This year, Black Music Month takes a different turn. Because of the horrific deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and more, we at Billboard hope to uplift and empower African Americans during this cloudy and dubious time. For the month of June, Billboard had artists provide a playlist designed to remedy the heartaches endured by the Black community.

Fresh off the release of his latest Lyrics to Go episode No. 27 “Kalief,” Kota the Friend’s playlist preaches the value of independence in various forms, as well as celebrating Black artists and their music.

Says Kota: “Black Music is Black History. It tells the stories of our highs, lows, past, present, and future. Every artist on my playlist is special because they’ve taught me important lessons in my life and gotten me through some tough times. They represent independence and innovation. Independence from the status quo, overcoming the trials of their upbringing, or their own insecurities and the expectations of others. They’ve been innovative in a better future for themselves and their families.”

He adds: “Carving out their own lane, speaking for those who aren’t heard, and breaking cycles of struggle – each of these artists has impacted black culture. Closing out Black Music Month with Billboard, I wish every artist strength. Strength to say what you want, do the things that make you happy, and to find your independence in whatever form works for you.

Every month is Black Music Month. Let’s keep celebrating our Black Queens and telling our stories of Black Boy Joy, Black Love, Pain, Inequality, Vulnerability, Resistance, Black Excellence, and everything in between.”

Check out Kota’s Independence Is Power playlist below.

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