It’s Women’s History Month, and to celebrate the all-encompassing nature of women around the world, VIBE is launching its monthly playlist.
For this month, the VIBE Mix will commemorate female artists who have provided us with girl power anthems, bops, and emotionally-rich tunes that have served as soundtracks to life. We’ve got the new, the old, and all that in between. From Beyonce to Salt-N-Pepa, to Princess Nokia and Leikeli47, join VIBE for a day-to-day countdown of hits.
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For all the black girls out there, this song is for you. Jamila Woods delivered a powerful track that perfectly illustrates the power, and resilience of black women. It captures the complexities of vulnerable and empowering moments, while still offering an uplifting and whimsical tone. “She’s telepathic / Call it black girl magic / Yeah she scares the gov’ment / Deja Vu of Tubman.”
Saweetie puts on for the Bay area with her twerkable single, “Icy Grl.” The rapper puts the boys to shame as she flexes her smooth flows over a vintage 90s beat. When you’re this icy, everything comes effortlessly. This is another one of those songs that you throw on when you’re hanging out with your girl gang and riding down the block. Summer isn’t here yet, but this is the perfect song to get you in the mood.
What would the list be without rising star Cardi B? The Bronx native’s No. 1 hit, Bodak Yellow may have been a gradual hit, but a smash nonetheless. On the track, Cardi delivers a mix of aggressive and raw bars that will undoubtedly have you telling your haters to get lost. Whether you’re in the club or jamming in the car, you can’t go wrong with this confident banger.
We all have things we probably don’t like about ourselves and our bodies, but on Princess Nokia’s “Tomboy,” the afro-Latina rapper is embracing the qualities that make her unique. Her gritty and aggressive rhymes make you want to stand up and instigate something, while the beat will have you twerking well into the night. “With my little titties and my phat belly / I could take your man if you finna let me / It’s a guarantee that he won’t forget me / My body little / my soul wavy,” she raps over the earth-shattering beat.
Leikeli47’s track “Braid Tuh’Da Flo(w) is for all the bad a** girls rocking cornrows styles with attitude. Whether you’re spending hours in the salon or flexing the new style in the streets, Leikeli47’s gritty delivery will keep you on your toes. While the song seems to have a braggadocios undertone, it also celebrates the hustle in women to get what they want. “My girls don’t trip, my girls keep winning / My girls don’t lose, my girls just keep on.”
Solange doesn’t want you to come anywhere near her gorgeous locks, and we don’t blame her. In 2016, the singer dropped her instant hit, “Don’t Touch My Hair.” The soft groove establishes boundaries and politely rejects the a common gesture that often alienates black women. While the act of touching someone’s hair out of turn can obviously provoke some irritation, this song is not to be read as an angry number; it’s more of a move to take back that power over self.
SZA’s single “Doves in the Wind” off of her debut album, Ctrl, is a definitely an empowering track. It’s an ode to women and the power of p***y. The songstress is both authoritative and sexy over the Cam O’bi-produced track, and Kendrick Lamar rounds out the single with a lengthy verse about a woman’s sex appeal. “Real n***as do not deserve p*ssy, meaning it’s more, you see right through walls.”
This might seem like a savage cheating song to some, but it’s so much more. Destiny’s Child’s 2000 track “Jumpin’ Jumpin’ is a simple reminder to get out there and live your life, whether you’re tied up with a partner or not. It’s a certified club jam that will make you ditch the PJs and have a much-needed fun night out with your girls. “Sexy women do that dance / Fly ladies work your man / Balling fella time to clown / We can get down now.”
On Dreezy’s f**kboy anthem, “F.D.N.,” the Chicago native comes with a mean punch, packing rapid flow verses about moving on from worthless men on top of a hard bounce beat. The track, which was part of the soundtrack for the second season of Issa Rae’s hit HBO show, Insecure, can also serve as the background music to any independent woman’s life who’s fed up with not getting the treatment she deserves.
Many kids from this generation were introduced to Monica’s single “So Gone” thanks to Chance the Rapper’s viral #SoGoneChallenge, but the 2003 track has always been a smash. The hip-hop-influenced track is instantly infectious. Monica’s harmonious vocals practically float over the Missy Elliott-produced beat. Her girl-around-the-way attitude is felt as she raps on the third verse. “Kick down your doors and smack your chick / Just to let you know Monica not having it.” Put “ So Gone” on the shelf and come back to it in 10 more years, and it will still have aged wonderfully.
It’s been been nearly 25 years since Salt-N-Pepa released their anti-slut shaming single, “None of Your Business,” but it still resonates with today’s audience and social climate. It’s funny how music can capture a period or mirror one that is still present today. In many ways, that’s exactly what the 1994 track does.
“None of Your Business” is a fist-pumping, heart-thumping tune that is a protest against people (particularly men) and institutions that judge women for being sexy and expressing their voice and attitude in unconventional ways. This song is essentially flipping everyone the middle finger over a traditional hip-hop beat.
The reason the track ages so well, is because women still face harsh judgement in the workplace and everywhere else. If “None of Your Business” dropped today, it would mostly be accompanied by a hashtag (sort of like the #TimesUp movement). Nevertheless, it’s a reminder to push the envelope just as Salt-N-Pepa did back in the day and ultimately not give a f**k about what anybody else has to say about it.
Lion Babe’s cover of 1965 single, “She A Lady” is redefining what it actually means to be a woman of this generation. Admittedly, the original classic doesn’t exactly age that well. There are plenty of sexist undertones that wouldn’t exactly fly with today’s status quo, but Jillian Hervey breathes new life into the outdated single with sultry vocals and confidence.
There’s something really satisfying about this song being performed by a woman. Lyrics like, “But she always knows her place / She’s got style, she’s got grace, she’s a winner,” seem to take new form. It’s as if she’s reclaiming the term “lady” and opening it up to be defined by a variety of different qualities.
The track oozes with sex appeal, thanks to the earthy, hip-hop beat and soothing ad-libs over the instrumentals. “She’s A Lady” is an empowering track, highlighting the not-so-traditional, renaissance woman.
They say bragging isn’t polite, but sometimes you have to stunt on your haters. Kehlani’s cocky anthem “Did I” boasts just enough of that confidence without going overboard.
“Did I” is the 3-minute reminder that a lot of people will doubt your greatness, but to keep pushing anyway. From the moment the base unravels over a synthetic guitar and screeching beat, Kehlani moves like water over the instrumentals with raspy, yet sweet vocals about her working her way from the bottom to the top. “You don’t know nothing ‘bout working your way from the bottom and earning every ring / You think we competing for rings, you think you playing in my league / But you couldn’t catch up if I took a break and vacationed for weeks on top of weeks,” she sings.
In Kehlani’s personal life and through her music, she continues to prove that tough situations, obstacles, and haters only make us stronger. She also endorses the idea that there’s nothing wrong with being confident.
It’s the way that Rapsody reflects her own self worth in her music that is super attractive to other women who don’t fit the traditional, societal mold. Her single “Sassy” is an ode to her strong sense of self. She pulls from Maya Angelou’s uplifting poem, “Still I Rise,” (Does my sassiness upset you? / Why are you beset with gloom? / Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells / Pumping in my living room.”) to celebrate her attitude, rather than hide it. “Does my sassiness upset you? / Oh, you mad cuz I survived,” she rap-sings on the chorus.
It’s no surprise that “Sassy” was nominated for Best Rap Song at the Grammys. It’s retro 80s beat is bouncy and fun. And paired with the rapper’s rhythmic flows, is the perfect feel-good anthem.
Celebrating femininity is undoubtedly timely. “Sassy” doesn’t only honor certain elements that make women special (“Diamonds tween my knees / oil well in my thighs”), but it also highlights the attributes that make women different, ultimately making it enjoyable for all types of women.
In honor of Mary J. Blige making history at the Oscars (she’s the first performer to be simultaneously nominated for a song and acting role in 10 years), we thought it was only right that we give the fourth spot on our playlist to her iconic 2001 single, “Family Affair.”
Is it dancery or dance soirée? OK, by now we’ve all come to the conclusion that it is in fact “dancery.” But the vocabulary used in the track’s chorus (“Let’s get it crunk up on, have fun up on / Up in this dancery”) is just the beginning of a long list of things that makes this song a certified classic.
The self-proclaimed Queen of Hip-Hop Soul delivered the perfect club hit, that will compel you to leave the “hateration” at the door and dance the night away. The single definitely stays true to Mary’s brand, with elements of the track alluding to past pain and torment. Even so, it seems to a be celebratory and inclusive anthem that encourages laughter and fun times with your girl gang.
Janelle Monae is like a sponge. She absorbs all that is pure and electric of the past (drawing inspiration from the greats like Michael Jackson, Prince, and Stevie Wonder), but is still able to maintain form, which ultimately helps her navigate current music waves. Monae’s entire discography is a testament to this notion, but her recent single, “Make Me Feel” fully demonstrates her elasticity.
“Make Me Feel” is a fusion of new and old. Built on the foundation of a psychedelic funk tune (one that could be reminiscent of the late Prince), Monae puts her own modern spin on it, flexing syrupy vocals. The chorus is one of the smoothest roller-coasters you’ll ever ride, packed with waves of high, mid, and low notes. “It’s like I’m powerful with a little bit of tender / An emotional, sexual bender / Mess me up, yeah, but no one does it better / There’s nothin’ better.”
Following the release of the video, which dropped simultaneously with the track audio, many fans dubbed the single a “bi-sexual anthem” due to Monae’s steamy interaction with actress Tessa Thompson and a male love interest. While the singer has not confirmed the title, the confidence and the matter of fact nature of succumbing to inner desires and emotions, seems to validate the idea that love is love. “That’s just the way that I feel now, baby / Good God! I can’t help it! Agh!”
More than 20 years ago, Lil’ Kim dropped her platinum record, “Not Tonight (Ladies Night Remix)” off of her highly acclaimed debut studio album, Hard Core. While there are a lot of things about the 1997 single that were spot on, its biggest (and most revolutionary) accomplishment was featuring an all-female cast: Angie Martinez, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, Da Brat and Missy Elliott.
The allure of “Not Tonight” could come from its nostalgic feel, which has much to do with it practically being a cover of Kool and the Gang’s 1979 disco classic “Ladies Night.” But its playable quality can mostly be attributed to the chemistry between each artist’s unique, but complimentary flows. From Martinez’s hypnotic verse to Left Eye’s spit fire flow and Da Brat’s gritty delivery, each lady held their own, bringing a distinct panache to the table. And to seal the deal, Missy Elliott’s silky vocals on the chorus made each transition as fluid as possible.
Listening to “Not Tonight (Ladies Night Remix)” today, gives you a dual sensation of old and new. It’s like a time capsule, cherishing all that was groundbreaking and intriguing about the ’90s, but foreshadowing a female takeover in the future.
To kick off Women’s Month on the right foot, our playlist is beginning with none other than Queen Beyonce’s track, “Formation.”
The certified-gold single, which was originally released in Feb. 2016, is by far the introduction to the singer’s era of trend-forward and culturally sound material. “Formation” undoubtedly taps into a new realm, one that reaches a global stature. More importantly, the track ignites a particular flame in its female audience, alluding to the idea that women mirror as real-life saviors.
In Dec. 2017, it was reported that black women “saved” Alabama from political destruction after 96 percent of black females voted for Democrat Doug Jones, defeating accused child rapist, Republican Roy Moore. In essence, that is the formation that Beyonce so vividly illustrates in her reflective number. One woman is a problem; 96 percent of them, is a force.
Bey has a knack for masking content behind a sonically satisfying track. That gift heavily relies on production, which in this case can be attributed to Mike Will Made-It’s assembly of synths and bass drums. The rhythmic pulses, which are drawn out by synthetic breaks in the song, make the refrain even more hard-hitting and memorable. “I like my baby heir with baby hair and afros / I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils,” she declares.
Lyrically speaking, “Formation” continues a common creed or philosophy that Beyonce has stressed throughout her career. It was there with Destiny’s Child’s “Independent ‘ Women (Part I),” “Who Run The World (Girls)” and “Flawless. “I see it, I want it, I stunt, yellow bone it / I dream it, I work hard, I grind ’til I own it,” she sings over the trap-infused beat. Later she reiterates her power saying: “I go hard, Take what’s mine, cause I slay.” Translation: as women, we have power that manifests in our ability to bring dreams into fruition, grind well beyond the “nine to five” timeframe, and of course, slay.