Have you ever been driving to the store, minding your business, when you hear a song or certain formation of notes that transports you to a very specific point in your life and you’re met with a wave of memories or emotion? Always having had a fear of forgetting things, I began keeping track of these memories– curating a soundtrack for every year of my life for at least the last 10 years, and keeping journals specifically recounting the memories tied to each song. I like to call this time travel, but science likes to call it MEAM– music-evoked autobiographical memories.
Our memories have sensory triggers, and music is one of the most sensory forms of creativity– whether consuming or producing, the chances that you’re sitting still while doing so are slim. The ways in which music can engage numerous senses at a time is automatically stored in your brain at the time of its engagement. The limbic system, structures within the brain that directly correlate to emotion and memory, is activated when listening to music. There have been countless studies regarding the connection between music and autobiographical memory and why music can trigger certain emotional responses. There have also been studies which indicate mimicking your music selection with your mood– listening to melancholy music during times of turmoil– can provide comfort, which can aid in the healing process. The ways in which grief can manifest in the body are sensory effects to the cause just like the ways we engage with music are sensory effects to the cause. You see where I’m going here?
Music has healing properties, so I encourage those reading to tap into those parts that have been forgotten. Start small—no need to delve right into trauma– think about who you were a year ago, how have you grown? Sift through your library and find a song you remember enjoying this time last year. What kinds of emotions come to the surface and have those emotions evolved from their origin? I recommend sitting with it for a while and writing about what you’re experiencing. Is there a certain song or body of work that comes to mind for you while reading this? This is a call to embrace the elements of life that have brought you to this point, to gain a better understanding of the different components that create the whole.
As important as it is to reflect, it is equally important not to dwell on things that are out of our control or that we cannot change. As you dive into your library, it’s worthy of note that these are memories, and sometimes memory can be deceiving; each time you listen to a song, your neural catalog is updated, attaching a different memory to that song. Listening to Joni Mitchell won’t make your dog come back to life, but it might make you smile when you think about the times he’d stick his whole head out the window just so he could feel the sun on his face.
For Donna Missal, music was a generational inheritance; her father was a songwriter and musician who owned Shelter Studios in the 80s, her grandmother was also a songwriter. Missal released her second album, Lighter with Harvest Records, owned by Capitol Music Group, at midnight last night. Lighter follows the artist’s 2018 album, This Time. With Lighter, Missal walks us through her journey with a traumatic breakup. In an interview with Shania Twain (!) for Interview Magazine, Missal spoke about the album, saying, “I was concerned when I was writing the record, getting towards the end of the process thinking, ‘Is this what people need right now? Am I serving a purpose that I can stand behind?’ I realized that by being as vulnerable and honest as possible and putting my shit out there—that would probably be what someone needs more than anything else that I could offer as a person or as an artist.”
As we jump into Lighter, we’re met with the project’s first two singles, “How Does It Feel,” and “Hurt By You.” Both tracks give you a feel for what you’re to expect as the album continues: impassioned realizations of newfound independence and loss combined with vengeful lyricism and themes.
I’m sure we’re all familiar with just how ugly breakups can be; it can be hard to maintain humility or dignity after ending things, as jealousy, unaddressed trauma, and feelings of abandonment or guilt rise to the surface. On the booming ballad, “Carefully,” Missal makes an emotional plea for respect post-breakup. The artist belts with an overwhelming amount of fervor on the bridge, “The risk you convinced me to take / Gave you everything that I had / Now what’d you expect me to say? / When you let me slip from your hands,” bearing her bleeding heart for all to see. All I can really say about this song is “whew.”
On Lighter, we’re really being taken through the different stages of grief with tracks fueled by denial like “Best Friend,” and bargaining with “Who Loves You,” intertwined with tracks of acceptance, like heart-rending “Slow Motion.” The artist, with her heart on her sleeve, proves there’s beauty in vulnerability and the acknowledgement of human flaw.
Another stage of grief is anger, and let me tell you, there is plenty to spare on this record. The introspective and painfully cognizant “Let You Let Me Down” and the intrepid sleeper hit “Just Like You,” are jaded displays of the bitter aftertaste a traumatic breakup can leave behind.
The project ends on a “to be continued,” as Missal’s grief persists with an admission of fear of moving on with the final track, “I’m Not Ready.”
To be quite honest, you don’t feel much lighter after listening to Lighter, so I would recommend checking your own emotional stability before jumping in the passenger seat of Donna Missal’s wild ride. Lighter is an exhibition of raw vulnerability while mourning a loss, and ultimately highlights the ways in which music can ease the healing process. 7/10
Public pools may be closed, but we’re diving right into Sad Girl Summer with today’s review– The Bad Days, an EP by 15-year old Beirut artist Japan, Man. With The BadDays, the young artist gives new meaning to the phrase “off the beaten path,” delightfully offbeat, in fact. Released with the help of Honeymoon Records, this EP is a charming look into the mind of a young artist in her formative years.
The project fires off with the title track, which the artist described to Read Dork as being about “how people tend to try to forget about traumatic memories through different ways; for instance, living in their imagination or even distracting themselves with other intense feelings.” The track can be compared to that little voice in the back of your head, this time crooning in your ear with a ((gentle echo)) over a heart-thumping bass drum on the second verse, “Let’s pretend to fall asleep/ So we can live in eternal fantasy/ Have we drowned yet?/ ‘Cause I can barely breathe/ Is it possible to suffocate on dreams?”
With the second track, the artist flexes her metaphorical muscles– with lots of actual metaphors. Corresponding with the face of a clock, “Stop Staring” addresses the passing of time and how time doesn’t stop even if you do. As a society that often values productivity over quality of life, the passing of time can indeed be quite anxiety-inducing– “I’m stuck in the moment, and suddenly I’m frozen/ What am I to do?/ If I tell you that’s the motion, but I smell the scent of roses / But that’s who?” The track should remind us that it’s perfectly acceptable– and encouraged– to take a break when needed.
It’s evident the concept of time and the anxiety it can bring are recurring themes throughout this project as we transition into the third track on the EP, “I Like To Wait.” This track will put you in front of a bay window on a rainy day, ready to embrace the angst with the artist as she sings, “Too scared of surprise/ Won’t dare to roll the dice/ Stay still and pay the price/ Won’t die in paradise.” Impatience can be detrimental to relationships and overall well-being– if we’re constantly thinking about the future, are we ever present?
On the project’s latest single, “Cautious,” the artist makes a plea for emotional intelligence in interpersonal relationships. Whether it be in adolescence or adulthood, we all so desperately want to not only be heard but understood. The track is the embodiment of bedroom pop as a genre– slight dissonance over particularly spunky instrumentals.
Japan, Man tackles “pack mentality” on the next track, “Easy Target,” where she sings in the pre-chorus, “Make sure to keep your mouth shut, it’ll pacify you/ You’re so melodramatic, but there’s nothing I can do.” There’s really no better way to describe this track than a girl coming into her own, sussing out whose friendship and loyalty is circumstantial versus genuine connection.
Perhaps the most poignant song on the EP, the closing track and the project’s first single, “The Law,” gently broaches the battle of maintaining a sense of self when you’re not sure just who that is yet.
The Bad Days is a project that I’d like to imagine Heather Matarazzo’s character in Welcome to the Dollhouse would release if she was in fact not a fictional character of the 90s, but instead an artist in 2020 on a steady incline who was raised by the internet. 7/10
Here we are, yet another month of 2020 under our belts and yet another month of bops added to our libraries. Let’s dive into what we’ve been listening to this month, old and new.
Starting off this month’s playlist, we have independent artist, Alaska-born Jany Green entering the chat with his genre-bending, brass-heavy single, “Little,” which dropped back in May. The track is a tale of puppy love backed by upbeat, fun 80s-tinged instrumentals.
Up next, we have queer pop duo, FHAT. The duo originally formed in Los Angeles, and has spent the majority of their development as creative partners in Germany. The duo consists of members Sedric Perry and Aaron Pfeiffer. Aaron described FHAT’s sound in an interview with Pile Rats, saying, “We both come from strong jazz background but in today’s world it’s so fun to just be free when creating and take chances. If I had to classify it I would call our sound alternative electronic R&B.” FHAT released a “mood video” for their single,”Waves” during isolation in April.
On this episode of “Keeping Up With the Europeans,” we have Belgian hip-hop duo, blackwave. with their newly released single “Arp299.” For those of you who don’t know (I had to give it a goog myself), Arp 299 is “a pair of colliding galaxies approximately 134 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major.” The duo, comprised of rapper Jay Atohoun and producer Willem Ardui spoke of the track and its title saying, “We felt like this was the right metaphor to use in this track. In the process of writing our debut album (which is space themed all the way through) we had some thoughts of wanting to leave everything behind, to run and not look back. The pressure that comes with writing an album while also trying to figure out your own personal life was weighing hard on us. In the video we made for Arp299 we land in an otherworldly place during our journey of leaving everything behind.”
Tesia, Pretty Boy Aaron
Up next we have independent Pretty Boy Aaron and Tesia Jaramillo with 2019 collaboration, “Comb My Hair.” Tesia earned two spots on this month’s playlist with her latest single, “Come Kick It.” The 70s-inspired music video for “Comb My Hair” was released in early June.
Rounding out the funk for this month’s playlist, we have London-based band Franc Moody, originally comprised of duo Ned Franc and Jon Moody, hence the moniker. The electro-pop group dropped their debut album Dream In Colour, in February. The project is loaded with funky house instrumentals and catchy lyrics, with songs like “Charge Me Up” and “Flesh and Blood” taking the lead as the best tracks. The band released a visual for the latter song labeled the “Isolation Version,” where we see each member in their respective homes, collaborating over video chat to give us the final product:
6lack released his 6pc Hot EP on June 26th, giving us plenty to mull over for the weekend. The 6 track project was named after the artist’s favorite item on his favorite Atlanta wing spot’s menu. The EP has been deemed a mere appetizer for the main course, which we can only assume to be a full-length project. The artist originally teased the release of 6pc Hot on Twitter, ominously tweeting “It’s new music season,” back in May. It recently came to light that 6lack is the second-highest streaming R&B artist behind Frank Ocean. After listening to “Know My Rights” and “Elephant In the Room,” you’re left with no lingering questions as to why he’s top of the game in terms of active artists in R&B right now.
If you’re anything like me and just recently got around to listening to Little Dragon’s latest project, New Me, Same Us, you might have also had it on repeat for a solid 10 days (or more, full disclosure). The Swedish alt-pop/r&b group released their 6th studio album back in March, and the project might very well be their best yet. The project as a whole is what we like to call a full-circle event, one that begs for a loop– mostly because you might’ve missed something you didn’t catch on the first listen. The project’s standout tracks “Another Lover,” “New Fiction,” and “Water” all cater to the album’s theme and title seamlessly: New Me, Same Us. Watch the band’s front woman, Yukimi Nagano, perform “Where You Belong” for Colors Studios:
Busty and the Bass
Keeping up this month’s trend of electro-soul, we have Canadian super group Busty and the Bass coming in with their EP Out of Love, which was released earlier this month. The project’s title track has a surprising feature in conjunction with a very entertaining music video that you won’t want to miss. The project’s closer, “Summer” will have you so far deep in your feelings, you might not know how to recover– enter at your own risk.
Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist
Rapper Freddie Gibbs and producer The Alchemist dropped their surprise collaborative project, Alfredo, in early June. The project comes almost a full year after Bandana, the second collaborative album from Freddie Gibbs and producer Madlib. One-rapper, one-producer collaborations have a tendency to rile up fan excitement, which might be why the artists decided to keep this one so close to the vest. A couple of tracks from the project were leaked prior to release, and that’s when the news broke that the two were working together, igniting mayhem and fan-ticipation across all social media platforms. The project does not disappoint, with features from Rick Ross, Tyler the Creator, Benny the Butcher, and Conway the Machine. The best on this project is “God Is Perfect,” where Gibbs reflects on the differences and changes in lifestyle he’s made and endured prior to, during and since his come-up as one of the most respected hip-hop artists currently in the game.
As will be the norm for the end of the month here at The Greater Good, a carefully curated 45-song playlist featuring artists written about in this post as well as other posts from the month has been made available for your listening pleasure.
Elah Hale, 20-year old New York native released her debut EP, Room 206, with Interscope in April. “Room 206 was my sophomore dorm room in college,” the artist said in an interview with DJ Booth, “There were so many moments in that room… I decided to sign my publishing deal; I agreed to work with my management. All the big milestones happened in that room, I wanted to honor that time.”
The project begins on a swell, with “Saab,” which is exactly the kind of song you’re likely to find yourself walking down the street to, with your headphones on and the sun on your face, just to have you reminiscing an experience you might have never even had. The intro is brief– less than two minutes long– but foreshadows the roller coaster ahead of us.
The EP continues the trend on an emotional upswing with the lightest track on the project, “My House.” The artist has said of the track, “It’s the true ‘fun’ song, and I feel like I haven’t done a fun song ever.” Keeping up the fun, the artist released a particularly amusing music video for the track, where she’s seen flirting with a mannequin on a tennis court, clumsily waxing her legs and drinking wine in a bathtub with not a jewel out of place.
The cornerstone to any good project with purpose is its variety and flow, its peaks and valleys; with every optimistic incline, a soul-stirring decline inevitably follows. With Room 206, our decline begins with the poignant “Impatient,” a synth-heavy and somber track on which the artist contemplates clinging to a love with which she’s quickly losing her grip. The misleading sanguine beat in conjunction with impassioned lyrics like, “I’m on my knees, I swear that it’s the right time,” will indeed have you coming back for a second helping of agony.
Room 206 makes the transition from decline to a slow and smooth incline with ease, flowing into the next track, “Posters.” This bedroom-pop track addresses a common practice among daters: ghosting.
The artist’s lane of R&B is that of a melancholy tone; on particularly somber tracks like “one star rating,” “Way Down,” and “Holding You Close,” the artist ruminates on teetering the line between being all in or nothing at all with a diminishing love. On the latter track, over a slow but stimulating beat, the artist solemnly comes to terms with a love lost, manifesting her own healing and declaring her own downfalls. With stunningly interwoven harmonies, she croons, “I think it’s time that I just let you go,” the heavy track ignites a slow burn that lingers long after the song ends. Watch the artist perform the song in an intimate live studio session:
Room 206 ends like it begins–a full circle event– on a sonic incline. Self-reflective “ITPA” drifts into a slow plateau with bittersweet “Gentle,” closing out this project with charm and polish, wrapped in a neat bow. 8/10
Seattle-born UMI released her second EP, Introspection, at midnight last night with J.J. Abrams’s independent-focused record label, Loud Robot. The 6-track EP comes after her 2019 project, Love Language. Like its predecessor, a visual EP dropped concurrently with the project, which the artist teased on Twitter, three days prior to the EP’s release.
The project was written in the times of isolation, during which the artist also began documenting her journey through “quarantine” in the form of vlogs on her YouTube channel.
Introspection begins with the title track, which was released as the EP’s first single in May. UMI’s hazy vocals over a languid beat prepares us for her insights throughout the EP: “Why I’m so afraid to fight back, I got a lot of shit to unpack,” reminding us that now is a great time to look within. The artist was quoted by Broadway World Music, saying the project is “…a look into my mind, how my brain sounds,” the artist continued, “I created this project with the intention to evoke Introspection, both in myself and in the listener. Introspection is a reflection of my inner journey over the past year, embodying my growth.”
The project continues with the EP’s remorseful second single, “Open Up.” On this track, the artist continues her inward-seeking journey of self-analysis, addressing her own emotional detachment in relationships and the guilt that comes along with prematurely closing a chapter due to fear.
Continuing the theme of mental health, UMI advises overcoming emotional barricades to allow for healthy vulnerability in “Where I Wander.” The artist croons, “No more time to loosen up yourself / No need to keep fighting what you’re dealt / You must take precaution in this Hell.” The track accentuates the importance of facing your fears head on. The following tracks, “Bet” and “Broken Bottles” seem to touch on the detriment of toxic egoism in relationships, romantic and familial.
The 21-year old artist has said she’s drawn heavy inspiration for her music from artists like SZA and Lauryn Hill. Although the derivative is evident, the young artist has managed to hone her own Neo-Soul sound while still paying homage to those who came before her. 8/10
The internet was set ablaze on Wednesday morning, after J. Cole dropped his first single in over a year, “Snow On Tha Bluff.” The track has been perceived and deduced as a “diss track” directed towards Chicago rapper and activist, Noname. The record seems to have been released in response to a since-deleted tweet from Noname which read, “Poor black folks all over the country are putting their bodies on the line in protest for our collective safety and y’all favorite top selling rappers not even willing to put a tweet up,” the tweet continues, “n****s whole discographies be about black plight and they nowhere to be found.”
Fans and followers of the artist were left to their own devices to conclude the rappers to whom she was referring were that of J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West and the like, who are arguably the most prevalent artists in the game right now and have been for the last several years. All three of the aforementioned artists have since been seen at protests and have donated funds in support of the civil rights movement and the families affected by police brutality.
Noname, like many rappers, has been known for her vocal opposition to racial inequality and disproportionate economic and judicial disparity. The artist created a book club to discuss literature with heavy focus on these topics written by Black authors and has written numerous songs focused on various social issues regarding race. This week is not the first time she has been criticized for her somewhat radical views.
“Snow On Tha Bluff” sparked conversation among many about misogyny and the current societal climate. Many were saying the song was “tone deaf,” due to the recent murder of Owulatoyin Salau, a 19-year old Black activist in Tallahassee, FL. Oluwatoyin had spoken out about recent sexual abuse on her Twitter account, to spread awareness and to ask for help, only to be found dead just days later. The horrific loss of young Toyin Salau resulted in a global conversation directed towards awareness about the many ways Black women are continuously mistreated and unjustly cast aside in society. Many artists took to social media after Toyin’s passing with heavy hearts to commemorate the young woman’s plight and her fight for justice in her last days.
“Diss track” or not, “Snow On Tha Bluff” seems to be directed internally just as much as externally; the core focus of the track seems to be that of self-awareness. It’s clear the artist is dealing with what I’m sure a lot of us might be experiencing right now: confusion and guilt. Cole took to Twitter the morning after the song’s release, beginning the thread by saying, “I stand behind every word of the song I dropped last night,” Cole continues: “Right or wrong I can’t say, but I can say it was honest.” The rapper used this as an opportunity to promote Noname as a “leader in these times” and praised her dedication to literacy and activism.
One particularly biting lyric from the song has been deduced as the main culprit for the division among listeners: “She mad at the celebrities, lowkey I be thinkin’ she talkin’ ’bout me / Now I ain’t no dummy to think I’m above criticism / So when I see something that’s valid, I listen / But shit, it’s something about the queen tone that’s botherin’ me.” The phrase “watch your tone” strikes a chord with many– especially women– as it’s often used as a way to manipulate conversation, gaslight and to exert power and dominance over another. The verse continues with what some perceived as guidance and others perceived as condescension: “She strike me as somebody blessed enough to grow up in conscious environment / With parents that know ’bout the struggle for liberation and in turn they provide her with / A perspective and awareness of the system and unfairness that afflicts ’em / And the clearest understandin’ of what we gotta do to get free /And the frustration that fills her words seems to come from the fact that most people don’t see / Just ’cause you woke and I’m not, that shit ain’t no reason to talk like you better than me.”
The track ends with a call to arms and an olive branch, “Fill me up with wisdom and some courage / Plus endurance to survive, help mine thrive.”
Noname responded to the single with a record of her own, Madlib-produced “Song 33,” on Thursday, which was met with both criticism and applause. The track highlights the deaths of Oluwatoyin Salau and George Floyd and focuses on the power of a platform. The song begins, begging to steer the conversation back to what’s important: “I saw a demon on my shoulder, it’s lookin’ like patriarchy / Like scrubbin’ blood off the ceiling and bleachin’ another carpet / How my house get haunted? / Why Toyin body don’t embody all the life she wanted? / A baby, just nineteen / I know I dream all black / I seen her everything, immortalizin’ tweets all caps / They say they found her dead,” followed by a brief but poignant chorus, “One girl go missin, another gone missin’.”
Noname was praised for her humility by some for her response to Cole’s “diss,” but she made it evident she wouldn’t take the heat lying down: “But n****s in the back, quiet as a church mouse / Basement studio when duty calls to get the verse out / I guess the ego hurt now / It’s time to go to work, wow, look at him go / He really ’bout to write about me when the world is in smokes?”
The ill-perceived “beef” among the two artists is rather a conversation through music, a discussion about what we can do as individuals to keep today’s civil rights movement alive and in public focus. Change begins at the human level– regardless of how big or small one’s platform may be, the importance of using said platform to spread awareness seems to be the main topic of discussion between the two artists with these tracks.
It’s not about who had the last word or whose words were better; it’s about the discourse and conversation these songs have brought to light. There’s no right or wrong way to protest injustice. Colin Kaepernick was fired for protesting police brutality on the football field by kneeling during the national anthem. Peaceful protests have become violent with the aid of police retaliation in the form of rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray. Racists are being outed by KPop fans and Skai Jackson on Twitter, causing them to lose scholarships and jobs which could potentially perpetuate systemic racism in fields such as public health, law enforcement and even marketing. One’s form of protest and activism may not look similar to another’s– the fact of the matter is both J. Cole and Noname are taking two separate paths to the same destination. There’s no “beef” here, just necessary intelligent discussion in the form of music.
Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions on J. Cole’s “Snow On Tha Bluff” and Noname’s “Song 33” in the comments. Let’s talk about it.
“Formerly known as the world’s ugliest man,” Oh Hi Ali released his debut album, A Very Ugly Story, in May of last year. Is that gonna stop us from talking about it? Nope. Imagine if Mick Jenkins and KYLE decided to make a project together– bizarre, right? That’s why we’re talking about it.
A Very Ugly Story takes us through this antihero’s journey, beginning with “Bring It On,” which features an amusing interpolation of Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely?” and Daphne & Celeste’s “U.G.L.Y.” The pop culture references don’t stop there; continuing onto the second track, with “Sister Sister,” the artist tips his hat to the ABC classic with precocious ad-libs intertwined with clever word play. Conceptually, lyrically and sonically, this song is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. The project’s fusion of sounds is thanks to the combined efforts of producers Malik Bawa, DECAP, West1ne and J.Robb.
Continuing our expedition through A Very Ugly Story, Ali directs his focus on the antagonists in this (decidedly not) ugly story with the intrepid “Medusa” and the project’s second single, “Oh Hi.” On the latter track, Ali takes the perspective of his naysayers: “Mister, what you think, that you’re famous? You done pushed a couple buttons on the elevator, leveled up and think you know what the game is. (Psych!),” but the independent quickly reminds us, “I built this shit from the dirt like a handyman, if Bob can’t do it then Manny can. They wanna know how the flow is so sweetly buzzing through the streets, my name sound like The Candyman.”
Throughout the project, the artist addresses the trials and tribulations of love and lust. On ear-candy tracks like “Rates” and “Angles,” Ali centers on the importance of staying true to yourself in romance, without vanity. Watch Ali perform “Rates” for Sunday Sauuce:
The story continues with harder tracks like “7 Years,” “Stretch,” and “Protein Bar.” With these records, the listener is watching the artist grow before their eyes (or before their ears?), with the confidence of a green giant. The story concludes with the spooky diss track, “Funeral,” the project’s first single was released in conjunction with an equally spooky music video.
The amount of pop culture Easter eggs throughout this project is enough to make you want to run this back at least once. Ali’s cadence and intelligent word play combined with head-bopping, effervescent production will have you coming back again after that. 9/10
If you’re not familiar with Spillage Village, the group was originally comprised of the combined efforts of five members: EARTHGANG (Johnny Venus and Wowgr8 aka Doctur Dot), JID, Hollywood JB, and Jurdan Bryant. The group has recently grown to include the ever-ethereal and slick-tongued Mereba and the indomitable 6lack.
Founded by EARTHGANG in 2010 at Hampton University in Virginia, the collective has released three projects: Bears Like This (2014), Bears Like This Too (2015), and Bears Like This TooMuch (2016). EARTHGANG spoke with Fader in 2016 about the “Bears” chronicles saying, “We use these ‘Bears’ projects like checkpoints, markers in time. The first one came out when we first started fucking around with these sounds. The second one came as n****s had toured a little bit, learned a little bit. At this point now, we’ve been on tours, we’ve got a lot of other things we’ve been working on.”
JID and EARTHGANG shared their experiences on their Never Had Shit Tour in the form of a short video series in 2018.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably familiar with just how much each of these members have grown in their careers and with their crafts– so imagine the anticipation fans felt when they announced the release of their forthcoming project, SPILLIGION, earlier this year. EARTHGANG took to Reddit, Twitter and Instagram to make the official announcement, writing, “The quarantine has made it happen.”
The group’s first single from the project, “End of Daze,” dropped yesterday. JID teased the single originally on his Instagram live in February, which stirred up quite a bit of excitement among fans. Earlier this week, each respective member of the collective and other collaborators on the song announced the imminent release of the single in the form of the cover art for the project and a short, 10 second clip from the music video.
The track was produced in collaboration with Mike Dean, Nice Rec, Johnny Venus, Jay Card and Elite. The nature of the single encapsulates the essence of 2020 as we know it thus far. The video, directed by Caleb Seales, is set in the woods of what one can only imagine to be Georgia, where Hollywood JB, Benji, Jurdan Bryant, JID, Wowgr8 and Johnny Venus all perch on a couch planted in front of an old school TV. As each artist passes the figurative mic (remote) with frustration and exasperation as the channels continue to switch– showing visuals of current and recent events. Breonna Taylor’s face is the first clip we see, followed by Amaud Arbery, and continuing throughout the video are clips from protests demanding justice and other revelatory events to have taken place this year. Mereba comes across the screen, speaking her peace (!) in front of an ominous ring of fire.
Perhaps the most chilling shot is of Johnny Venus lying on a tree trunk, playing the guitar. As the shot hones in on the artist, the guitar is switched out for an AR-15, which he continues to strum as he croons, “Why do we give on the surface, when our hearts search for the deep?”
If nothing else, this single is the epitome of perfect timing. 10/10
Naptown Native, 25-year old AyeGritty, or Aaron Grinter, is a perfect exemplification of what it means to have all irons in the fire. From theater to comedy and music– Gritty is all over Indianapolis. Gritty’s genre-bending full-length, Figuring It Out, dropped in April of this year. I had the opportunity to sit down with the artist over tacos– to discuss his past, present and future as a creative.
In one of the earlier songs released with Gritty ‘n’ Craft (a performative amalgamation of hip-hop, comedy, and dance with fellow creative, Joshua Short), “In the Cut,” Gritty wrote in reference to his relationship with music, “This is Plan A, I don’t believe in Plan B.” When asked at what point he decided music was his Plan A, Gritty said, “I always had an innate love for music—that shit was always in me,” stopping to take a swig of his Dos Equis, “I was raised Jehovah’s witness, and being raised that way, I never thought that I would be able to pursue music… Back when rapping was all about the bars and shit, I would take rap songs and sing the words– it’s funny watching how the game has transitioned to be so melodic. I have a love for good music, and my mom and pops brought me up on good music.” When asked about his musical influence, Gritty mentioned a slew of artists, ranging from legendary artists like Prince to alternative artists, like Toro y Moi and APRIL + VISTA.
Figuring It Out has had positive reception among listeners, myself included. A particularly gripping track on the project, “$31.35,” seems to be a letter of manifestation to the universe, that this artist’s time is coming. When asked about the visualization of the peak of success and what it looks like for Gritty, he said, “The peak of success isn’t a goal of money or reaching certain material things or certain accolades—I do hope to achieve those things because I hope to be great enough to warrant those things.”
For the artist, the peak of success is more internal rather than external: “It’s not necessarily about the way that people view me, but about the way I’m able to affect change in the world.” When asked to elaborate on the kinds of change he’s hoping to make, he said, “I come from a broken people, and a broken system, especially being Black.” Gritty continues, saying, “We got a late start—we started way behind the 8 ball and there’s been a very concentrated effort to keep us there. I think success looks a lot like being able to affect positive change in Black people and oppressed people everywhere.” Gritty makes his point by leveling with me, “There’s things about being Black that you’ll never understand and there’s things about being a woman that I’ll never understand. Making change for the people who need it– I think if you have those abilities, it’s an empty life if you just use it for yourself.” The artist hopes to reach a certain type of immortality, in the form of positive change: “I hope it’s something that is able to live on way after my body is gone; I hope that my spirit and my energy will still be able to affect the world way after I’m gone.”