Wolf Gang’ to develop her own alternative R&B, soul, acid jazz and electronica group, the Internet. Syd has repeatedly asserted herself as a LGBTQ icon after coming out in the video for the band’s 2011 single, “Cocaine.” Throughout Ego Death (the band’s 2015 album) Syd shreds all personal boundaries in order to bring intimate narratives of same-sex relationship dynamics to the forefront of the mainstream music industry. In “Girl,” the album’s hypnotic love-anthem, Syd seduces us with lyrics like “Baby if I told you that you rock my world/I want you around me/ Would you let me call you my girl/ my girlfriend, my girlfriend?/I can give you the life you deserve, just say the word/And I got and more.”
On our Playlist: “Girl” (Featuring beats from emerging Canadian DJ, Kaytranada), “Special Affair”
4. FKA Twigs
FKA Twigs’s 2015 EP M3LL155X (for those of us less numerically inclined read Mellissa -- the name Twigs labels her ‘personal female energy’) features a tight track list of avant-garde tunes that illuminate and denounce the exploitative treatment of female performers by men (and the media in general) in the pop culture industry. “I’m Your Doll” touches on powerful themes of objectification and the modern male gaze, lyrically critiquing the myth of female passivity and sexual docility. FKA Twig’s accompanying music video to the EP, a 16-minute work of conceptual feminist art, uses props such an inflatable doll in order to visually provoke serious questions of sexual autonomy and female agency.
On our playlist: “Figure 8,”“I’m Your Doll,” “In Time”
5. Jillian Hervey – Lion Babe
Songstress Jillian Hervey makes up the female half of New York City duo, Lion Babe, a title she shares with DJ/producer Lucas Goodman. The neo-soul twosome just dropped their debut album, Begin on February 5th. The promotional single from the album, entitled “Wonder Woman” (produced by notorious #1 hit cultivator and brimmed hat enthusiast, Pharrell) takes a stance against cat-calling by narrating the experience of a no-nonsense woman asserting herself in the face of the all too familiar ‘feline’ act of sexual harassment. The empowering chorus of the hit chimes “I ain't gonna break for that/I'm a Wonder Woman (watch out!)/I ain't gonna take all that/I'm a Wonder Woman.”