VIDEO: Gyasi Ross’ “Marlon Brando”

If you’ve been looking for a spoken word artist to listen to and put some faith on, check out Gyasi Ross. He’s coming out with an album called Isskootsik (Before Here Was Here), which comes from being a Native American in the Pacific Northwest, understanding his surroundings and nearby communities and also letting people know a bit of commonality that perhaps used to exist, or is quickly dissolving in modern times. There are lessons within some cultures that continue to be passed along through ancestors from generation to generation, and it’s something that should not be exclusive to one group if we are ever to become “one world, one people”. The album, which is being released on Cabin Games via Olympia, Washington-based K Records, can be pre-ordered through Amazon below. Until then, check out a song from it called “Marlon Brando”, and if Ross sounds like a cross between KRS-One and Michael Frante, then you may become a fan.


AUDIO: Kilo Kish’s “002: Attempted Holiday Readings”

Photo by Silke Libson
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Vocalist Kilo Kish released her Across EP earlier this year but now has a Christmas recording to end 2014 on a good note. This one is called “002: Attempted Holiday Readings”, where her approach is taking various Christmas stories and combining them for listening, perhaps near a fireplace or anywhere that may be comfortable.

For 2015, there is an Across Remixes EP in the works and will be out in January.

FREE MP3 DL: Fatal Prose’s “Black Soap”

It’s rare that I get spoken word artists on my website, even though I am and have been a fan, but I’d like to introduce to you an artist who goes by the name Fatal Prose. This track was actually done ten years ago and comes from a full length album produced by Ill Poetic. Why this track has surfaced now is because of some of the issues happening in the world, specifically in the United States, and it’s not only that it’s timely, but it’s an every day thing that people need to know, if they didn’t already. No word on if the album will resurface again or if Fatal Prose will do new work so if you like it, reply.

VIDEO: Imperial | Agnes & Lupus’ “Amongst Wolves”

Here’s a cool project from Illect Recordings, where it may sound hip-hop but then you realize it’s not the kind of hip-hop you would hear in an every day situation. Then again, you may already be doing that. It has a slight downtempo/trip hop vibe, a song that you’d expect to hear on Mo Wax, Solesides, or ffrr in the mid to late 90’s. You can blame that partly on the location of the duo Imperial: United Kingdom. There’s a different sensibility.

Add to that the visual component by Agnes & Lupus, and it’s obvious this is a production that is being looked upon differently. You can purchase the song below via Bandcamp.

VIDEO/FREE DL: Martin Del Carpio’s “Savage Garden”

Martin Del Carpio has been quite active in the visual department in the last few months and this time around, he has created a clip for a spoken word piece called “Savage Garden”. It’s taken from his Tropic Of Capricorn: An EP EP, my review of which can be read by cllcking here.

DUST IT OFF: Me’Shell NdegéOcello’s “Plantation Lullabies”…20 Years Later

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At the time of release, Me’Shell NdegéOcello was not a complete unknown, but she wasn’t known outside of her Washington, DC circle. She had played bass for years and was known for being a young powerhouse, but she hadn’t yet established herself as a major artist. Considering the work she did, one might argue that she didn’t want to be a major artist but eventually she found herself on Madonna’s then-new Maverick record label. Maverick was partly created to showcase some of Madonna’s interests but primarily to show her as a record label CEO with ten successful years in the music industry. If The Beatles had Apple, Elton John had The Rocket Record Company, The Rolling Stoned had Rolling Stones, and Prince had Paisley Park, then Madonna was ready to show that she had hers. NdegéOcello was one of her early signees.

With Madonna’s name attached to hers, people were not sure what to expect from a female bassist, born Michelle Johnson. Immediately, a female musician might have lead people to wondering if she played jazz. Yes, she did. By the time one finished listening to her debut album, one couldn’t help realize she was so much more, a singer/songwriter/musician who could arguably outshine the co-owner of her label.

  • One might ask what exactly are Plantation Lullabies? Madonna was signed to Sire, which was a Warner Bros. Records-affiliated label. Maverick was also distributed by Warner Bros. It has been said that the Warner Bros. movie studio plot in Burbank, California was built on land that was originally a plantation. With an artist who is social and political in her music, perhaps it could be said that NdegéOcello was now making music “for the man”, and thus if she was now a slave to a system, then the music she would create would become her lullabies for the plantation, songs to sing in the meantime before she would eventually make her way out.
  • The album begins with the mellow title track, an instrumental that serves as the album’s introduction to her show, welcoming everyone in, hoping people were firmly seated for what was to come. “I’m Diggin You (Like an Old Soul Record)” begins incredibly funky and the bass immediately jumps out. “Damn, this is some funky shit” I said, and then she spoke by telling the listener to “just sit back and relax, listen to an 8-track”. Immediately she was telling you what kind of comfortable vibe her album wanted to create. This was an album that was meant to listen to, to allow the metaphorical 8-track tape to take its time, a format that initially was made without being able to fast forward (or rewind) the tape. Once you popped it in, you had to listen to it from start to finish, and your only way of moving around the album was clicking the button to go between tracks 1 to 4. Lyrically, she touches on how the world was different when people were singing not as a means to be free, but because it was normal to feel free, because “love brought us all together”. It referenced the Black Power movement, but also a different mentality, which now became sentimentality. It was now the 90’s, and now love seems to have been replaced by heavy drug usage:
    Now brothers be base-in
    Running from the beat-down cops that be chasin’
    Running out of time, running out of patience
    In this war of the conscious mind

    These Lullabies were not going to be about Little Jack Horner putting his thumb in a pie to find a plum.

  • If “”I’m Diggin You (Like an Old Soul Record)” was more spoken word in feel, it couldn’t be denied that “If That’s Your Boyfriend (He Wasn’t Last Night)” was a rap song about her finding a man that she wants, and if that man is attached to someone else, it is not her problem. She wants what she wants and she’ll get it. If it comes to her (or looking for her), even better. The song was released as Plantation Lullabies‘ second single and its black & white video would receive a healthy amount of MTV and BET rotation in late 1993/early 1994, which would help give her a great amount of exposure. The song was also notable for featuring two samples within the mix (the “hey” which opens the song and the “oooh!” stabs heard before the first verse drops), which was distinctively different from the funkiness of “I’m Diggin You (Like an Old Soul Record)”, as if it was dipping into her own soul record collection to find influences.
  • The drug reference made in “I’m Diggin You (Like an Old Soul Record)” was explored in full with “Shoot’n Up and Gett’n High”, but one could say is the drug in question heroin, or the type of mental and social injections that turn some of us into slaves of/for ourselves:
    And damn I thought I was shootin’up Africa in my veins
    White man voodoo slow my brain the while man fights wars and enslaves
    All in God’s name
    What ya trying to achieve with your suntan lotion
    You wanna keep me down keep me down
    Revolution against this racist institution
    The white man shall forever sleep with one eye open
    Dehumanize me
    Criticize, set aside
    Livin’ in the midst of genocide I hear voices voices are what I hear
    Uprise would you die for your right

    If Curtis Mayfield recorded an album about a man named John Shaft who was trying to make his community better by getting rid of the pusher man, NdegéOcello showed that 20 years later, people are still struggling and “trying to get over”, and the pain still hurts. The track marks were becoming more difficult to hide.

  • “Dred Loc” was the first single released off of Planatation Lullabies and was my formal introduction to NdegéOcello when the song found a home on BET’s Video Soul and Video Vibrations. The song was about love, or more specifically, black love, with her voice casually saying “let me run my fingers through your dreadlocks and rub your body down”. The song was soothing, moving, and grooving from start to finish, and her bass riffs throughout showed this was very much a personal slow jam, or had the potential to become one.
  • From an untitled interlude towards the deepness of love, “Step Into The Projects” has her singing about looking for someone to find an affection that’s more than just the physical, although the darkness of ones skin also equates to the darkness of the mind that is split between dealing with the true darkness of the world and a sensibility that is unique to ones own darkness as people are “groovin’, love to hear the brothers signify sisters with their head held high”. No need to think about a world looking at you for who you are based on what they think you are, when being dark and lovely becomes much more of a statement than just a casual beauty product.

    Soul On Ice is a book written by Eldridge Cleaver and published in 1968, the year of NdegéOcello’s birth. In this song, she explores what some might do to try to fit in with another culture just to get by or simply pass, and sometimes that also touches on what some within their own culture will do to validate what it means to be what they feel it means to be what they are. At the time, a number of hip-hop artists were doing songs about “dirt road, white girl”, a way to say “why do you want to look, speak, and dress this way when it’s all cosmetic to you? You can remove the clothing and make-up when you’re home, wipe the dirt away before you go to sleep.” At this point, NdegéOcello throws out boomerangs and she knows exactly who, or perhaps what, her intended target is:
    Creams sad passion deferred dreams
    I am a reflection of you
    Black and blue pure as the tears of coal-colored children crying for acceptance
    You can’t run from yourself
    She’s just an illusion
    Black love anthems play behind white-skinned affection
    New Birth stereophonic Spanish fly let her cry
    But you no longer burn for the motherland brown skin
    You want blond-haired, blue-eyed soul, Snow White passion without the hot comb

    One can equate that as a lullaby of the plantation, or parallel to what Cleaver was dealing with when he wrote Soul On Ice while in prison, or simply NdegéOcello dealing with what she knew, what she saw, what she experienced, and putting that into something that could have fit in perfectly on the Super Fly soundtrack.

  • After repeat listens of this album for years, I feel the last five songs are a perfect suite, equal to the Abbey Road suite, Chicago’s “Ballet For A Girl In Buchanon” from Side 2 Chicago II (or even the “Prelude/A.M. Mourning/P.M. Mourning/Memories Of Love” or “It Better End Soon” movements from the same Chicago album), The Who’s “A Quick One While He’s Away”, or the Beastie Boys’ “B-Boy Bouillabaisse”. The songs may not have been done as a suite, and there may not have been a steady stream of consciousness when they were written, recorded, and pieced together for the album, and yet it feels as if she did it that way. The running theme in the last five songs are love and romance, which begins with a request (if not a subtle demand) for a call for a hook-up in “Call Me”:
    Dial the 7 digits, It’s quite simple
    I’ll be there in a hurry, Jack be quick Jack be nimble
    Call me up when you feel the need to talk
    When words aren’t of the essence I’ll soothe you with my presence
    A kiss here and there from head to toe
    Just call me up when you want more
    You can be king for a day
    I’ll be your queen, let me treat you that way

  • “Outside Your Door” is being on the verge of wanting someone, or telling that special someone that I am within arms reach, you just have to extend your hand to get to me:
    “I’d be content to just sit here and talk to you
    In my dreams you love me and me only
    The way you kiss and hold me
    Love is what I search and search to find
    But until then I’ll just dream for the meantime

    The song is done as an incredible, soulful and jazzy slow jam, going back and forth between spoken word and vocals, as she sensually caresses her own mind in the hopes that other things may be catered to when that time comes.

  • “Picture Show” is more umtempo, very much a feel good song where one discovers when the hand is extended, you can share a warm embrace and watch a movie. The fact that she uses a term like “picture show” is very old school, especially in 1993 when most people were no longer using the term to describe a movie or film. Then again, the reference where she sings “we can sit and neck, baby” is a reflection of the mentality she once discussed a few songs earlier, when you can only sit back and relax for so long while listening to 8-tracks. Old school thought, old school mentality, old school feelings”
    In my script there’s a love scene, picture it
    Candles with warm apple cider
    Sly Stone on the radio
    Oh, caress your funky dreads in the candle’s glow
    Whisper in my ear
    “‘Cause I’m in the mood for love”
    I’m just a hopeless romantic
    Hopelessly in love with you

  • “Sweet Love” is another slow jam that I’d like to think she enhances (or used to enhance) in a live setting. The song is about a certain type of desire wanted. While she found herself speaking for the woman who didn’t mind loving anyone she wanted, she now finds herself in sorrow, wanting someone who is in love with someone else.
    Cry my tears by candlelight, I’m just another lonely heart
    Here on a lonely night, screams of passions
    I call out your name making love to another
    Just to ease my pain, will this ever change?
    Will you ever feel the same way about me?

    The melody that fades-out the song almost hints at child-like innocence, as if someone is doing hopscotch and discovering what it means to have a first crush, and always feeling that way when a desire is wanted but cannot be fulfilled at this time.

  • The Lullabies conclude with “Two Lonely Hearts (On the Subway)”. There’s two ways of looking at this five-song suite and how it ends. It may seem as if NdegéOcello found her man and is enjoying everything that it means to be in love, or to simply be. She pleads for that person to extend their hand but by the end of them, it is she who reveals it is her resisting the temptation to simply say hello, yet knows that first word (or words) could lead to some sense of freedom, if only for a morning, afternoon, or evening. It is then she reveals that as she boards the train to head back home, she is not the only one who feels alone:
    We could read some Ntozake Shange
    and I loose myself in the book
    I escape to my heavenly tomb
    Or we could read the voice
    It’s your choice, I just want to get to know you
    Your lovely black face
    Accompanied by some strictly roots
    As we venture, it’s just nice to be near you

    Words expressed, but not heard? Emotions felt, but not spoken externally? As the song gently fades and the instrumental backing moves towards hearing nothing but NdegéOcello playing a slightly mournful-yet-optimistic goodbye, you realize that this was not the lullaby you expected to hear, but are comforted in knowing that as one fades into slumber, there is always that metaphorical promise of a new day, and whatever we’re able to make of it.

  • The album brought in musicians she had worked with over the years, such as David “Fuze” Fiuczynski, Wah-Wah Watson, Joshua Redman, Geri Allen, and Luis Conté, but when it came to needing a DJ for some scratching on the closing track, she asked DJ Premier to help out with “turntable interpretations”, which helps to enhance the feeling of the “Two Lonely Hearts” by recreating the external sounds of the subway. It sounds gritty and it’s fitting for an album that goes in a number of places throughout a song, sometimes within the same section of a song.

    If NdegéOcello herself felt as if she didn’t know how to fit herself in with the rest of the world, what to make of an album that for some may have felt like a confusing array of sounds unsure of how to unite? I always felt the mixture of soul, funk, jazz, hip-hop, and spoken word fit perfectly, and that one didn’t have to limit themselves to a constraint, if they allowed themselves to be free.

    One of the most notable things about the album was the liner notes, which featured some of her own writings. It also featured a few statements, including one that hit me and I still remember to this day:
    the alternative to hip-hop is silence

    Hip-hop was slowly dividing itself to where one didn’t, couldn’t, or refused to recognize the other, so it seemed to become one group of those who wanted the attention, and the other who simply wanted to be. Could hip-hop welcome in someone like NdegéOcello who could not only rap, but sing and play an instrument? Forget the fact that people like Shock G. and Kwame Holland were already playing instruments in their own music and productions, but the scope of what hip-hop was meant to represent in 1993 was very different than it would be at the dawn of the internet’s first hip-hop communities. Technically, NdegéOcello was an outsider even though hip-hop felt as if it was without rules. Technically, Beck’s “Loser” is a twisted hip-hop song but he could be considered someone who rapped. Or maybe it was a credibility issue, that he could “rap” but no one care call him a rapper.

    Regardless, Plantation Lullaby showed what could happen if one chose to go beyond the boundaries of what was established so you could create your own territory, even if that territory made you feel alone and isolated. One means of isolation will eventually lead you to find the promised land, be it within the plantation or not. However, part of the album’s beauty is listening to her struggle through the ways of the plantation and coming to the conclusion that we can make it exist or not, especially when you reach the epiphany of what you really want. It’s the eternal search for a lonely heart so that it’s possible for them to beat as one. That’s a lullaby worth singing about, or in this case, 13 Plantation Lullabies worth singing and remembering.

  • VIDEO: Kojey Radical’s “Cathartic Release”

    The thin line between rap lyrics and the spoken word disappears with this one by London’s Kojey Radical. Upon listening, it may come off as a bit of social dlalogue read from the paper or off the head. Listen to it again, and one may imagine an instrumental being laid over it, as if the voice is an acapella that fights a song being pushed its way. It works both ways, and perhaps regardless of how it’s heard/listened to, it remains a “Cathartic Release” for everyone involved. Kojey is a member of The Greedy Anorexics and represents the Push Crayons collective.

    SOME STUFFS: 9th Annual Afropunk Fest returns in August

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    Look at this, I think the poster/flyer speaks for itself to where I almost don’t have to explain what’s going on. Just look at it and head out there if you can, right? However, I should let you know what’s going on.

    First off, the obligatory introduction as to what Afropunk is:
    AFROPUNK is an influential community of young, gifted people of all backgrounds who speak through music, art, film, comedy, fashion and more. Originating with the 2003 documentary that highlighted a Black presence in the American punk scene, it is a platform for the alternative and experimental. Remaining at the core of its mission are the punk principles of DIY aesthetics, radical thought and social non-conformity. AFROPUNK is a voice for the unwritten, unwelcome and unheard-of.

    The 9th annual Afropunk Fest is bringing together a lot of talent in one place. Headlining will be Chuck D. & DJ Lord of Public Enemy, who will be performing Fear Of A Black Planet in full. Also scheduled to appear include ?uestlove (of The Roots), Saul Williams, The Coup, K-OS, Danny Brown, Jean Grae, Theophilus London, Mykki Blanco, LE1F, and so many more. In fact, more artists are being pulled in for the Afropunk Fest as you read this. Everyone will be gathering at Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn on August 24-25th, so if you want to consider this one of your end-of-summer events, this would be a great way to celebrate the season. For updates and more information on the festival, head to

    FREE MP3 DL: Nomsa Mazwai’s “Globalisation”

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    Singer/poet Nomsa Mazwai also creates her music under the name Nomisupasta, and “Globalisation” is a track that touches on what the real meaning of the word is, or as Mazwai states, “is a social comment on globalisation and how it manifests in Africa. She touches on the gentrification happening there and how it is doing much more harm than good. If you would like to hear more of her work, head to her official Bandcamp page.