Rap politics in 2016 with Abdu Ali & SB the Moor

Blake Gillespie

Abdu Ali at Secret Project Robot

Abdu Ali at Secret Project Robot. Photo by Walter Wlodarczyk.

Good morning. On the fifth day in this new year of 2016, the apropos thing to do is make a fist and declare in your best Ice Cube voice, “oh, it ain’t over motherfuckers.” In 2015 rap (again) vocalized the plight of black lives by outwardly addressing systemic issues, lamenting the assault on the black body, and reclaiming a pride deferred through the lens of iPhone cameras. For black people it was power and solidarity, for the white listeners it demanded empathy and allies. In 2016 the conversation is not over.

Abdu-Ali-Im-Alive

Abdu Ali wrote in 2015. He offered op-eds to Afro Punk on activist issues like the right to rage, queer and trans interviews for True Laurels for a column entitled QTIPOCS On The Block, and fictional short stories in the Baltimore City Pages. Quietly, he also wrote his next record, MONGO. The JPEGMAFIA produced, “I’m Alive (Humanized)” seeks liberation through self-humanization.

For Abdu Ali its not just about demanding his black skin to be seen as human. In a statement with the song he says, “Life for me as a queer black man rapper from Baltimore ain’t no crystal stair. There is so much bullshit, insecurities, and internet politics to navigate through, especially when you want to make real shit that’s just so real, it’s real.” Never one to conform, “I’ve Alive (Humanized)” compacts anxiety in its hand drum percussion, while the glitched snares create fissures in the rhythm. Ali depicts himself in trans-power as “Mike Tyson with a limp wrist / Angela Davis with a long dick” and in doing so requires us to understand it as the realest identification of his self.

SB-the-Moor

Signor Benedick the Moor (or simply SB the Moor) is strictly interested in attentive minds. His 2014 concept record Opus 3—Man Atop The Tower explored every inclination in movement, e.g. the near-8 minute “Dawn” pines “I just want to know who I am” to the amalgamation of Aquemini, Use Your Illusion, and Sign O’ The Times. His Maiden Voyage Suite EP compass gazes as a prequel to an even grander vision. “Maiden Voyage” mirrors “Dawn” in its many faces and movements, all of which are an au revoir to the hatin’ asses. Angular post punk bridges yield Nina Simone sound bytes over an ivory concerto, SB the Moor’s voyage sets sail for a state mind where “you can live and be black until the day you die.”

“12:00a.m.” alongside Daveed Diggs and Jonathan Snipes of clipping subverts the EP in a hyper-reality of self-preservation set to ominous cyber synths and sirens. In it, Diggs and SB the Moor offer a step by step program for being woke in the matrix. Philip K. Dick would smile knowing that in their vision of self-actualization anon there is a pusherman—in the most unabashed ode to Curtis Mayfield—peddling a prescription to counter the medically induced sheep’s sleep.

What has remain constant in the message since Miss Simone in the 1970s to Abdu Ali and SB the Moor in 2016, is sampled on “Maiden Voyage”. It’s an interview with Simone in which she describes her duty as an artist, as a chaperone for black people to “get more aware of themselves and where they came from and what they are into and what is already there, to bring it out.” She affirms, “this is what compels me to compel them. And I will do it by whatever means necessary.”

Download the Maiden Voyage Suite EP at SB the Moor’s Bandcamp.

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