Our goal was to produce a scholarly audio documentary about Black music and the critical issues of the 1980s that would be informative, fun, and funky. We tapped into the tremendous talents of seasoned music journalist Touré, who also serves as host and lead writer of the documentary. To get exposure for Being Black: The ‘80s, Touré appeared on MSNBC programs GMA3 and other shows to discuss the relevance of these issues.
(Toure’ on Good Morning America - Watch here)
TheGrio met with a team from Apple Podcast to inform them about the series & share the significance of this scholarly look at Black music of the 1980s. Our series was featured in "The Power & Impact of Black Music" and "Pick of the Week." Apple described our series as an "enlightening exploration of songs of the era."
Our audio documentary deconstructs Black music of the 1980s. Each episode focuses on a song that defined the decade. We selected the most fertile pieces that led us to a discussion & examination of the cultural & socio-political roots of critical issues facing the Black community.
The 1980s were a time of devastation & accomplishments in Black Culture, with critical moments such as Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign and the ascension of Black people entering the middle class. Simultaneously, communities were being decimated by crack & mass incarceration. TheGrio’s Creative Director, music journalist Touré, interviewed experts, cultural commentators, academics & political thinkers for the funkiest history class you’ll ever take!
Our team found rare archival interviews. Hearing artists discussing their work in real-time without the hindsight of history and what this music would mean to Black culture 40 years later added perspective.
We launched the series on June 1 in celebration of Black Music Month. Amplifying Black voices & analyzing critical issues is theGrio’s mission.
"Fast Car" is a song about poverty and the desire to escape and get more from life. At the crescendo, Tracy Chapman says, "I had a feeling I COULD BE SOMEONE," which relates to the desire to matter in a country that often rejects Black lives as a crucial commodity. It's also about Affirmative Action. In June, the United States Supreme Court rejected race-based admissions in higher education. Affirmative Action, a critical & personal issue for Black Americans, dominated headlines and conversations. Tracy's story is a testament to how Affirmative Action can change the trajectory of her life and helped propel her into superstardom.
The 40-year-old song was also topping the charts again with Luke Combs' rendition of "Fast Car." Our social media campaigns plugged into both events, and we created audiograms with notable quotes from the key contributors to share.
(Episode 1 - Tracy Champan x Affirmative Action)
Touré interviewed Ice Cube about NWA's explosive hit song "Dopeman." This episode explores the massive impact of drug dealers on hip-hop & Black America. Cube talks about the rage behind the lyrics.
“Got a black eye cause the dopeman hit her.
Let that slide and pay you no mind.
Find that he’s slapping you all the time.
But that’s okay, cause he’s so rich
And you ain’t nothing but a Dopeman’s bitch.”
The verse expresses his disdain for drug dealers & how they ravaged Black communities. However, they also bankrolled rappers, including NWA, giving them a shot at success when no one else would.
(Episode 3 - NWA x Selling Crack)
June is also Pride Month. The “I’m Coming Out” episode gives a lens into the Black gay liberation movement that was rising in the face of the AIDS crisis. Touré talked to the songwriter, the legendary Nile Rodgers, about the importance of creating a gay pride anthem similar to James Brown’s Black pride anthem, “I’m Black and I’m Proud.”
(Episode 6 - Diana Ross x Gay Liberation)
The podcast industry is incredibly crowded, with more than five million podcasts globally and 70 million episodes. (demandsage.com) It's challenging to break through. After meeting with Apple to inform them about the series, they listened and loved it.
“I am LOVING the series, just listened to this morning the Bob Marley and Stevie Wonder x MLK episodes…. The MLK one in particular was really eye-opening to hear how Stevie played a part in getting MLK’s birthday to become a National Holiday in the US! Lots of GEMS in these stories!“
- Patrick B. Cherry Apple, Creator Partnerships
Being Black: The ‘80s was Apple’s Pick of the Week.” Apple described our series as an “enlightening exploration of songs of the era.”
That was a major accomplishment for TheGrio Black Podcast Network. Our download numbers continue to grow. In June, we had more than 19,000 downloads. So far in July, downloads for the series are up nearly 500%.
Social Media Response
“Y’all this new ‘Being Black- The ‘80s’ series from @Toure and @thegrioblkpods is seriously on a WHOLE ‘NOTHER LEVEL. Deeply researched music analysis, social commentary & accurate historical framing through masterful storytelling.”
“This podcast is hitting ALL THE FEELS.“
"ESSENTIAL HISTORY PODCAST"
“Tell a friend, tell your kids, and share this pod with anyone and everyone who wants a snapshot of American history from the lens of black music. GREAT JOB! WELL DONE!"