Stream the mix while you read; download at the bottom of this post.
The best music being made today is by young persons of color around the world who are building their art on cultural bedrocks of soul, r&b, hip-hop, jazz, electronic music and local folk traditions, but are unbound by any constraints of genre, time, or place and draw freely from any sound that serves their vision. ‘Old Souls‘ (2015-2018) dives into the deep soundworlds that are coalescing around their art, music that is both deeply personal and emotional and political, local and transnational, firmly rooted and yet future-seeking. These artists are proud and unafraid, making music that is profoundly intimate as well as universal, and they don’t have time for old bullshit, grappling with racism, sexism, homophobia, hypermasculinity, xenophobia and all such hate-and-fear-based limitations currently being fanned by cowardly white cretins trying to hold on to power. This is the sound of the old walls crumbling and the old ghouls shriveling into insignificance in the face of real lives and real love.
The soundworld of ‘Old Souls‘ is in many ways the fusion and culmination of just about every sound that Musicophilia is about. To try to describe its richness is tough, because there’s a risk of making it seem like it’s an arithmetic equation, x + y + z = music. Because so much is brought to bear: jazz is there, soul is there, hip-hop is there, post-punk is there, 80s pop is there, the quiet storm is there, Bjork-style electronic songwriting is there, d&b is there, Andean and Congolese and Egyptian and Nigerian traditional music is there, post-rock is there, previous generations’ music-without-borders is definitely there. . . But what makes this contemporary music so special is that it is indeed far more than the sum of its influences, because those influences are never superficially engaged; rather, they inform the marrow of the music to build something old-and-new. These artists live all of the music they love, and bring everything to bear with total mastery and confidence, with an apparent effortlessness that belies just how intricate and revolutionary what they’re doing is. This is the “post-everything” music some might have dreamed of in the early heady and hopeful days of the internet, but it’s the opposite of the inherently shallow and weak Modernist homogeneous fantasy of the futurist tabula rasa.
White futurists, Disney-style, dreamed of a world where everything (except their violently-maintained power) would be quite literally wiped away, and everything that (and more significantly, everyone who) blighted their ideal of uniform white cleanness would be unseen or nonexistent; they did their dirtiest to perpetrate that smiley-faced white-washed destruction, and in so many ways they still do. But as much destruction as they still wreak with their unjust power, the future is not theirs (probably why they’re trying to destroy the future in their death spasms). When merely existing as a person of color is criminalized, to live and to create and to grapple with all facets of being human is revolutionary. The revolution is beautiful, moving of mind and body, complex, heartbreaking, heart-filling. Some might say music is “just music,” but music has always been to me the best justification of humanity, the greatest proof of how amazing we are despite all our failings. This music is for me the light in the darkness that can feel enveloping; it is my fount of hope.
This music is made entirely by working artists. Some, like Kendrick Lamar, Solange, Ibeyi, FKA Twigs, Jlin, Thundercat, Sampha and Frank Ocean, are well-known or getting there; while others, like Melo-Zed, Ill Camille, Pierre Kwenders, Spellling, Syd, Saba, Moses Sumney, Ibibio Sound Machine, Tawiah, Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, Nadah El Shazly, or my personal hero Serpentwithfeet are rising stars. But they are all giving their art everything they have, and can only continue to do so if we support them. So please, please, buy the music and merch, go to shows, and propagate the art to everyone who needs to hear it. I’ve linked to artists’ Bandcamp/Facebook pages in the tracklist below. With many of my mixes, focused on “old” music, in the back of my mind there’s the hope the music will reach some sound-seeking young person whom I can help along as their musical world rapidly expands. With this mix, I feel like the young people have it all together already. So this time, I’m especially hoping to reach the Gen X’ers and the Boomers who may have bought their own press about Millennials, and may not know that such beautiful, inspiring music is being made, but are open-eared and open-hearted enough to hear it. So–especially pass this mix on to the 30-somethings to 60-somethings. Thank you for listening.
Various – ‘Old Souls’
01 [00:00] Serpetwithfeet – “Bless Ur Heart” (‘Soil’, 2018)
02 [04:12] Solange – “Don’t Wish Me Well” (‘A Seat at the Table’, 2016)
03 [08:19] Melo-Zed – “Still Hungry” (‘Eleven”, 2018)
04 [10:50] Ill Camille – “Renewed” (‘Heirloom’, 2017)
05 [16:00] Pierre Kwenders – “Makanda” (‘Makanda at the End of Space…‘, 2017)
06 [20:31] Lagartijeando – “Otono” (‘El Gran Poder’, 2017)
07 [23:30] Ibeyi – “Faithful” (‘Ibeyi’, 2015)
08 [26:48] Sampha – “Blood On Me” (‘Process’, 2017)
09 [30:55] Kendrick Lamar – “Love” (‘Damn’, 2017)
10 [34:22] FKA Twigs – “I’m Your Doll” (“M3LL155X” EP, 2015)
11 [37:26] Jlin – “Nandi” (‘Black Origami’, 2017)
12 [40:56] Ibibio Sound Machine – “Lullaby” (‘Uyai’, 2017)
13 [44:44] Frank Ocean – “Pink + White” (‘Blond’, 2016)
14 [47:35] Thundercat – “Where I’m Going” (‘Drunk’, 2017)
15 [49:34] Tawiah – “‘No Way” (“Recreate” EP, 2018)
16 [53:28] Syd – “Smile More” (‘Fin’, 2017)
17 [57:28] Nnamdi Ogbonnaya – “Should Have Known” (‘Drool’, 2017)
18 [61:23] Spellling – “Bolt From The Blue” (‘Pantheon of Me’, 2017)
19 [64:09] Nadah El Shazly – “Palmyra” (‘Ahwar’, 2017)
20 [69:00] Saba – “Busy/Sirens” (‘Care For Me’, 2018)
21 [74:28] Moses Sumney – “Incantation” (“Lamentations” EP, 2016)
[Total Time: 1:18:06]