All songs taken into account: NPR

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HBO Unsafe not only identified a change in black music over the past five years, he helped distinguish it.

Glen Wilson / HBO


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Glen Wilson / HBO


HBO Unsafe not only identified a change in black music over the past five years, he helped distinguish it.

Glen Wilson / HBO

After five seasons of love, loss, friendship and celebration Lyfts, HBO’s hit comedy-drama Unsafe coming to an end. The creation of the writer and actor Issa Rae, Unsafe has become a cultural touchstone for a new kind of media representation, which has opened the door to intricate and authentic arcs for its characters and visibility for the goofy, amazing and multifaceted black fans who finally feel seen by the television they watch. Unsafe will go down in pop culture history for many reasons, but one of the ripple effects of the show that Rae and his team turned into a tidal wave of influence is the specific way it shaped the sound. and the reach of black music in its wake.

Between Raphael Saadiq who composes, Kier Lehman as musical supervisor and Rae having such a clear vision of the sound of the show, the musical soul of Unsafe has remained consistently flawless for five seasons. No matter how much our opinions on the characters and plots wavered, the music still held us back.

Over the seasons, the show’s main characters – Issa and her best friend, Molly – have shed the stereotypes that have long flattened portrayals of blacks. This cohesive musical track record has even extended to the series’ storylines (Daniel’s producer dreams shattered, season 3’s pilgrimage to Beychella, and Issa’s star-studded block party) and blossomed beyond. of the series itself with Rae launching his own label imprint, Raedio. Whether the show’s characters flourish, flounder, or light up a joint to forget, the emerging artists were the ones they shuffled.

“There has been a change in music, a new wave in R&B,” says Lehman All songs considered. The millennial take on the show was also reflected in the music that came out: SZA, Tyler[, the Creator], Strange future, Frank [Ocean]. It was a movement that was happening and it was really at the same time that the show was happening … We took that into consideration. ‘What is the music of these [characters]? What would they listen to? “

But the team not only identified this change, they helped distinguish it.

UnsafeThe storytelling style created a sounding board for viscerally blunt, honest, center-left black performers. Over the past five years, albums like SZA’s Ctrl; that of Sampha To treat; Ari Lennox’s Baby with shea butter; by Nao Saturn; Tyler, the creator flower boy; Summer walker Above and, more recently, that of Jazmine Sullivan Tales of Heaux managed to define a specific musical sub-genre, which appeals to black millennials with a new sense of depth and reality: imperfect, awkward, sexually ambidextrous but also intimately anxious, making dreams come true in a way no one only told them was possible and intentionally rejecting all the two-dimensional archetypes placed on them.

Unsafeshows us things about ourselves onscreen that we haven’t really always seen, ”said TeaMarrr, a Raedio signer whose song“ Pipe Dreams ”appeared on the soundtrack last season. TeaMarrr credits Rae for leading a new path in honesty. in writing songs for herself and for others by leading by example.

“Like her sex scene with TSA bae,” says TeaMarrr, referring to a scene from Season 4 with Issa and a fan favorite adventure. “First of all, two black guys having sex onscreen? And then one of them is tall… Every time they do something like that, all kind of stuff comes out because it’s like, ‘Now we can talk about it.’ “

Even as the show grew in popularity, music curation tended to eschew Top 40 hits that would have aired on the radio, in favor of an aesthetic that feels organized for these particular characters. The creators are betting big on small numbers, in some cases, by offering new talents their first professional internships. Voices like Kari Faux, BOSCO and Sampha have been heard over the course of several seasons. Raedio dedicated Unsafe music writing camps over the past two years to allow new musicians to contribute directly to the season’s soundtrack, echoing themes presented by the show’s creators. The opportunity simultaneously gives artists a platform and inspires them to usher in new perspectives in their songwriting.

“We’ve all been dealing with f *** n **** and we didn’t want to admit it,” Nnena said, commenting on the push and pull of relationships that have been a vital part of the arc. from the Serie. Nnena’s Slow Burner “Funexpressed feelings that Issa and Lawrence couldn’t – “I’ve never seen people break up without words! “- at the season 5 premiere.” I feel like [Insecure] just knows how to play with our emotions so well because they’ve been through it too, “she says.” That’s what makes writing so natural. “

“There is no need to be cataloged in a singular sound or a singular situation,” says LA-based artist BK Habermehl, whose jazz “Free time“, which was written during this year’s writing camp, appears on the soundtrack for the final season.” I just love dancing to the different genres of each song and knowing the audience is there for it. The public is also open to this … They are there for all types of expressions of who you are as a human, as if there isn’t just one way to be. “


That the characters of HBO Unsafe flourish, flounder or light a joint to forget, emerging artists are the ones they play shuffle.

Merie W Wallace / HBO


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Merie W Wallace / HBO


That the characters of HBO Unsafe flourish, flounder or light a joint to forget, emerging artists are the ones they play shuffle.

Merie W Wallace / HBO

The legacy of Unsafethe influence of goes far beyond the last sunset on Issa Rae’s dream of South LA The musical choices made on Unsafe transcend a soundtrack. They act like his heartbeat – there to allow viewers to float in a few extra seconds of lightness, to immerse themselves deeper under the weight of bad decisions, to usually catch our breath. They do the whole show. On the other side of the lens, the new wave of all-black storytelling in music has helped a generation communicate, cope, and grow more honestly.

“I think I have a bit of that validation to be included in something like Unsafe also allows those voices, not just mine, to pass, to spread even more, to grow even more “, says Habermehl.” I feel like this is also a big part of the theme of the show: grow in yourself. “


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