20 More Songs That Almost Every Black Person Knows

20 More Songs That Almost Every Black Person Knows

A typical Saturday morning in a Black household between the ’70s to ’90s consisted of blaring soul music with sprinklings of hip-hop videos and a few episodes of shows like A Different World and Soul Train to the tune of cleaning the house. The music of the day made up a relevant portion of many Gen X and millennial childhoods, branching out to GenZ as traditions often do. Credit to these Saturday morning experiences is the intergenerational soundtrack to Black life.

To close out Black Music Month, and because we heard we missed a few of your favorites earlier this month, here are 20 more songs that almost every Black person knows.

1. “Killing Me Softly” by Roberta Flack/The Fugees

Roberta Flack recorded this song in the summer of 1973. The Grammy-nominated hit reached number three on the Billboard charts and went double platinum that year. Twenty-three years later, The Fugees put a hip-hop spin on the tune, topping charts in more than 20 countries.

Their version went triple platinum and is still listed as one of the top-selling songs in several countries. Even if every Black person can’t sing the song word for word, you are sure to hear enough people hollering “one time!” even if it’s Flack’s version playing.

2. “Tyrone” by Erykah Badu

First of all, poor Tyrone. He didn’t do anything but come pick up his shiftless friend, and yet the name is now synonymous with a no-good boyfriend. Erykah Badu took over radio stations in 1997 with this freestyle-esque tune about a man she wanted gone from her home. Starting the song with the now-common phrase, “keep in mind, I’m an artist, and I’m sensitive about my s**t,” Badu likely had no clue she was creating the get-gone anthem of a generation.

3. “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” by McFadden and Whitehead

Philadelphia artists McFadden and Whitehead created a backyard classic with this 1979 disco song about resilience and the release of negativity. Its intergenerational groove infused itself into the brains of Black folks young and old and is a feel-good song no matter how you slice it.

4. “I’m Going Down” by Rose Royce/Mary J. Blige

Women have likely been crying it out to this song since its original release in 1976. In 1994, the queen of hip-hop and R&B soul, Mary J. Blige, did such an impeccable rendition of it on her My Life album that the two-decade-old song reigned in a few more tears from younger women. It was even prominently featured in a talent show episode of Sister, Sister.

5. “Sweet Love” by Anita Baker

If your mama didn’t blast Anita Baker on Saturday mornings, then did she really clean the house? There’s something about Black mothers and Anita Baker that is somewhat inexplicable. But because of this love, generations of Black folks can belt out the lyrics to many of her songs. “Sweet Love” is among the most popular and has even received a coveted New Orleans bounce version that can get a Louisiana nightclub popping.

6. “Can You Stand the Rain” by New Edition

New Edition was the soundtrack of many a Black person’s life. Their career began in the early 1980s, later revitalized in the mid-’90s with a successful legendary return in the mid-2010s. Among their many, many hits, this song seemed to resonate with a multi-generational audience, as it has the type of modulations that make up for a fun performance. An example of this type of fun is featured in the movie The Best Man Holiday.

7. “My Girl” by The Temptations

This song is a historic artifact. It belongs to many of our grandparents, but because of its sweet nature and easy-to-remember lyrics, it’s a timeless classic that keeps ringing on. It was released in 1964 but has shown up over the years in many ways, even on popular sitcoms like Martin.

8. “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud” by James Brown

This song may actually be the reason Black folks even identify with the word Black. Before this 1968 mega-hit, Black Americans were widely referred to as “negro.” Brown, with the help of this song, was key in ushering in the Black Power movement.

9. “This Christmas” by Donny Hathaway

It’s totally not Christmas until this song plays. It has to be played loudly and you are required to sing along. Released in 1970, this song is like a welcomed family member during the holidays. Mariah Carey credited the happy spirit of the song as a muse for her mega-hit “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” as Blavity previously reported.

10. “Anniversary” by Tony! Toni! Toné!

These guys absolutely knew what they were doing when they made the undisputed anthem of celebrating marital bliss. There’s likely not a Black couple in the country who hasn’t at least once celebrated their anniversary ala Tony! Toni! Toné!.

11. “Make It Last Forever” by Keith Sweat and Jacci McGhee

When it comes to getting a crowd to sing in harmony at a nightclub, this is a DJ favorite. Released in 1987, this tune took over the hearts of young lovers and helped cement Keith Sweat’s legacy as a R&B legend and New Jack Swing sub-genre pioneer. In 1998, Mariah Carey remixed her song “Thank God I Found You” to incorporate the classic featuring Nas and Joe.

12. “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” by G. C. Cameron/Boyz II Men

This song is a prominent part of the 1975 film Cooley High, which starred Glynn Turman, who later went on to play Col. Taylor on A Different World. Since its recording, the song has become synonymous with final goodbyes. It was covered by Boyz II Men in 1991 for their album Cooleyhighharmony. During the last episode of A Different World, the main cast joined together to sing it as a way to end the show and a nod to the movie that popularized it as the star was among them.

13. “Happy” by Pharrell Williams

This song took over everything, everywhere in 2014. Released as the only single from the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack, people of all ages quickly found themselves singing and clapping. It became a social media trend and the tune landed itself some major accolades like spending more than a year on charts across the world.

14. “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys

Anytime anyone sets out to create an anthem, they’re either going to fail miserably or win like nobody’s business. This ode to New York City did the latter and continues to be a mega praise piece for the concrete jungle. It’s also the foundation for a great inside joke among Black folks, and you know what we mean, Lil Mama.

15. “I’m Every Woman” by Chaka Khan/Whitney Houston

Chaka Khan recorded this song in 1978. It has since been sampled in multiple genres more than 20 times. It was famously covered by Whitney Houston in 1992 for The Bodyguard soundtrack. Houston’s version featured a fun video with other women singers including Khan, who did background vocals on that version. In her 1993-1994 season, Oprah Winfrey used a modified version for her talk show’s promos and opening credits.

16. “Respect” by Aretha Franklin

Another anthem, this song was written by Otis Redding and originally recorded by him in 1965. It blew up when it was rearranged and covered by the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, in 1967. Adding the necessary amount of sass and spelling out the word made Franklin’s version one for the history books. It shows up often in pop culture, including a fun episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

17. “Juicy” The Notorious B.I.G.

Maybe your grandmother doesn’t exactly know the words to this early Biggie hit, but she might know the hook because it’s a direct sample of Mtume’s 1983 song “Juicy Fruit.” The original song spent eight weeks on the Billboard Hot Black Singles chart. “Juicy” solidified Biggie’s career and has been hailed as one of the greatest rap songs of all time.

18. “One Love” by Bob Marley


Thanks to ’90s television promotions for the island of Jamaica, this song has had an extended shelf life far beyond its original recording. Unfortunately, Bob Marley didn’t get to see the commercial success of his music since he actually never had a top Billboard hit in his lifetime. His family famously sued Raising Canes Chicken Fingers for infringement in 2013, as the restaurant had been using the phrase “one love” as its trademark.

19. “Hip Hop Hooray” by Naughty by Nature

Once a song gets covered by The Muppets, it’s a clear choice for an intergenerational bop. This 1992 rap mantra was another feather in the trio’s hip-hop anthem hat. The certified platinum song landed itself on the U.S. pop chart at number eight and also found itself scattered among other charts internationally.

20. “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar

This song became the unofficial theme song for Black rights. Maybe everyone doesn’t know the verses, but “we gon’ be alright” is certainly chanted by varying age groups at protests. What’s interesting is that the lyrics don’t exactly match a civil rights movement, but the hook was enough to infuse the tune into the struggle.

Black Music Month is a time to celebrate the contributions of Black artists to the music industry. What better tribute to this than showcasing how these artists have infused their work into the very fabric of our cultural existence.

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