Chris Studer’s “Locals” Playlist

This is Chris Studer’s “Locals” playlist, which we’ve linked at the bottom of this blog post if you want to listen along!

  1. “Stuck To My Heart” by J3M

No question about #1 for me! Jem is not only incredibly talented, he is also an amazing person — so kind and humble — that I’ve been fortunate to work with at Get REAL for many years now.

I’ve also had the pleasure of playing (drums) “Stuck To My Heart” with Jem in-person and, yes, it sounds even better live! Look out for his new album coming out soon!

2. “Hero” by Michael Kiwanuka

My dad sent me this song a while back and I’ve loved it since then. The guitar, the verses, and chorus — dark, beautiful, bold, ominous. I never get tired of listening to it.

Kiwanuka had written the music (along with Danger Mouse) years before he was able to put words to it. Those lyrics were primarily inspired by the death of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, portrayed by Daniel Kaluuya in the recent film “Judas and the Black Messiah”, at the hands of the F.B.I.

“Please don’t shoot me down / I love you like a brother / It’s on the news again / I guess they killed another”

The song also references the concept of death, and martyrdom, as a prerequisite for people listening to your words, or music; a powerful theme also explored in one of my favorite country songs, The Band Perry’s “If I Die Young”:

“A penny for my thoughts, oh no, I’ll sell ’em for a dollar / They’re worth so much more after I’m a goner / And maybe then you’ll hear the words I’ve been singin’ / Funny when you’re dead, how people start listenin’.”

An amazing song, with multiple layers, from someone who has so much talent and is not nearly as well known as he should be. I’m also waiting for this song to be picked up by a great HBO trailer; it’s got that feel all over it.

3. “Never Forget You” by Noisettes

“That’s the way it is with good ones — you’re sure you’ve heard them before.” Jeff Bridges says that to Maggie Gyllenhaal in “Crazy Heart” when he plays her a song he’s just written (the title track of the movie) and she says that she’s heard it before… but just can’t place who wrote it.

“Never Forget You” is like that. When you first hear it, you’re sure it’s a cover of a 60s Motown classic by a group like The Carpenters. Oh, no, actually — maybe it’s a cover from the movie “Pirate Radio’s” soundtrack of 70s classics, alongside Dusty Springfield. Or actually… that huge, catchy chorus… that’s gotta be from the 90s, probably on a mix CD next to No Doubt.

In actuality, this timeless song is from 2009, and sadly, the Noisettes as a band are no longer together. But I’m putting it on here a) because I think everyone needs to hear it, it’s that good and b) because lead singer and bassist Shingai Shoniwa is incredible and just released her debut solo album Too Bold in 2020.

4. “Speak Now” by Leslie Odom Jr.

An amazing song, from the film “One Night In Miami.” This song truly speaks for itself. Incredible, haunting, emotional, powerful. My father in law showed me this song and I’ve been listening to it on repeat ever since! This clip of him singing live on the premiere of the film is amazing too.

5. “No Mercy (Intro)” by Young M.A

Rap fans know that the intro song of an album is often the most epic, and hard-hitting. It’s an announcement that I’ve arrived on the scene or that I’m back and bigger than ever.

N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton”, Cardi B’s “Get Up”, Jay-Z’s “The Ruler’s Back”, Lil Wayne’s “3 Peat”, and Ye’s “Good Morning” all come to mind. And “No Mercy”, for me, is an intro of intros.

The song is dripping with confidence — not only confidence in herself, but also the confidence to hold back, until she feels like turning on the gas (0:43), because she knows that makes it all the more impactful. And then by the time the beat drops, the song feels like she’s kicking down the door with a mic in her hand, rolling deep with all of Brooklyn behind her.

Beyond her flow, which is incredible and has earned her props from rap giants like Eminem and 50 Cent, M.A also brings a visibility that hip-hop still badly needs. In 2019, she was the “first LGBTQ+ rapper to grace the cover of [Out] magazine” and her unapologetic (read: “not giving AF”) lyrics speak for themselves. A huge shout out to my friend and Get REAL team made Jonas for showing me such a talented hip-hop artist, most definitely on the rise.

6. “Callie” by Mint Green

Some songs are beautiful for how quintessential they are to a single genre (like “Juicy” is to hip-hop, “Chicken Fried” to country, or “Master of Puppets” to metal). But some songs are beautiful because they float between different genres, and “Callie” is like that. A bit of folk, a bit of pop, a bit of punk, a bit of angsty emo, but ultimately, this song does its own thing, in its own path, and gets catchier every time I listen to it, which is often.

7. “Stay Alive” by Mustafa the Poet

Another great song that isn’t bound by genres. It’s funny referencing “Crazy Heart” above, because this song could definitely be from that soundtrack. Shout out to Mustafa — Toronto represent — for this beautiful piece of music. At 25, with songwriting credits for The Weeknd, Camila Cabello, and Shawn Mendes, it’s fair to say that this multidisciplinary artist (music, poetry, filmmaking) is just getting started.

8. “I Don’t Wanna Lie” by Yola

Big Country Energy, baby. This song has a huge country sound that feels like Janis Joplin would have had fun singing it. I’m a huge fan of songs like these. Sunny day, windows down, volume to 11. Alisan Porter earned a four-chair turn during her audition on The Voice, where she performed Linda Ronstadt’s “Blue Bayou”, which had a similar feel and energy. Big sound. Big confidence. Perfect notes. With only two albums out, the best is definitely yet to come. Sing it, Yola.

9. “Rascal” by RMR

This song couldn’t not make the list. RMR is like this mysterious enigma. Most people don’t even know what his face looks like behind the mask, which reminds me of when The Weeknd was first blowing up, and keeping a lid on his visuals to the point where people were asking “Is The Weeknd a group, or one person?”

When asked why he wears a mask, RMR’s response was: “It’s because I want people to listen with their ears, not their eyes.” From someone so out of the box, it’s not surprising that his breakout hit was a modified cover of Rascal Flatt’s “Bless The Broken Road”. RMR has claimed to be a huge fan of not only country acts, but also of everyone from Blink 182 to Avril Lavigne (respect).

The video is also something special, starting off with some amazing acapella, and the contrast of the visuals to the music is wild. Released just February of 2020, I’d argue that this song is still blowing up, with recent comments like “If I could only listen to one song for my entire life, it would be this one,” and “We are experiencing a musical revolution in the making”.

RMR was recently signed to Warner, and apparently most, if not all, executives have yet to meet him with his mask off. “That’s what we want at Warner. Anytime an artist isn’t afraid to break down barriers it’s good for culture.” Preach. I’m looking forward to hearing more

10. “Let Migo” and “Last Supper” by D Smoke

Last but not least! If you’re a hip-hop fan and haven’t watched Netflix’s “Rhythm & Flow” I highly recommend. D Smoke won the entire thing with “Last Supper”, which also included an amazing introduction where he played some beautiful piano and rapped at the same time.

“Let Migo” is equally impressive, with both meaningful social commentary about police brutality and racism, and multiple lines with lyrics that rhyme in both Spanish and English (he’s fluent in both). A raw talent, whose trajectory has only one way to go: arriba.

Story by Chris Studer, Executive Director, Non-Profit Organization Get REAL.

Listen to these songs and more on Apple Music + Spotify:

Check out our site for more information on what we do, educational resources on Black historic figures, and current voices making a change in our communities.

Join our community on Social Media:

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And we have merch! All proceeds of our merch go towards combatting racism, 2SLGBTQ+ discrimination, and bullying in schools, summer camps, and workplaces. Helps us make a change by visiting:

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We are a non-profit focused on combatting 2SLGBTQ+ discrimination, racism, and bullying in schools, summer camps, and workplaces.

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