Last year was peak #BlackGirlMagic. In 2016, we saw black women from across the world break records at the Olympics, destroy stereotypes, form their own lanes, and produce mind-blowing art.
During Women’s History Month 2017, we’ll put a spotlight on all the black women who are making waves, shattering ceilings, and uplifting their communities in the process, and—since we’re talking about black women, here—there’s an overabundance to choose from.
For our monthly editorial theme of Black Girls Only, we’ll be profiling innovative women across a number of different industries and spaces. This year we honor these women with our curated list of 100 Women on the continent and in the diaspora who are changing the game.
2016 was an especially monumental year for black women in music. From Beyoncé‘s Lemonade to Yemi Alade‘s Mama Africa, black women dropped albums that—to quote our girl, Solange—were “for us, by us,” and we honestly couldn’t get enough.
Below, the ladies from the OkayAfrica staff—and, by the way, we are mostly women—select the songs that represent Black Girls Only. We’ll also tell you why.
From quintessential soul tunes to spirited pop anthems, the Black Girls Only playlist will sprinkle #BlackGirlMagic all over your music library. You’re welcome.
Get the playlist, and much more, on OkayAfrica‘s Apple Music channel.
Georgia Anne Muldrow “Break You Down”
The hook to this song is everything: “Don’t let them make you forget who you are / Don’t let them break you down.” It’s pretty much my mantra in song to stay true to myself, to continue to be open to growth and to be the strong black woman that I am. —Antoinette Isama, Associate Editor
Erykah Badu “Cleva”
This is the most honest song in existence as far as I’m concerned. It’s a self-love anthem for black women who find beauty in their imperfections but who also know that “beauty” does not determine self-worth. We’re too “cleva” for that. —Damola Durosomo, Staff Writer
Solange “Don’t Touch My Hair”
This song, and this entire album really, is a black girl anthem. Our hair means so much more to us than people understand—it’s our history, our struggle and our beauty. This project is so special because it was made for us and l will be forever grateful to Solange for it. —Oyinkan Olojede, Marketing Associate
ESG “Erase You”
When I first encountered ESG it was in my early years in the NYC, the mid-late 2000s, it was just what I needed! Seeing this all girl (family) band from the Bronx rock out, dominate, and be referenced in so many new deep cuts was the bomb. Seeing them play again a few years back at Bowery Electric was one of the best shows of my life. —Sinat Giwa, Projects and Operations: Okay Space
Janelle Monáe “Dance or Die” ft. Saul Williams
“Dance or Die” to me is one of the ‘wokest’ songs ever. Janelle was basically saying–dance to your own tunes, create your own path and don’t play by society’s rules. I was also drawn to the afrobeat elements. She was totally giving Fela vibes. —Chika Okoli, Social Media Manager
Let’s just say I don’t mince my words when it comes to my money, plus, I love Rihanna‘s unapologetic attitude. —Josephine Opar, Contributing Writer
Queen Latifah “U.N.I.T.Y.”
This song is my anthem for female empowerment because it’s important to speak out against the disrespect of women in society. Women all around the world are known for their strength, emotionally and physically, and no strong woman in the 21st century should feel boxed to a degrading category in our society. Now or ever. —Hanan Osman, Executive Assistant to CEO
Stream our ‘Black Girls Only’ playlist on Apple Music.
Yondo Sister & Soukous Stars “Bazo”
Yondo Sister is the queen of soukous. Repping the Congo, she’s been killing the game before most of us were born and she’s got moves for days.
I most definitely attribute my love for learning different styles of African dance to her super eclectic music videos I watched growing up (peep them on YouTube!). I’ll always admire how she commands the stage with her confidence, as well as her unapologetic attitude and trendsetting style that’s essentially made a comeback today. —Antoinette
Charlotte Dada “Don’t Let Me Down (Beatles cover, Ghana 1971)
This song has come back around at different times in my life in through different people that are very dear to me. The percussion is on point to the very end. —Sinat
Missy Elliott “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”
Classic cool girl jam. I listen to this when I’m feeling fly, but also when I’m not—this song just instantly makes me feel dope. Missy Elliott is my hero. —Damola
Missy Elliott “I’m Better”
Yaasss come through Missy! The title really says it all. Missy is an icon. —Oyinkan
Nicki Minaj “Feelin Myself” ft. Beyoncé
Nicki is the ultimate badass. In a space dominated by men, she is unapologetically herself. She knows her worth and commands the respect she deserves. Anything Nicki + Bey always gives me life. —Oyinkan
After a hard day’s work of dealing with the patriarchy, when you’re finally alone in your space, I recommend playing this song and allowing the lyrics wash over you (it’s almost as good as burning sage if you’re into that kind of stuff). There’s just something therapeutic about listening to a song that’s an ode to one of the most loved women (Oshun goddess). —Chika
Fantasia “Free Yourself”
This song is my personal motto and transcends both my personal and professional relationships. —Sinat
Tiwa Savage “Key To The City Remix” ft. Busy Signal
This song will have me cutting conversations short just so I can sing along with Tiwa and Busy Signal. —Josephine
Rihanna “Consideration” ft. SZA
I love how unapologetically moody this song is. Being allowed to have an attitude about the things that bother you, and owning it, is freeing, especially for black women who are told that we have too much of it. That’s what I feel Rih Rih and SZA are doing on this song—owning their shit. Plus, the line “let me cover your shit in glitter I can make it gold,” is my mood for life. —Damola
Tiwa Savage “Kolobi”
I have so much respect Tiwa Savage and her grind. This track from her album, R.E.D, reminds us that as women (and even as people), we need to take more moments to reflect on our blessings and accomplishments, even though it may feel like we’re not doing enough. We are indeed more than enough, ladies! — Antoinette
Corinne Bailey Rae “Put Your Records On”
This song is the ultimate ‘carefree black girl’ anthem. Given the monolithic narrative of the black woman, it’s refreshing to have a song that revels in the beauty, quirks and joys of being a black woman. —Chika
This is one of the best break-up songs ever. Period. —Josephine
Beyoncé “Flawless” ft. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I love the message of this track: to celebrate womanness by refraining from the idea of rising in the morning looking perfect. It’s an oxymoron memo because nobody wakes up ‘flawless’ therefore should not be taken literally but the meaning behind the track says “I woke up feeling good, is what it’s about.” —Hanan