Just a week away from Juneteenth celebrations (June 19), Apple Music has tapped a slew of Black creatives to come together for their annual Juneteenth playlist.
On June 10, Apple Music released its platform exclusive “Freedom Songs” compilation album, which boasts both covers and original tracks like Denzel Curry‘s “1st Quarter” featuring TDE’s REASON and “Galveston” by Lupe Fiasco. Also landing on this exclusive playlist is 6LACK, as the East Atlanta Lover Letter emcee brought forth a cover of Yasiin Bey‘s (formerly known by the artist name Mos Def) “UMI Says” from 1999.
The original track is self-produced by Bey, with a mellow drum beat and jingles that set the stage for a charming anthem about perseverance and “shining your light for the world to see.” In the third verse, he inserts motifs about black pride, inspiring the Black community to “unite and let’s all get down.”
On 6LACK’s version, it contains an updated, jazzier instrumental including guitar and saxophone from frequent collaborator FWRDSLXSH and Marco Bernarndis — who has recently produced for Snoh Aalegra and Jack Harlow. The Atlanta singer-rapper continues to emphasize Bey’s original themes of uplifting the Black community on “UMI Says.” While he maintains the same “I don’t wanna write this down” intro and “My Umi said, My Abi said” hook (with Umi meaning mother in Arabic and Abi meaning father) he tweaks the verses quite a bit on the interpolation.
Although he completely omits the song’s original third verse, he moves the “I want black people to be free” bridge that is originally between verses two and three on Yasiin’s rendition to be before his second and final verse on the new rendition. While both of their second verses begin with the “Sometimes I get discouraged / I look around and things are weak” sentiment, 6LACK takes a detour to sing about being a good father to his daughter.
When my daughter grow up and hear this song
The message just be what you wanna be
Be the change that you really wanna see“UMI Says” — 6lack
As 6LACK’s first release of 2022, “UMI Says” does a great job of paying homage to one of the hip-hop’s greatest ever in Yasiin Bey, as well as delivering a hopeful message to Black Americans on Juneteenth.