Authored by Sagine Morency, Content Editor at Pandora

I can always count on music to give me shelter when the world gets tumultuous. Some might describe 2020 as The Official Year of Turmoil, but I’d guess that most Black people view it differently — a year of shock and surprise, to be sure, but also one filled with headlines and breaking news alerts we know all too well. 

For many, including myself, music is a refuge in troubled times, and so we at Pandora created Wake Up! — a series of playlists to continue amplifying Black voices through it all. We invite artists and thought leaders to share the songs that not only reflect their day-to-day experiences, but also move them to action. 

Songs like “Love Come Down” by Evelyn “Champagne” King. That’s what New York City, USA sounds like to me. When those drums and synths get started and the first verse makes its entrance, the showtime subway dancers favorite tune might as well be another high flying, pole gliding, gravity defying, acrobatic performer. When the song queues up on Pandora’s Black Music Forever Radio, I’m no longer simply walking my dog — I’m now a superhero. There’s no Mariah Carey whisper note I can’t hit. There’s no hips that lie. There’s no Scooby Doo villain I can’t unmask. There’s nothing I can’t do. I’m completely empowered.

It’s fair to assume that everyone in the Black community has their own version of “Love Come Down,” and luckily many of them are sharing their picks in Pandora’s Wake Up! series. The launch features stars like Kiana Ledé, Mike Epps, and Tichina Arnold offering personal tales about songs that inspire them and have shaped pivotal moments in their lives. Check out their playlists, below!

Wake Up! With Kiana Lede

R&B singer-songwriter Kiana Ledé has crowned 2020 as the “year of traumatic events, but also a year that has brought a lot of clarity and change,” and she’s created a soundtrack to match. Ahead, she takes us through the Kendrick Lamar song that speaks to her soul, an incredibly timely Childish Gambino anthem, and a musical gift from Beyoncé that makes her feel like she’s “listening to a letter to and from” her ancestors.

Wake Up! With Mike Epps

To continue to amplify Black voices on Pandora, we are inviting artists and thought leaders to share songs that reflect their experience and move them to action. Stand-up star, actor and producer Mike Epps (‘Next Friday,’ ‘Dolemite Is My Name’) selected tracks that highlight how “comedy is a great bridge for music,” putting together a list of his “all-time favorites.” From a Doug E. Fresh classic to a Nice & Smooth song that “brings plenty of energy,” hear Epps’ Wake Up! playlist, ahead. Once you’re done listening, be sure to catch ‘The Mike Epps Hip Hop Party’ featuring performances and stories by hip hop legends Rakim, KRS1, Big Daddy Kane and more streaming online from Oct. 9th through Oct. 25th.

Wake Up! With Tichina Arnold

NAACP Image Award-winning actress and singer Tichina Arnold (‘Martin,’ ‘The Neighborhood’) shares the Mary J. Blige track that spoke to her as an up-and-coming actress, her first recording studio experience and more.

Wake Up! With Deon Cole

Actor and comedian Deon Cole (‘Black-ish,’ ‘Grown-ish’), takes us through the Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes track that gets him revved up, an O’Jays song that speaks to his soul and more.

Wake Up! With Ester Dean

Actress, singer and Grammy-nominated songwriter Ester Dean (‘Pitch Perfect’) chose tracks that have had a big impact on her life and career, specifically ones that have “motivated her growth as a successful Black woman in America.” Ahead, hear her inspirational picks, which “talk about being rooted in your true self, and letting the world see it instead of keeping it inside.”

Wake Up! With Tank and the Bangas

New Orleans-based R&B group Tank and the Bangas — Tarriona “Tank” Ball, Joshua Johnson, Albert Allenback and Norman Spence — chose tracks that “tugged on them from a spiritual place” and provide plenty of inspiration.

Wake Up! With Novi Brown

‘Sistas’ star Novi Brown curated a musical selection of “songs that make me feel good, feel excellent, feel Black, and feel like a queen.” From a Kaytranada track that inspires her to be “naturally lit” to the talents of Princess Nokia, hear her exclusive picks, ahead.