Today, we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and on Wednesday we inaugurate the next President of the United States. We honor a globally renown civil rights activist while welcoming the new leader of the free world. In this duality of awareness, we recognize the past for its painful lessons and acknowledge the present for all the work that still needs to be done. This week, we asked soul/alternative-rock band, Stop Motion, to curate our #NowPlaying playlist and it doesn’t disappoint. Their mix asks us to question our own awareness on social and political issues through oldies and new-age music. The playlist features Jimi Hendrix, Nina Simone, Noname, Radiohead, Kendrick Lamar and more.
Be sure to check out their playlist below and don’t forget to follow 303 Magazine and like our #NowPlaying playlist on Spotify:
Stop Motion – “Enough”
Sampa The Great – “Time’s Up (feat. Krown)”
Faith Allen, vocals: “Time’s Up” represents the many tipping points that arrived in 2020. It’s a David and Goliath story. “Tick, tock” is the sound of impending justice. This song starts our playlist off with demands for change.
Radiohead – “2 + 2 = 5”
Evan Lei, guitarist: Our current president has done everything he can to develop a cult of personality. He’s been very clear from the beginning that he could do anything and still have support. Unfortunately, that has been the case. It’s important for everyone to, as this song suggests, pay attention to what’s happening in their community and not get complacent.
Nina Simone – “Baltimore”
EL: The cool swagger of this groove disguises hard-hitting lyrics. Baltimore is a famously difficult place to live, but, on a larger scale, many Americans feel the same in different cities across the country. This song, originally by Randy Newman is made even more impactful when sung by key civil rights figure, Nina Simone.
Kendrick Lamar – “i”
EL: It’s important to remain hopeful in the face of hardship. If you don’t love yourself, the fight just becomes that much tougher. Kendrick Lamar has lived through a lot in his life, and I find the message in this song helpful even as he acknowledges all of his trials and tribulations.
Noname – “Prayer Song (feat. Adam Ness)”
Luke Maxson, (synth/keys): The tone on this one is so dark and cynical. They really nailed that vibe. Noname is the type of rapper that I need to listen to with the lyrics. Every line is so dense and I don’t want to miss anything.
Rico Sisney – “Hearts Too Full”
LM: This was released within a week of the start of the George Floyd protests. The song is split into two parts — despair and rage. In the wake of yet another unarmed black man killed by police in broad daylight, it leaves a chilling sense of déjà vu. There’s a sense of helplessness and despair when it seems like the story never changes. Those feelings inevitably turn to rage when there’s a portion of the population that repeatedly demands a justification for the pain, and then actively argues against it.
Charlotte Day Wilson – “Work”
FA: Charlotte Day Wilson’s “Work” became a beacon of hope during the Women’s March of 2017. The music video, directed by Fantavious Fritz, illustrates even more deeply the daily perseverance against a patriarchal government and society.
Becca Stevens – “Heather’s Letters to Her Mother (feat. David Crosby, Michelle Willis, & Mike ‘Maz’ Maher)”
FA: This song by Becca Stevens details the life and death of paralegal and activist, Heather Heyer, through the letters she wrote to her mother. Heather was killed on August 12, 2017 in a counter-demonstration protesting a neo-Nazi, KKK rally in Charlottesville, VA. The song centers around Heyer’s life motto — “we’ve got nothing without love and one another.”
David Crosby – “Other Half Rule”
EL: In his Tiny Desk Concert, David Crosby said “We wrote this to invite the women of the United States of America to please take over — it should be fairly obvious why.” It’s about time women receive, at the very least, equal representation in our government.
Buffalo Springfield – “For What It’s Worth)
FA: “For What It’s Worth” is a classic protest song that is just as relevant today as it was in 1966. The chorus calls for us to stop, listen, and look at what’s going down. With this, I’m reminded of the Black Lives Matter protesters who had to physically stay alert as tear gas and rubber bullets created a battlefield.
Joni Mitchell – “Big Yellow Taxi”
FA: I picked “Big Yellow Taxi” not only for its great commentary on capitalism’s effects on the environment, but because it’s close to my heart. I played this song when I thirteen in a singing competition — hoping it would make a strong statement. I even wore yellow taxicab shoes to express my full love for the song.
Lake Street Dive – “Shame, Shame, Shame”
FA: Lake Street Dive makes it very clear that they’re over the sheer insanity brought on by the Trump presidency. This song is about shaming the ridiculous and the downright evil actions of you-know-who. But, “change is coming, oh yeah.”
D’Angelo – “Ain’t That Easy”
It had been 14 years since D’Angelo released a project. It wasn’t until the protests in Ferguson that this chronic perfectionist decided it was time to share his music. “Ain’t That Easy” kicks off his album, Black Messiah, and it sets the stage for how polarizing our society can be. We can break through societal constructs, but there are forces around us that will always try to lure us back in.
Sidewalk Chalk – “A Suite For Black Lives”
LM: I just think this song is beautiful. It’s inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and it talks about the struggle for self-acceptance that people of color face in a society that doesn’t always accept them. Give yourself some time to sit with this one, because it’s worth it. If you haven’t heard of Sidewalk Chalk, you’re missing out.
Jimi Hendrix – “Star Spangled Banner”
EL: In 1969, Jimi Hendrix played one of the most iconic renditions of our national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner. Some might write it off as drug-driven chaos (I’m sure some were at least involved), but I think this rendition is beautiful. It reflected the turmoil in our country at the time with the Vietnam War ongoing, and I think it is still relevant today. It is a symbol of how our country is in many ways great, but we would be lying if we didn’t acknowledge its many faults.
Check out “Enough,” the newest single from Stop Motion and follow the band on Facebook.