Martin Luther King, Jr. is the most enduring icon of the civil rights struggle, despite being murdered at just 39 years old in 1968. He was a tireless activist and preached peaceful yet absolutely relentless campaigning for unity, love, and equality.
While I’m sure that the good Reverend doctor would have appreciated the fact that Ableton Live owners everywhere thought enough of his words to turn them into 39 pages of Beatport tracks with 100 titles per page, he may also have peacefully protested hearing ‘I have a dr-dr-dr-dr-dr-dream’ over countless dubstep-by-numbers beats. That being said, we strove to bring you the best (and most respectful) songs written about, inspired by, and sampled from Dr. King and his beautiful ideas. Let’s keep making those dr-dr-dr-dr-dr-dreams a reality.
This track by Larry ‘Mr. Fingers’ Heard is usually acknowledged as one of the first deep house records ever, released on one of the very first house labels (Trax Records) ever. It had an immeasurable impact on the scene and was the very first song that sprung to mind for this list. It was first released in 1986 as an instrumental, and DJs soon started adding the MLK speech on their own, which angered Heard, who was against sampling. Trax eventually caved, and in 2000 released a version of the two together on a Heard retrospective.
It’s somewhat surprising that four Irishmen have written two of the most popular and affecting MLK songs, the other being “Pride (In The Name Of Love),” also from 1984′s The Unforgettable Fire and remixed here. These two songs earned Bono the highest honor from The King Center, bestowed upon him from MLK’s widow Coretta Scott King. Poland’s Doktores does a simple but lovely edit of “MLK.”
John Acquaviva and Richie Hawtin’s Plus 8 label has been around almost as long as dance music itself. This particular track from house music legend Kenny Larkin, released on Plus 8, has probably been alive longer than you have (23 years). Regardless, it sounds just as fresh today as it did then, maybe even fresher.
“By The Time I Get To Arizona” was Public Enemy at their most awesomely militant. This song details what they’d like to do to Evan Mecham and John McCain, the state’s governor and senator respectively, who refused to honor MLK Day in 1991. mc-swanson remixed it using four turntables and cheeky samples from the second Star Wars film referencing the title of the album on which it appeared: Apocalypse 91…The Enemy Strikes Black.
From his aptly named Human Rights EP, this funky, educational track is Alex Pardini’s five-minute Martin Luther King, Jr. for dummies. Bonus points if you recognized that the narrator in the song also narrated this film. “Martin Luther King” is out on Pardini’s Theatre Magicque label out of Switzerland.
For a while, after KRS-One, it was tough for a lot of MCs to be “conscious” without being thought of as soft or just boring. This track does not have that problem. The beat is so good, and the graphic images so compelling, that you don’t even realize you’re reading along with the proud, intelligent lyrics and getting an audio-visual history lesson on civil rights. You just took your medicine, kid.
Bosphorous Underground may have a logo and sound that recalls San Francisco, but they are straight outta Istanbul. If this is what all Turkish house sounds like, it must be a modern paradise, and I’m booking my ticket there now. I bet everyone’s an amazing dancer there, and disused analog synths just line the street, and the sun never sets, and dark and white meat live together in perfect tasty harmony.
Jay Electronica, the most unfortunately named man in music, wasn’t producing in the ’90s from whence his surname is taken and hasn’t ever produced “electronica,” per se. But here, the one we’re calling Jay-E takes another uplifting King speech and couples it with a looping jazzy beat as a tribute to two fallen heroes.
Well, this one is new even to us. A mini-”We Are The World” dedicated to Dr. King starring such ’80s luminaries as Whitney Houston, New Edition, Whodini, The Fat Boys, a very young Ricky Martin, Kurtis Blow, El DeBarge, Run DMC, and a whole lot of hilarious fashion.
Stevie Wonder led the charge to get the good doctor’s birthday recognized as a national holiday, and this song was its battle cry. President Reagan eventually caved and established the day in late 1983, though the first time it was celebrated was not until 1986, when it was commemorated with a large-scale concert which Wonder headlined.
The DJZ/10 is a collection of ten DJs that we think you should know about now. Some of them are already familiar to you, others you may have never heard of. The list is not based on (1) a secret computer algorithm, (2) social media popularity, or (3) payola. Every month or so we get together to decide if somebody from the broader A…Z directory is about to break out and should be included in the DJZ/10, or if somebody already on the list, for that matter, is “phoning it in” and deserved to be replaced by another DJ who is more worthy.×