Honoring Friendship With a Playlist

Creating a repository of jams helps us sustain meaningful relationships

Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

A few days ago, my dear friend, Sabrina Ford, texted me about building a playlist with her. She described it as “the cutest friend activity” and insisted “we need to do one.” I was sold instantly. Friendship in the time of Covid is challenging. So any activity to help maintain it is appreciated. And it involves music? Bet. Music is actually one of the ways Sabrina and I first connected.

More than a decade ago, Sabrina and I met while working at People magazine. We bonded over pop culture and concerts (we love us some Teedra Moses, Amel Larrieux, and The Internet), and lived within a 15-minute walk from each other in Harlem before she moved to Los Angeles nearly seven years ago. The distance between us didn’t chip away at our friendship. Instead we grew closer, interacting more now than when we were living in the same city. Before the pandemic, we would travel to see each other whenever we could. One of my last trips in 2020, before Covid changed everything, was to L.A. to watch the Lakers play the Trail Blazers with Sabrina. (When we made plans the month before, we had no idea that game would be played in tribute to Kobe Bryant, who died five days earlier.)

These days, unsure of when we’ll see each other in-person again, Sabrina and I are leaning on FaceTimes, snail mail, and daily check-in texts and audio messages to stay connected. And now, we’re curating a collaborative playlist, a tiny way to honor our friendship under these social-distanced circumstances. And that’s the thing about this pandemic, we’re all getting creative in how we sustain the relationships that are meaningful to us. Doing the best we can to show up for each other, even in the smallest of ways.

While creating a playlist is not novel, I had never done one with a close friend. Sabrina was right, it is a lot of fun. A joyful way to reunite with the sounds and stories that have us texting each other “that’s my jam!”

First we settled on a theme: original songs + the songs that sample the former. It’s our way of returning to the back-in-the-day bops we love and rediscovering the DNA of our favorite songs from recent eras. We agreed on the title “What’s Old Is New!” — a nod to the sonic lineages heard throughout. We started with eight songs: Sabrina chose Mobb Deep’s “Shook Ones, Pt. II,” which is sampled in Mariah Carey’s “The Roof” (Mariah’s most underrated song, if you ask me), and Minnie Riperton’s “Baby, This Love I Have” sampled by A Tribe Called Quest’s “Check the Rhime.” I selected: Roy Ayers Ubiquity’s “Everybody Loves The Sunshine,” which is found in Mary J. Blige’s “My Life,” and Betty Wright’s “Girls Can’t Do What the Guys Do,” which is ever-present in Beyonce’s “Upgrade U.”

We have more than 55 songs, surpassing four hours of listening. And we ain’t stopping.

The playlist is all about connections — between songs, between eras, and between friends. It’s a shared gift and reflection of our friendship. One that I’m hanging onto until Sabrina and I can blast this, together, in each other’s presence.

Have you created a playlist with friends? Let us know the title and a few of the songs included in the responses.

Need inspiration for your collaborative playlist? Check out ZORA’s latest playlist with songs recommended by readers like you.

Rule breaker, champion of women and education, and recovering sports journalist.

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