The theme for this week’s New Jams Thursday is music as a historical linchpin. Music as an art form has more uses than I could possibly list, but I would suggest that one of the more important purposes of music is it allows us to remember people and events that should never be forgotten.
This week Amerigo Gazaway released his latest Soul Mates project, it is a collaborative effort mingling the works of Common and Stevie Wonders. Also, late last week Brooklyn MC Maino released his latest project entitled Party & Pain that closes with powerful tribute.
Storytelling is brick and mortar to hip-hop music and culture. It is a well-worn cliché but rap music for a time was the urban news broadcast of record for communities near and far. With our current speed of news hip-hop no longer needs to break stories, but it is a really useful tool for chronicling the happenings that resonate deeply with a board scope of people.
In 2014 the story of Kalief Browder became a national news story and reignited a criminal justice reform movement. The graphic and dumbfounding details of his arrest prolonged confinement at Rikers Island then is eventual release sparked righteous outrange nationwide. Kalief bravery in surviving his ordeal was only matched by his self-awareness that what he went through left an indelible mark on him. Kalief Browder story took a traffic turn as he took his own life.
Fortunately many are still trying to improve and reform the systems that harmed Browder in his name. An important part of that legacy is not forgetting. Maino, who spent ten years in similar conditions as Kaleif tells Browder story in a poetic and profound way. The last song on his Pain & Party album is titled Ghost of Kalief Browder. The track, which is bookended with news, clips of Browder, his mother Venida and news reporter all telling Browder story. The meat of the song is Maino putting himself in Kaleif shoes and walking us through the experience form start to end. What takes this tribute to the next level is Maino seems to pinpoint the emotional toll that Kaleif was so in touch with as Maino raps,
My whole family is happy that they got me back
But what they took from me I am never getting back
Look how they took my childhood and they beat me sore
Coming home slightly different that I was before
It was horror all the memories at night haunt me
Waking up thinking that the CO’s are on me
I’m hearing voices now I’m paranoid who do I trust
Try to find my way it getting hard to adjust
I can’t take someone please take the pressure off me
As Maino builds this narrative to its sad conclusion you experience the pain all over again for Kaleif, for his family, for the wider community that was pulling for him. The homage Maino pays is a reminder that it is our duty to prevent another tragedy like this on our watch. Maino can be found on twitter @mainohustlehard
Amerigo Gazaway is truly a unique artist not just for #NJsT but in popular music at large. The son of two world-traveled musicians, Amerigo found his sound through his love of jazz and technology. The Tennessee native embarked on his Soul Mates project in 2011 with Fela Soul, which featured the Hip-Hop titans De La Soul and Afro-Beat pioneer Fela. The brilliance of Amerigo’s work is how he finds a nexus between two artists that may appear too fundamentally and possibly at odds sonically. Still, through his talent and ingenuity, he takes great works and reworks them. The risk of altering an already beloved work is obvious, but Amerigo stull plunges is to create something familiar but refreshed. His latest project A Common Wonder brings together Chicago’s Common Sense and Motown original child prodigy Stevie Wonder.
The first single from this project is The Light (I’m Yours), which marries two of the artists best love songs. What is special about this paring is neither of these songs are about love for the sake of love, but speak to a particular kind of vulnerability that is needed on their part in order to go deeper with their partner. The tempo and beat have been redone with some really strong synthesized piano cords with Stevie’s adlibs. Common’s verses are used and Stevie’s undeniable chorus movies this tune along. You can find the entire Soul Mates project at http://soulmatesproject.com/ and you can find Amerigo Gazaway on twitter @AmerigoGazaway
A Common Wonder
The Light (I’m Yours) feat. Bobby Caldwell 04:26
Maino – Ghost Of Kalief Browder [Party & Pain]