All of the best eras in Black music seem centered around and/or have been influenced by periods of immense struggle and it’s both sad and fascinating to see that no matter how much things change, they seem to stay the same, as the old adage implies. With “Melanin”, Maiya Norton delivers a mix of memorable soul records that bring nostalgia to the senses while simultaneously making you think how crazy it is that the same issues Gil Scott Heron and Marvin Gaye were talking about back in the day are the same ones we’re talking about now. Judging from some recent releases, we’re getting back into another politically-charged Black musical renaissance and Maiya Norton chefs up a body of work here that is the perfect companion for what’s to come, taking you through various emotions, from hopelessness (“Home Is Where The Hatred Is”) to pride (“Young, Gifted And Brown”).
“This photo is of my grandmother, Robbie Cook, holding my dad. A few weeks back, emotions were high as I was thinking about the violence exhibited towards people of color. This photo represents that combination of emotions for me. Protective. Feeling the need to reaffirm our value and our lives. Holding tightly. Loving harder.
I play music every day, but I definitely took solace in certain songs, and decided to mix them up and add a few to the list. Some of them uplifted people during the Civil Rights era (The Revolution Will Not Be Televised). Others represent unity (People Everyday). The celebration and the struggle (Sinnerman) of being black in America, and the one thing that pigments our skin: melanin. Open your mind, listen, share, and enjoy.” – Maiya Norton
1. Gil Scott Heron – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
2. Gil Scott Heron – Home Is Where The Hatred Is
3. Marvin Gaye – What’s Happening Brother
4. The Stylistics – People Make The World Go Round
5. Joe Bataan – Young, Gifted and Brown
6. James Brown – Say It Loud
7. Curtis Mayfield – Move On Up
8. Arrested Development – People Everyday
9. Kendrick Lamar – Untitled 03
10. Flying Lotus f/ Kendrick Lamar – Never Catch Me
11. Erykah Badu – Soldier
12. Black Star – Brown Skin Lady
13. D’Angelo – Africa
14. Goodie Mob – Free
15. Gnarls Barkley – Who’s Gonna Save My Soul
16. OutKast – Liberation
17. Etta Jones – Good Morning Heartache
18. Nina Simone – Sinnerman
First, we have to acknowledge the obvious: any group that would name themselves after the greatest Internet meme of all time deserves at least one spin. The mysterious Cryface Jordan is a group that is trying to shed some light on gender neutrality with the aptly named “Neutral”. At first listen, I couldn’t really hone in on the subject matter and what they were trying to say, but it is a smooth ride either way. Enjoy.
Taking a final opportunity to get a message across to the first and probably last U.S. President who’s ever intentionally listened to an M.O.P. record, Billy Danze steps up to the mic and delivers a record with political aims, speaking on a number of issues. As I once predicted, it looks like it’s gonna take something as unsettling as the crack epidemic to get rappers to start making music with some nutritional value to it. And here it is. While establishing the appropriate level of respect for the HNIC, Danze addresses the points a lot of us wish deep down Obama would do more to combat in his last days in office, but don’t want to be seen as critics of the man. But if you can count on anybody to lace up the Timbs and go at the powers that be, it’s the Mash Out Posse. Salute.
In a time where rapping well is seen as a hindrance rather than a benefit to those in the rap business (go figure), F5 breathes fresh air into the track “Broth”, the first loosie off of his forthcoming as-yet-unnamed EP. I’m looking forward to the next project from the homie and you’ll definitely find it here on Front-Free. Enjoy.
If you’re looking for fresh hip-hop and R&B without having to deal with urban radio like an absolute savage, you’ll be happy to know that mix DJs are not extinct. Cali’s own KrisMoBetta puts together a mix that flows, giving you the better parts of each record and finding cool ways to segue. According to the lady herself, we can start expecting these with some frequency, so be sure to subscribe to her Soundcloud.
I’m dedicating every Tuesday night to listening to music by myself and recording a live mix in one take. These “Take One” mixes will be posted every Wednesday.
Action Bronson returns with a brand new track that randomly popped up on YouTube today. If you’re a fan like me, you’re happy as hell and about to order a plate of mussels in honor of the man.
“As a descendant of the stars, it’s only right that I become one…”
Shout out to DJ Absolut for coming through with this gem featuring Nas in vintage form, though I’m not sure what year it’s from.
Yac House Entertainment drops a brand new single just in time to catch the tail end of the summer, featuring heavy-handed verses from Yac House representatives Newz Huddle of West Philly, I Know Brasco of North Philly, Chicago’s own Gedo, and Wise Vega reppin’ Harlem. The art of the posse cut is not dead!
Certified classic. Rest in power, Guru and peace to Premier.
Queens native Evie Blanco keeps it extra raw on “Uncut Raw”, where she hijacks a record from Havoc’s 2013 solo LP and goes in, which ended up getting the approval of Havoc himself. Evie had a tumultuous previous stint in rap, but is back at it. Regarding life on the come-up after a messed-up deal:
I signed an indie deal in like 2009 and it was complete bullshit. I was young and didn’t have guidance so I encountered a lot. [After that,] I did everything from mixtape distribution to graphics to fashion show coordinating, but still went into the studio periodically. My desire to chase a career as a rapper kinda died but my love for creating ill music didn’t. Having dope friends and family actively in the industry has always inspired me to push forward, which is why one way or another, I made a career out of hip-hop. You’ll hear my lil voice here and there though. Now that I have control and flexibility, I have an idea of what I’m looking to do next.
Evie Blanco plans to drop her solo LP this coming fall.