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20 years ago today, New York City and the U.S.A in general was forever changed by the horrific terrorist attacks that destroyed the world-famous Twin Towers and claimed thousands of lives in a single summer morning.

While September 11th brings back a handful of heart-wrenching memories with every passing anniversary, it’s also made way for a few bittersweet ones as well when considering the beautiful music that was created in tribute to that fateful day.

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In an effort to never forget those who lost their lives, many artists from across multiple genres found ways over the years to express how they felt about what happened on 9/11. Some have rapped about a hopeful future where terrorism doesn’t exist, while others got more personal by melodically mourning a lover lost in the attacks. It’s through the power of song that many musicians were able to make sense of a meaningless act of violence, and the message hit a little closer to home when the person singing the song just so happened to come from our culture.

As we collectively commemorate the two full decades since America became stronger and more united as a nation through tragedy, we wanted to reminisce on a few musical moments created in memory of 9/11 by some of our favorite Black artists. Whether it was from the perspective of a victim, a third-person critique of the government, a group effort to show the newfound unity or a simple ode to one of the greatest cities in the world, the lyrical message was not only delivered but also felt on a massive scale.

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Enjoy 10 of the most memorable 9/11 tribute songs by Black musicians below as we commemorate a day in American history that won’t soon be forgotten:

 

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Music Never Dies: 10 Memorable 9/11 Tribute Songs By Black Musicians  was originally published on blackamericaweb.com

1. Petey Pablo – “Raise Up (USA Remix)” [2001]

Memorable lyrics:

“U.S.A.!! Come on and raise up
Take the flag, put it in the air, spin it like a helicopter
U.S.A.!! Come on and raise up
This one’s for you, uh-uh
This one’s for who, us, us, us, yes sir!”

2. Talib Kweli – The Proud (2002)

Memorable lyrics:

“My heart go out to everybody at Ground Zero
Red, black, yellow, white and brown heroes
It’s more complicated than Black and white
To give your own life is the greatest sacrifice”

3. Lupe Fiasco – “Words I Never Said” (feat. Skylar Grey) [2011]

Memorable lyrics:

“I really think the War on Terror is a bunch of bullshit
Just a poor excuse for you to use up all your bullets
How much money does it take to really make a full clip?
9/11, building 7, did they really pull it?”

4. Beyoncé – “I Was Here” (2011)

Memorable lyrics:

“I just want them to know
That I gave my all, did my best
Brought someone some happiness
Left this world a little better just because
I was here”

5. Will Smith – “Tell Me Why” (feat. Mary J. Blige) [2005]

Memorable lyrics:

“To my surprise, saw what everybody in the world saw
Me and my children, images were chillin
My son said – daddy were there people in that building?
A cold sweat, frozen with a lump in my chest
I heard his question, couldn’t bring my lips to say yes to him
That night at my son’s side, he cried
And prayed for the ones who died in the World Trade
His palms to God, seeds of qualms with God
He just, kept on pressin me, wanna know why”

6. Twista – “Hope” (feat. Cee-Lo) [2004]

Memorable lyrics:

“Wish I could teach a soul to fly
Take away the pain out your hands and help you hold them high, and I
Wish God never gave the men power
To be able to hurt the people inside the Twin Towers, and I (I wish)
Wish God woulda turned they hearts righteous,
When they started to take innocent lives and become snipers”

7. Living Colour – “Flying” (2003)

Memorable lyrics:

“Such a lovely day to go flying
The sky’s so clear the sun is shining
Fate has given me wings,
Such a terrible funny thing.”

8. Michael Jackson – “What More Can I Give” (feat. Various Artists) [2001]

Memorable lyrics:

“[Celine Dion]: How many people will have to die before we will take a stand?
How many children will have to cry, before we do all we can?
If sending your love is all you can give
To help one live
How many times can we turn our heads
And pretend we cannot see
[Mariah Carey]: Healing the wounds of our broken earth
We are one global family
Just sending your prayers
[Beyoncé]: Is something you’ll feel
Helping one heal”

9. Audra McDonald – “I’ll Be Here” (2013)

Memorable lyrics:

“Our first anniversary came in a flash
And we promised to take the day off
He had to stop into his office that morning, and so
I went walking uptown to this bakery I know
When I heard on the street what I thought was a joke
‘Til I noticed the sirens and saw all the smoke

So I’m running back home with this feeling of dread
To the voicemail he left with the last words he said”

10. Jay-Z – “Empire State of Mind” (feat. Alicia Keys) [2009]

Memorable lyrics:

“Three dice Cee Lo, three card Marley
Labor Day Parade – rest in peace, Bob Marley
Statue of Liberty, long live the World Trade
Long live the king, yo – I’m from the Empire State”