Juneteenth 2022: Freedom Songs

Apple Music
Juneteenth 2022: Freedom Songs

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, takes its name from June 19, 1865, the day General Gordon Granger and Union troops finally arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced to slaves in the state that they were free—an entire two-and-a-half years after Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, the executive order outlawing slavery in the United States. Though Juneteenth has been observed by many Black Americans since 1866, often with parades, picnics, and other celebrations, its declaration as a federal holiday in 2021 has highlighted both the continued tragic effects of chattel slavery and the irreplaceable contributions of Black Americans and the descendants of slaves. In observance of that ideal, Apple Music celebrates Juneteenth 2022 with Freedom Songs, a collection of exclusively commissioned new songs from Black creatives like Elena Pinderhughes, Kranium, Lupe Fiasco, Alex Isley, 6LACK, and Brittney Spencer, to name a few. Some have contributed original compositions, while others have chosen to cover existing songs that speak to the spirit of the holiday. Listen to the stories their selections tell as we celebrate Juneteenth and the invaluable legacy of Black music. *Bun B, “This Is What We Do”* “If you didn’t know me and you heard this song, at the very least you would see that I’m about family, I’m about tradition, I’m about legacy and heritage,” Bun B says of “This Is What We Do,” his contribution to Apple Music’s Freedom Songs 2022. “And that you should be, too. Because Juneteenth is not just—obviously, it’s an African American historical event, but it’s also just American. Juneteenth is a way of acknowledging, ‘Yes, this happened in America. Yes, we started the process of dissolving it, but it was a very slow and steady process that is still not fully formed.’ We always have to be aware of that.” *Elena Pinderhughes, “Get Away”* For Juneteenth 2022, California-born singer and flautist Elena Pinderhughes wrote “Get Away,” which speaks to the gratitude she has for being able to free her mind. “I’ve been celebrating how people are breaking out of boundaries, creating new ways of being and making,” Pinderhughes says. “I’ve been celebrating the increased conversation around the importance of Black mental health and self-care and the ways that we are demanding our rights to it. I continue to celebrate the power of Black women and the change that we make. I also think of the words of the poet Lucille Clifton: ‘Come celebrate with me that everyday something has tried to kill me and has failed.’” *Alex Isley, “We Are One”* R&B singer-songwriter Alex Isley chose to take on “We Are One” by Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly, “because their music is just so celebratory and filled with so much joy.” Juneteenth, in particular, is a holiday on which Isley says she can look inward and appreciate her journey as a Black creative. “There’s power in my authenticity, and I’m just grateful for life,” Isley says. “I am a daughter, I’m a mother, I’m a friend. So, just practicing gratitude, I think that’s a big part of Juneteenth: the gratitude and celebration of who we are and the pride of that and the beauty and the richness of our culture and our power.” *Lupe Fiasco, “Galveston”* “I try to make things that establish emotion and utility so that not only can people feel it, but they can actually do something with it,” Lupe Fiasco says. “There’s only so much utility you can have in music, but it all boils back down to education and instruction.” For Apple Music’s Freedom Songs 2022, Fiasco created “Galveston,” a song that forces us to reckon with the unimaginably high cost of freedom. “‘Galveston’ is about taking Juneteenth, which is normally a celebration of a very specific set of events—the manumission from slavery of Black folks—and approaching it from a different angle,” Fiasco says. “Looking at it as the impact of it, versus the event. And one of the impacts of Juneteenth was that the abolition of slavery—it introduced all of this other extra tension and new realities, and some of those new realities weren’t that good. So, 1865, you get abolition of slavery, Emancipation Proclamation, all that good stuff, end of the Civil War. But that same year, you also get the birth of the Ku Klux Klan. So, to me, it was a life-and-death type thing where death was brought to one thing, but then it created life—it gave birth to another thing.” *Eladio Carrion, “El Sol Va a Salir”* For his contribution to Freedom Songs 2022, Puerto Rican MC Eladio Carrión created “El Sol Va a Salir,” a song inspired by one of the greatest hip-hop storytelling tracks of all-time. “I did this song with [producer] Vinylz, and the second I heard the beat, it gave me a vibe of the Eminem ‘Stan’ song that he writes to a fan,” Carrión says. “I thought it would be a cool idea—since I have a few friends that are in jail right now—to make a song as if someone was in jail writing to their family members. It could be an innocent person or someone that regrets what they did. And it’s just the person saying, ‘I know things are bad right now, but I know that the sun’s going to come up, and they’re going to be good days.’” *Jlin, “I Am”* “If ‘I Am’ was the only song that someone ever heard from me, I would just want them to feel my vulnerability,” Indiana-hailing DJ and producer Jlin says. “It’s a percussion conversation. In African culture, drums are a form of communication. They were before and after colonization, so I just wanted to hone in on that and just have a conversation with percussion.” *SEB, “Paranoia”* For Chicagoans of a certain age, the influence of Chance the Rapper was inescapable. LA-based singer and producer SEB, who spent some of his formative years in Chicago, chose to cover Chance and Nosaj Thing’s “Paranoia” for Freedom Songs 2022 for that very reason. “I picked ‘Paranoia’ because it just brings me back to Chicago,” SEB says. “I first heard that song when I started traveling to the South Side for school, so that really made it hit hard. It was two very different environments going from the North Side to the South Side every day. I decided to totally reproduce the song to paint a better picture of what I was seeing.” *Kranium, “Revolution”* For his contribution to Apple Music’s Freedom Songs 2022, Kranium covered Dennis Brown’s “Revolution,” a 1983 song the Jamaican singer notes is as relevant today as it ever was. “A lot of stuff that is being said in that song is actually something that we are living with until this day,” he says. The choice to cover Brown was also a means of bridging the gap between the dancehall of today and the reggae Kranium was raised on. “Growing up, Dennis Brown was one of our favorite singers,” he says. “That’s the Crown Prince of Reggae. We’re considered the new-school singers, so I wanted to make sure that I keep it 100 percent pure and real, showing respect to the great Dennis Brown but still putting my own Kranium swing into it.” *Cautious Clay, “Been in the Way”* “I was really trying to capture the many things that can be in the way of allowing us to relate to each other and the people that we care about,” Cautious Clay says of “Been in the Way." "I kind of come in hot with religion, [with] wrist blood being sort of a signifier of Jesus and how organized religion can sort of have its negatives in some cases and is sometimes used for power rather than for actual spirituality. And then I move on to rose gold, which in many ways signifies wealth and beauty and how that can get in the way of relationships with depth. So, it’s all things that we face in our lives that I find super important.” *Denzel Curry, “1st Quarter”* For his contribution to Apple Music’s Freedom Songs 2022, Florida MC Denzel Curry created “1st Quarter,” a song he says is about celebrating how far he’s already come in his young life. “It’s an accomplishment to make it through the first quarter of my life,” Curry says. “Especially as a Black man in America.” When it comes to the type of legacy he’d like to leave behind and even how his supporters can ensure their own, his advice is simple: “Do what you do, do what’s right, and be legendary.” *6LACK, “Umi Says”* “When I hear the word ‘legacy,’ I think of purpose, I think of what you leave on this earth when you’re no longer physically here, the impact you make, the lives you change, the stories that you’ve created,” 6LACK says. For Freedom Songs 2022, the Atlanta crooner covered Mos Def’s 1999 classic “Umi Says,” a choice he claims was a no-brainer when a manager suggested it to him and his team. “My brother Forward Slash led the way with the soundscape,” 6LACK says, “and I just came through and did my best cover.” *Brittney Spencer, “More Than Perfect”* “Growing up, I didn’t see a lot of people—in fact, anybody—doing what I’m doing today,” country singer Brittney Spencer says, commenting on the traditional lack of Black faces in country. “I didn’t realize until my adult years that that sort of image has shaped what I thought I could do in the world, who I could be in the world, and knowing that if maybe even one person is seeing what I’m doing today, they might decide a lot quicker than I did that they can actually go for something that’s really on their heart.” For Juneteenth 2022, Spencer cooked up “More Than Perfect,” a song focused on inner beauty. “It’s about not putting so much weight and stock into appearance as if it could ever tell the full story of who a person is,” she says. “An artful display of fashion and tattoos—which I have—and makeup and filters and all these things, it will never tell you about someone’s character, their dreams, their aspirations, the things they care about, the people they care for. It’ll never tell you the whole story because it just simply can’t.” *Moliy, “The Place”* “I love being appreciated for what I do and how far I’ve come,” Moliy says. “There’s so much that I’m yet to see and do, but just knowing anything can happen at any moment of my journey as an artist is really exciting. In my world, every song I create is literally a stepping-stone to building my legacy.” For Apple Music’s Freedom Songs 2022, the Ghanaian American singer created “The Place,” a song about the kind of society we all dream about living in. “‘The Place’ is about hope and wanting to belong somewhere safe,” Moliy says. “Somewhere that love and light reigns, where everyone can thrive without the need to do evil and knowing there’s like-minded people out there who all want the same.” *WSTRN, “Free Your Mind”* UK collective WSTRN delivered “Free Your Mind,” a song they say is about overcoming adversity. “It’s about acknowledging the power of unity and being free,” vocalist Haile says. “Accepting that obstacles will cross your path but knowing that holding onto faith can always get you through anything.” Louis Rei adds that he wanted to speak to people destined for bigger things but who might not yet understand their own potential. “My verse, especially, is targeting those that have a light within them, but they come from a dark place,” he says. “And it’s very much reflective of that and asking oneself questions to attain greatness and overcoming and becoming the higher vibration of yourself.” *Damien Sneed, “Sequestered Thoughts”* “Juneteenth is observed as a celebration,” Damien Sneed says. “For me, it’s also a moment to understand and recognize the plight of my ancestors and all of those from the African diaspora and the African American diaspora—I am celebrating the moment in time to use my art, my creativity, my musical voice, to give voice to those who don’t have a voice.” For his contribution to Apple Music’s Freedom Songs 2022, the pianist and composer wrote “Sequestered Thoughts,” a piece he says was born of isolation but that might bring people together in its expression of everyone’s need to have their humanity recognized. “The pandemic was a jolt for me,” Sneed says. “I had just finished a 40-city tour, and I was at home alone in New York City, sequestered in place. This composition is meant to evoke confinement, hope, and the will to survive. Also, it represents something that was birthed out of the untimely murder of George Floyd. So, the piece also resonates with protests against all types of violence, racism, and oppression.” *Koryn Hawthorne, “I Need You Now”* “Anytime I record a cover, I always do my best to try to make sure I put a little bit of myself into it,” Koryn Hawthorne says. “I feel like we’ve done a good job of that on this record. It has slight R&B vibes, but it still has the true heart of worship in it.” Hawthorne, a gospel vocalist who can also boast having once earned a spot as a finalist on The Voice, chose Smokie Norful’s “I Need You Now” for her contribution to Apple Music’s Freedom Songs 2022. The song, she says, will only ever bring her good memories: “I am a huge Smokie Norful fan. This song, in particular, has been a staple throughout my entire life. I feel like, at any given moment, I could play this song and be taken back to a special place.”

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