The 2010s Were the Decade When Black Protest Music Went Mainstream

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The 2010s were the decade where it felt like time sped up. As we reach a major mile marker during one of the most confounding periods in cultural and political history, we’re looking back at the artists, albums, and trends that best marked the changes over the past 10 years. Click Donald Trump announced his presidential candidacy . Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly, released three months before Trump announced his run, was a grievance on the country's ambivalence to that split.

Told through the lens of rap, jazz, and funk—genres pioneered by Black musicians— Butterfly is the story of a deeply American standard: freedom. For over an hour, Lamar unearths the parallels between the slave trade and the entertainment industry, where, ironically, Black culture is still seen as currency. The songwriting, brutally honest and timely, captured issues like institutionalized racism with songs like "Alright" adopted as the sexy , sometimes silly , and dangerously in love , but never explicitly political until "Formation." The Houston singer released a stirring Melina Matsoukas-directed visual that was a spot-on depiction of the effects of police brutality on Black communities. Beyoncé crouching on top of a sinking New Orleans police car wasn't blindly provocative, it addressed the state-sanctioned violence causes like Black Lives Matter were rallying against while paying homage to the displacement of the city's Black residents a decade after Hurricane Katrina. One of the video's most poignant scenes features a row of policemen dressed in riot gear standing opposite a young Black boy dancing, illustrating the differences between a perceived threat and an actual threat. When she performed the song at the Super Bowl half-time show the next day dressed in a costume evoking the militant Black Panther Party from the 60s, "Ultralight Beam" and "Father Stretch My Hands." On "Pt. 2," he screams "I just wanna feel liberated," and we did too, but his meeting (and eventual friendship) with "Work," and she could also cover "Nikes." The albums that soundtracked 2016 were still capturing the elements of Black pain, even if those moments were fleeting.

Black music has always been a form of resistance and will continue to be even after the Trump administration. It resisted "Let's Get it On" to the "What's Going On," a socially conscious record, paved the way for artists like Beyoncé and Solange to create magnum opuses that meant more than its position on the charts. "What mattered was the message," Gaye said. "For the first time, I felt like I had something to say." There's an old belief that great art comes out of greater turmoil, which seems to be upheld given what we saw in 2016, but it's hard to not also wonder: what would Black artists create if they were just allowed to be?

Kristin Corry is a staff writer for VICE.

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