Throwback Record

Week of April 10

Stevie Wonder, Music from the Movie "Jungle Fever", 1991

Black Milk & Nat Turner, "The Rebellion Sessions" Album Review

Black Milk & Nat Turner, "The Rebellion Sessions" Album Review

Music as a medium is a self-rejuvenating and introspectional being that over the centuries has always been in an endless loop of refreshment and reincarnation of itself. Whenever the music ("good" or "bad") we've become accustomed to becomes obsolete and dies off, in the process of the demise itself it is reborn, and this results from the development of a social/historical context, artist influences and the ways music comes to be utilized in the human society. For example, we the people who live in today's world are heavily submerged in "social music" that's largely attributed to technological advancement in social media and human interaction, but when we turn on Spotify to find the new Drake at a party with friends, we shouldn't forget that some of our grandparents' used to dance their asses off at the Soul Train Awards Shows, where there was no Spotify or Internet for that matter. The same goes for the quality of music we so often discuss, what's good, and what's bad. We forget that new media always evolve and derive from old media, and that, while good musicians usually make good music because they've learned from and become inspired by a previous generation of good musicians, there's a lot of bad music that comes from good music, as well, and vice versa. When a batch of outstanding tracks die off, and all we seem to be left with are club hits and mechanical radio track lists, have faith that good music still exists. The tricky part, however, is the practice to find it, as consumption ability become gradually more challenged over the years. The freedom level to create and publish is at a all-time high for artists, thanks to various online platforms and computer software/programs easily accessed by us, but a result of that is also that truly impressive materials get buried in the largest pile of audio files the world has ever seen. In the same way that DJ's who spun records back in the 80's used to have to go through stores to stores in order to find that 1 treasurous record, the one vinyl that grooved harder than a hippie at Central Park in 1969, if we're passionate enough about our music connoisseurship, the same kind of effort must be invested in the research process.

Now I went on that unsolicited soliloquy because all this is what came to mind today after I listened The Rebellion Sessions by Black Milk and his band Nat Turner. It's pretty self-explanatory why the LP was titled this considering Black Milk's decision to name his band after the legendary leader of the significant slave rebellion that took place in Virginia in 1831, arguably the most prominent and effective slave rebellion in American history and one that had immense effect on the eventual Civil War, which took place 3 decades later. The rebellion was influential mostly due to its violent and extreme nature, and it lasted over 2 months during which the rebels grew in number, killed dozens of whites and were eventually all captured and executed, with the exception of Nat Turner himself who escaped the authority for weeks and surrendered in the end. The none-other-than Malcolm X was quoted in his autobiography about Nat Turner, saying that Nat Turner "put the fear of God into the White Slave Master" because of the extreme measures and approaches he took, and not because he was "preaching pie-in-the-sky and 'non-violent' freedom for the black man", and that he himself was influenced by Turner's rebellion. In what was no doubt a tribute paid to the prominent figure in African American history, Black Milk put out a purely instrumental album that fuzed jazz, soul, hip-hop and funk. The production value and sampling methods of project are reminiscent of the much-missed-every-day crispness and peculiarity of Master Dilla, especially on "Burn" and "Take 2" where the Detroit native producer channeled his inner Shinning-nessand the raw instrumental performance can be attributed to influences of The Roots Crew ("Just A Thing") and groov-alicious Spanish-Joint-esque neo funky soul ("The Knock"). The order of track titles gives a loose narrative that can be interpreted many ways, but names like "You Need This Light" and "Traveler" make for an obvious theme. 

There's not much else to say about this album other than the fact the embodiment of the remnant Motown groove and old -or- new Detroit soul is strong in this one. It might sound like the genius idea to incorporate the theme of rebellion, a heartfelt tribute to an important chapter of the American history and homage to past music greats into one project is quite ambitious and hard to execute well, but this Black Milk project proved to accomplish all 3 goals in a well-produced but very subtle and minimalist effort that consists of mostly straight-to-the-point, under-3-minute tracks. A very solid album, this was. 

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