AUX CORD CHRONICLES IV: IT’S ALL ABOUT SERENA
How exactly does one pay homage to Serena Williams, an athlete redefining dominance and so provocative when millions of words have already been written about her with billions more yet to come? Easy. You give her her own #AuxCordChronicles, a series so lit even President Barack Obama took the idea.
Yep, chapter four revolves solely around Young Serena. Her 308 match wins in Grand Slams place her at No. 1. Men or women. And although she did not go on to win the U.S. Open, to snag what would have been her 23rd Grand Slam title, we still think she’s one of the best to ever do it. Again, men or women.
Hence there being 23 entries. The entire playlist could have been songs by Beyoncé — whom Serena introduced at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards — off the strength both are soul sisters and, along with first lade Michelle Obama, currently comprise the celebrity Holy Trinity of #BlackGirlMagic. But where’s the fun in that? From Aretha Franklin to Too $hort, the following are 23 anthems tailor-made for a queen.
Aretha Franklin – “Respect” (1967)
When you’re discussing the greatest athletes whoever lived, all Serena is asking for is some respect. Respeck, too.
Bob Marley & The Wailers – “No Woman, No Cry” (1975)
I don’t know Serena personally. But it’s tough to imagine her not rocking with Bob Marley’s classic that was a classic record before she was even born and will be a classic record even long after both she and I leave here. Bet money she’s slow-danced to this at least once in her life while on an island vacation.
Gloria Gaynor – “I Will Survive” (1979)
Although our hearts broke when Queen Serena lost, there’s no one with better bounce back game. She has shown us her ability to dust her shoulders off time and again. Please believe, if anyone will survive, it’s Serena.
Janet Jackson – “Rhythm Nation” (1989)
People need to listen to what Janet Jackson’s saying here. It’s quite relevant. Anyway, perhaps the more fitting choice would have been her 1986 hit “Control.” Yet, I remember seeing this video way, way, way back in the day thinking Miss Jackson (if you’re nasty) decked out in all black was one of the coolest things my young eyes had ever seen. Plus, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen that look re-created as Halloween costumes. Jackson’s always been cold in my book and I’m pretty sure this video is a large part why.
A Tribe Called Quest – “Bonita Applebum” (1990)
Kinda hard not to vibe out to this, nah mean?
Whitney Houston – “I’m Every Woman” (1992)
An 11th-hour change gave Whitney the nod over the great Chaka Khan’s 1978 original. The Bodyguard is one of my grandma’s favorite movies and soundtracks. My grandma is my rib. Hence the change of heart. Plus, the video was quintessential #BlackGirlMagic long before the phrase became the cool thing to say.
Tupac Shakur – “Keep Ya Head Up” (1993)
And since we all came from a woman/Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman/I wonder why we take from our women/Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?/ I think it’s time to kill for our women Time to heal our women, be real to our women. For reference, Serena was 11 when Pac’s ode to single mothers dropped.
Whitney Houston & CeCe Winans – “Count On Me” (1995)
Serena’s ode to her big sister, Venus. Venus’ ode to her little sister, Serena. They’ve changed the game (and lives) forever.
D’Angelo – “Brown Sugar” (1995)
The same way Marilyn Monroe sang “Happy Birthday” way back when, I’m calling it now. D’Angelo serenades this to Serena to at her retirement gala. At whatever exclusive location none of us will be invited to. Hope it’s still years away from now.
Foxy Brown feat. Dru Hill – “Big Bad Mama” (1996)
Raise your hand if you forgot Chris Webber and Stephon Marbury were in the video. Ahh, the ’90s. What a time to be alive. Who knows if a 15-year-old Serena was allowed to watch How To Be A Player. But I can sure picture her listening to Foxy and Dru Hill’s remake of Carl Carlton’s “She’s A Bad Mama Jama” on the way to tennis practice on her Sony Walkman.
Lil Kim feat. Angie Martinez, Left Eye, Da Brat & Missy Elliott – “Not Tonight (Ladies Night Remix)” (1997)
On the not-so-lowest-of-keys, this is one of my favorite singles from the ’90s. In the immediate post-Pac and Biggie Smalls era, hearing rappers have fun and embrace life was refreshing. As it relates to Serena, it’s not tough to envision her, Beyoncé and friends recreating this song/video in some presidential suite in Las Vegas. Shout-out to Kool & The Gang for the original.
TLC – “Unpretty” (1999)
For years, DJ Khaled’s nemesis, “They,” have tried to take shots and tear Serena’s body down. And, for years, Serena has struggled to give a single …
Common – “The Light” (2000)
The Chi-Town living legend opens up about the beauty of the leading lady in his life. At the time, it wasn’t about Serena. But I’m sure the words still applied.
Eve – “Who’s That Girl” (2001)
She’s Serena Jameka Williams. Sister of Venus, the late Yetunde, Isha, Lyndrea, Dylan and Richard. Daughter of Richard and Oracene. Beyoncé bestie. Twerk teaser. Sharapova slayer.
Memphis Bleek feat. Jay Z – “Do My…” (2001)
Serena’s actually in the video. Unlike Drake, though, it’s long been quite clear Jay (or anyone else on Roc-a-Fella) couldn’t beat Serena if she was playing with her left.
Destiny’s Child – “Survivor” (2001)
Contrary to popular belief, it hasn’t been all Grand Slams, gold medals and sonning Maria Sharapova at every opportunity. She’s had to overcome a lot in her life, from the streets of South Central Los Angeles and (un)healthy doses of overt sexism and racism throughout her career.
Maxwell – “This Woman’s Work” (2001)
2001 is obviously a trend here. As a man, you have to step back and admire the strength, beauty, drive and determination in a woman. Your mom. Sister. Best friend. Girlfriend. Wife. And in this case, Serena, whose work not only speaks for itself. But will continue to do so long after you, me or anyone else reading this are gone. Leave something behind that can tell your story after you can’t. Shouldn’t that be everyone’s goal?
Too $hort – “Blow The Whistle” (2006)
Play it in New York, people lose their mind. Play it in Paris, people lose their mind. Play it in Tokyo, I’m not sure but I’d guess they’d lose their mind there, too. But unless you’ve seen the reaction “Blow The Whistle” gets on the West Coast, you’ve yet to truly experience life. I don’t bet too often. But if some brave soul manages to get aux cord access in Arthur Ashe Stadium and Serena hears “Blow the Whistle,” I’d wager my entire 401(k) she would — as my grandma would say — “lose her ever-loving mind.” Similar to this. “Blow The Whistle” is a religious experience to West Coasters.
Alicia Keys – “Superwoman” (2007)
There’s definitely an “S” on Serena’s chest. Under the Nike-sponsored Dri-FIT shirt, of course.
Drake feat. T.I. & Swizz Beatz – “Fancy” (2010)
Yes, Common and Drake are on the list. Let’s all be grown-ups for a second and look past that. As for “Fancy,” one of the standout records from Drake’s Thank Me Later, Serena’s always gonna need pregame music for when she’s about to step out.
Beyonce – “Run The World (Girls)” (2011)
Basically self-explanatory at this point.
Kendrick Lamar feat. Dr. Dre – “Compton” (2012)
Don’t you ever get it twisted. Serena’s forever Straight Outta Compton.
Nicki minaj feat. Beyonce – “Feeling Myself” (2014)
Due to Lemonade not being on Spotify — one time for the streaming wars! — we couldn’t close with “Sorry,” a record that featured Serena (twerking) in the video. Nevertheless, Beyonce claiming, Male or female, it makes no difference, I stopped the word!, has just the right amount of synergy needed to cap off this special edition of #AuxCordChronicles on a high note.