Raising the Bar, Part 1: 50 Socially Relevant Songs of the New Millennium

By L. Michael Gipson

We’ve complained a lot over here at SoulTracks about the nature of terrestrial radio and what gets privileged with major label promo dollars. Now with “Raising the Bar: A Movement,” we aim to offer solutions. The first step is to stop the lies told about what today’s music is not doing, by sharing the songs, music, and videos of talented artists that do speak honestly to the conditions of our lives, loves, and soul. In what will be a monthly series of antiphonies, calls and responses, with our SoulTracks readers, we will share with you information about current music and artists we think are helping or have helped to raise the bar. In return, we ask you to share which artists and songs you’re currently praising, the music you think delivers that high quality soul, jazz, funk, R&B, gospel and electrosoul sound that we all need and are always on the hunt for to enrich our collections and music experience. Don’t be stingy!

To start us off with a bang, in the wake of the Trayvon Martin protests, I heard a lot of people complaining that there was not any more socially conscious, inspiring, or movement music anymore like in the ‘60s and ‘70s. We knew that simply wasn’t true and decided to compile a starter list of songs and albums that had been released this millennium which speak to the raw human conditions that people are experiencing right now, songs written for our now, even when they used yesterday’s production styles to tell their tale. While avoiding obvious hits like Angie Stone’s “Brotha,” Jaheim’s “Fabulous” and Raheem DeVaughn’s “Nobody Wins A War” (feat. Jill Scott, Bilal, Dwele, Anthony Hamilton, Algebra, Chrisette Michele, Shelby Johnson, Ledisi, Citizen Cope, Dwele, Chico Debarge, and Rudy Currence), we found the list easily doubled with obscurities like “Stand Up” from Smithsoneon and more inspirational tunes like Angela Johnson’s “Got to Let It Go.” Since gospel and hip hop could have tripled this list, we left them out and similarly avoided listing a single solo artist on more than one tune to keep multiple entries from consistently conscious artists like: Donnie, Anthony David, Aloe Blacc, Janelle Monae, Fertile Ground, Cody ChestnuTT and Marcell & The Truth from raking them up (DeVaughn only makes repeat appearances as a guest on another artist’s project). Even still there were tons left out. So, we’re leaving it to you to fill in the blanks by sharing the song titles, artists names, and video clip links to our starter list below. Have fun adding your unsung tunes. Let our “Raising the Bar” movement begin!

 

50 Socially Relevant New Millennium Songs & Albums That Never Stop Giving

1.    Colored Section (al.) – Donnie
2.    God Said — Anthony David
3.    Bulletproof — Raheem DeVaughn
4.    Zimmerman 2012 — Cody ChestnuTT
5.    Symbols — Marcell & The Truth
6.    I Need a Dollar — Aloe Blacc
7.    Brilliant Catastrophe Vol. I & II (al.) – B.Slade
8.    Shine — John Legend & The Roots
9.    My Peoples — DJ Jazzy Jeff feat. Raheem Devaughn
10.    Dance or Die (feat. Saul Williams) — Janelle Monae


11.    Field Songs(al.) — Fertile Ground
12.    Don’t Touch Me—Rahsaan Patterson
13.    Reach Out For You—Tuomo
14.    Always — Electric Empire
15.    Power’s in the People—Marc Broussard
16.    Liberation — Corneille
17.    Y R So Many — Monet (feat. Jeff Smith)
18.    My Petition — Jill Scott
19.    Lil Money — Eric Roberson
20.    Take a Look Around — Kindred The Family Soul (ft. BJ The Chicago Kid)
21.    Ain’t Nobody Worryin’— Anthony Hamilton
22.    The Dollar — Bilal
23.    New Amerykah, Pt. One (4th World War) (al.) — Erykah Badu
24.    Heaven Help Us (feat. Raheem DeVaughn) –Urban Ave. 31
25.    Unaware — Allen Stone
26.    Code — Jose James
27.    1960 What? — Gregory Porter
28.    Whatcha Gonna Do — Frank McComb
29.    Mr. President — William Scott
30.    Love & War — Amp Fiddler


31.    Marvin — Peter Hadar
32.    L.I.E.— N’Dambi
33.    Rebel Soul Music (al.)— Martin Luther
34.    The New Generation — Robin Thicke
35.    We All Try — Sid Sriram (written by Frank Ocean)
36.    Help Somebody — Maxwell
37.    Pressure — Keite Young
38.    World’s Gonna Have To Take A Turn Around — Vintage Trouble
39.    Man With Nothing To Lose — Geno Young
40.    Beautiful Flower (al.) — Ayanna Gregory
41.    Bright Lights—Gary Clark Jr.
42.    Prayer to a Landlord — Bernhoft
43.    Mountains & Molehills—PJ Morton
44.    Love To The Radio—Khari Lemuel
45.    Ghetto — India.Arie
46.    Love Revolution—Darien
47.    The Blooming (al.) — Maimouna Youseff
48.    What Have You Done—Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens
49.    What If We All Stopped Paying Taxes/This Land Is Your Land—Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
50.    Trouble Man –The Revelations feat. Tre Williams

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SoulTracks Choice Cut - Toni Redd - "Underneath My Skin"
Song of the Month - Stokley - "Level"
CD of the Month - Phil Perry - Breathless
Sneak Peek - Raul Midon - Bad Ass and Blind

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