Every month, the team at Live For Live Music curates the L4LM Monthly Mix, a playlist featuring an eclectic mix of tracks from old to new, beloved to obscure, satirical to sentimental. As we like to say, there’s no particular overarching rhyme or reason to the L4LM Monthly Mix—it’s just the music we’re excited to share with you, the music that’s on our minds right now.

Throughout the month of June, we’ve seen a seismic shift in the movement for racial equality and the condemnation of injustice toward Black people in America following the wrongful killings of George FloydAhmaud ArberyBreonna Taylor, and countless others. The call for justice has reverberated across the world and compelled people from every corner of society to listen, learn, reassess their own bias and privilege, and stand with their sisters and brothers of color during this pivotal time—and forever onward.

Related: Justice Comes Alive: A Virtual Festival For Equality [Sun, 6/28]

Since 1979, June has also served as Black Music Month. As President Barack Obama noted in 2009, this is the time when we “recall the known and unknown musicians who helped create this musical history. Their contributions help illuminate the human experience and spirit, and they help us reflect on our Nation’s ongoing narrative.”

Virtually every form of “American music” would not exist without the countless foundational contributions of Black artists, and those voices deserve to be amplified. With all of this in mind, you’ll find that the June 2020 edition of the L4LM Monthly Mix is comprised of music by Black artists.

This article serves as your listening guide for the June 2020 L4LM Monthly Mix—your liner notes, your peek inside our brains. Hear a song you like as you listen through? Scroll down (or “cmnd + f” search) and find out why that music moved us this month. We hope we can help you discover something that moves you, too.

Dive into the May edition of the L4LM Monthly Mix below and subscribe on Spotify to make sure you don’t miss any new Monthly Mixes.

L4LM Monthly Mix – Black Music Month Edition [June 2020]


Charles Bradley – “The World (Is Going Up In Flames)”

What’s good: For me, no one can sing with more heart and more soul than Charles Bradley. I can really feel his pain in this. –Kunj Shah

Prince – “Sign ‘O’ the Times”

What’s good: There was and never will be anyone like Prince, and his commentary on the state of the world in this particular track is so powerful. –Sara Shah

Maceo Parker – “Tell Me Something Good” (Stevie Wonder, originally recorded by Chaka Khan and Rufus)

What’s good: Maceo! What a legend, from playing with James Brown to Parliament to Prince and so many others. Written by Stevie Wonder and popularized by Chaka Khan and Rufus, this song takes on an even more celebratory vibe when Maceo plays it. –Sara Shah

Anderson .Paak – “Lockdown”

What’s good: New Anderson .Paak speaks to the current events of both COVID and BLM movement going on today. The song is potent, real, yet enjoyable as hell. Check out the music video, too, which helps spotlight all the diverse artists included on the track. –Kunj Shah

Marvin Gaye – “What’s Going On?”

What’s good: “Picket lines and picket signs/Don’t punish me with brutality/Talk to me, so you can see/ Oh, what’s going on?” Almost 50 years after this song’s release in 1971, America again finds itself caught in an emotional whirlwind of civil strife. These are extraordinary times, but unfortunately, half a century later we still don’t have the answer to Marvin’s most poignant question. “What’s going on?” –Tom Shackleford

The Isley Brothers – “Lay Away”

What’s good: Shoutout to Nigel Hall for turning me on to this Isley Brothers gem—and sending me down an Isley rabbit hole—back in 2015 with the version he recorded on his album, Ladies & Gentlemen… Nigel Hall. –Jimmy

Tim Maia – “Brother Father Mother Sister”

What’s good: My friend Danny sent me this tune, and after doing some digging, I learned how Tim was one of the first Black Brazillian soul singers to sing about race and equality. –Kunj Shah

Stevie Wonder – “Superstition”

What’s good: Let Stevie Wonder put all the strange feelings of 2020 in focus into with this classic, funk number. Superstition actually “is” the way… to flatten the curve. –Mikala Lugen

Southern Avenue – “Don’t Give Up”

What’s good: I really fell in love with this Memphis blues group when watching them perform for the first time virtually at Quarantine Comes Alive last month. They really portray the soulful Southern sound in their music, and I thought this song weighs a lot of uplifting truth to people right now. –Mikala Lugen

Bob Marley & The Wailers – “Get Up, Stand Up”

What’s good: Bob Marley’s simple message—”Get up, stand up. Stand up for your rights”—rings just as true today as when he began fighting for equality decades ago. –Sara Shah

Jimi Hendrix – “One Rainy Wish”

What’s good: Jimi Hendrix has always been one of my favorite artists of all time. His music has so much influence over all genres of music, and I wish the world was able to hear his soulful, healing tunes right now when we need it most. –Mikala Lugen

Earth, Wind & Fire – “Shining Star”

What’s good: A classic that spans multiple generations. They just don’t make them like this anymore. –Sara Shah

Parliament – “Flashlight”

What’s good: One of the OG hits from the trifecta of funk pioneers: George Clinton, Bernie Worrell, and Bootsy Collins–Sara Shah

The Meters – “People Say”

What’s good: The Meters are New Orleans royalty, and the legacy they’ve left on the music world is virtually incomparable. –Sara Shah

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Nina Simone – “Baltimore”

What’s good: There’s something about Nina Simone’s voice that brings me to tears. This song strikes a chord in depicting how hard life was for Black people in Baltimore in the late ’70s. –Kunj Shah

A Tribe Called Quest – “Can I Kick It?”

What’s good: Some of the OGs of the evolution of hip-hop in the ’80s/’90s who brought a range of social issues to the table through their music while producing one classic after another. –Sara Shah

Allen Toussaint – “Night People”

What’s good: Allen Toussaint is one of the most legendary writers/performers to come out of New Orleans—or, arguably, this country. This track holds up today as a great go-to for every situation. –Sara Shah

Booker T. – “Potato Hole”

What’s good: Booker T. spent so much of his career as a hired gun, lending an extremely talented hand to other musicians, but the real magic comes when he is left to his own devices. –Michael Broerman

Tank And The Bangas – “For Andre”

What’s good: A new song by one of my favorite newer acts which pays tribute of one of my favorite rappers of all time, André 3000. –Andrew O’Brien

2Pac, Talent – “Changes” (Bruce Hornsby sample)

What’s good: This is my favorite 2Pac song. It paints a real picture of how things are but also gives hope for change. Musicians have been talking about what’s been going on in America forever, but people just haven’t been listening. –Kunj Shah

Dustin Thomas – “Call on the Wolves”

What’s good: Dustin’s lyrics of love, faith, and truth on war and suffering make him a true artist of the world. This spiritual ballad soothes my soul with peaceful lyrics that call out the truths of inequality and the need for justice and peace for all. –Mikala Lugen

Dizzy Gillespie – “Manteca”

What’s good: Phish fans may recognize this melody, but way before there were crabs in my shoe mouth, Dizzy was dropping jaws with this piece. –Gideon Plotnicki

Sam Cooke – “A Change Is Gonna Come”

What’s good: A reminder that the world does change. Sometimes, it’s hard to see, but when you zoom out, things do change. I hope this current movement provides real change—not incremental change, but real change that lasts forever. –Kunj Shah

Etta James – “At Last”

What’s good: Nobody has ever had a voice quite like Etta’s. While the song was written in 1941 by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren, the reimagined version recorded by Etta James in 1960 made “At Last” a cultural staple for decades to come.  –Andrew O’Brien

The Billy Cobham-George Duke Band – “Hip Pockets (Live)”

What’s good: Billy Cobham. George Duke. John Scofield. Enough said. –Andrew O’Brien

William Onyeabor – “Fantastic Man”

What’s good: William Onyeabor is considered by many American artists as an influential force in Afrobeat and psychedelic funk genres. The Nigerian funk musician released 9 studio albums between 1977 and 1985, and “Fantastic Man” might be my favorite track from the lot. The longer tune is fun, energizing, and delivers a feel-good listening experience from start to finish. A perfect summer tune. –Tom Shackleford

Pasteur Lappe – “Na Real Sekele Fo’Ya

What’s good: Another fantastic funk artist from Africa, Pasteur Lappe’s Afrofunk always makes for a very fun listening experience. For first-time fans unfamiliar with the Cameroonian artist, the opening track from 1979’s Na Man Pass Man is an excellent introduction. –Tom Shackleford

Thundercat – “Lotus And The Jondy”

What’s good: A modern virtuoso. We’re lucky to have musical talents like Thundercat in our midst. –Gideon Plotnicki

Nina Simone – “Mississippi Goddam”

What’s good: Nina Simone has been writing protest music since the ’50s, and her words are more powerful today than ever. Goddam. –Sara Shah

Gary Clark Jr. – “This Land”

What’s good: As a white person, I will never understand the rage felt by Black people who are told that this land they were forced to help build is not theirs, but Clark’s scathing lyrics in this song at least put it into words I can understand. –Michael Broerman

Bruno Mars, Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa – “Young, Wild & Free”

What’s good: This has been one of my go-to summer anthems ever since its release in 2011. The world will always be filled with haters and those looking to destroy all the good energy we’re trying to build together, and when they do, turn up our friends Bruno, Snoop, and Wiz as they guide us to live our lives to the fullest–Roll one, smoke one, and we all just having fun! –Tom Shackleford

Aretha Franklin ft. The Boys Choir of Harlem “Never Gonna Break My Faith”

What’s good: The resilience of Black people shines on this song and inspires me every day. Love The Boys Choir of Harlem on this as well. –Kunj Shah

Anderson .Paak ft. Talib Kweli, Tinman Family Choir – “The Dreamer”

What’s good: One of the best tracks from my favorite Anderson .Paak album, Malibu. Malibu is an excellent album from start to finish, which seems to be the case for nearly all of .Paak’s records. “The Dreamer” is an uplifting track which features Talib Kweli & Timan Family Choir, serves as the perfect closing track for one of the greatest albums of all time. Its optimistic outlook is something I think we could all use right about now. –Kel Kawas

Run The Jewels – “a few words from the firing squad”

What’s good: The revolution will be scored by Run the Jewels. –Michael Broerman

Kayne West – “Blood On The Leaves”

What’s good: The sample from this Yeezus track comes from Billie Holiday‘s “Strange Fruit”, about the rampant lynchings of Black people in the 1930s. Kanye flips it into a modern-day banger, but the message is still as jarring as ever. –Andrew O’Brien

Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock – “It Takes Two”

What’s good: It took these two, Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock, to make this chart-smashing hit.  –Gideon Plotnicki

SZA – “Drew Barrymore”

What’s good: Few female artists have made an impact on the pop realm while maintaining creative integrity over the last few years as successfully as SZA. Her fierce, unapologetic vulnerability showcased throughout 2017’s CTRL on songs like “Drew Barrymore” makes her so relatable to anyone who listens while also cementing her reputation as a leading force on the Top Dawg Entertainment artist roster alongside colleagues like Kendrick Lamar. –Tom Shackleford

Bob Marley & The Wailers – “Burnin’ & Lootin’ – Live At The Record Plant 1973”

What’s good: There will always be people who try to take advantage of a cultural movement for their personal gain. Keep doing the right thing and those people will be weeded out. –Michael Broerman

Big L – “Ebonics”

What’s good: Never has an introductory language lecture gone so hard. –Andrew O’Brien

Barry White – “Let The Music Play”

What’s good: I don’t know what’s cooler—the several minutes of dialogue where Barry White talks to people he passes on the street or the smooth R&B groove of this song. It’s a close call. –Michael Broerman

Issac Hayes – “Walk On By”

What’s good: Isaac Hayes just doing his slow jam thing. Dim the lights and get down. –Michael Broerman

Son House – “Death Letter Blues”

What’s good: Son House would turn out to be a major inspiration for several generations of blues, rock ‘n’ roll, and hip-hop musicians. While many have heard renditions of this song, there’s nothing quite like the original “Death Letter Blues”. –Kel Kawas

Del The Funky Homosapien – “X-Files”

What’s good: Not much needs to be said about Del. One of the best to ever pick up a microphone. –Kel Kawas

Kid Cudi – “Leader Of The Delinquents

What’s good: I’m not sure if it counts as a “comeback,” but I don’t think there’s one artist I’m more excited about making new music in 2020. Cudi’s first studio release in a couple of years is everything I had hoped for and more. –Kel Kawas

The Internet ft. KAYTRANADA – “Girl”

What’s good: The Internet has been one of my favorite non-rock groups throughout the 2010s, and the talented collective rarely disappoints in standing apart from the generic industry pack. Sydney Bennett (a.k.a. Syd) delivers an entrancing performance with “Girl”, and I always love hearing the alt-R&B ballad any time it comes on rotation. Whether you’re hooking up or toking up, “Girl” is always a winning pick to set the mood. –Tom Shackleford

Kendrick Lamar – “HiiiPower

What’s good: Damn. Talk about a protest song. Nine years later, this song remains as relevant as ever. Throw your hands up for HiiiPower.  –Kel Kawas

Run–D.M.C. – “King Of Rock”

What’s good: Run–D.M.C. helped bridge the gap between mainstream rock and underground hip-hop. Who knows where today’s music would be without them. –Gideon Plotnicki

Talib Kweli ft. Erykah Badu– “The Blast” (Live at Dave Chappelle’s Block Party)

What’s good: How can you go wrong when Erykah Badu is jumping on a song with Talib? Also, if you haven’t seen Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, what the hell are you waiting for? –Gideon Plotnicki

Taj Mahal – “Ain’t Gwine Whistle Dixie (Anymo’)” – Live

What’s good: Born Henry Saint Clair Fredericks, Taj Mahal is globally recognized as a blues pioneer and noted for incorporating the musical influences of the South Pacific and African beats to his soulful tunes. This tune brings light to any day with the touch of the flute and smoothness of the sax. –Mikala Lugen

Murs, 9th Wonder – “Murs Day”

What’s good: An uplifting coda to close out the list. 9th Wonder is one of the greatest producers who ever lived, and Murs is among the most underrated rappers of our time. –Andrew O’Brien

L4LM Monthly Mix – Black Music Month Edition [June 2020]