Thu Nov 4 2021
2505 1st Ave Seattle, WA 98121
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The Crocodile Presents:
Musician and producer, Noga Erez finds her feet on KIDS, her bold second album for City Slang made with her creative and life partner Ori Rousso. Building from the raw politics of her 2017 debut, Off The Radar, KIDS moves closer to home while retaining her signature smarts and swagger. Its earworms and crisp productions are locked around lyrics that deal with the personal and the political; mortality and loss; war and peace, insecurity and ambition. As with Off The Radar, Erez never pulls her punches, whether that’s with politics or production.
The world has changed in the three years since Off The Radar, and so has Noga Erez. KIDS is a reaction to the world she is in, one where politics permeates every day. “The world is a messy place,” she reflects. “I’m not backing off from the politics of Off The Radar. KIDS is political, because nowadays, everything is political – even deciding not to get involved. KIDS is reflective of the time in which it was made.”
After a series of singles, KIDS comes packed with chart-worthy outspoken pop anthems for the 21st century. KIDS replaces the shadow and fury of Off The Radar with neon brights, bold lines, in determinedly audacious and confident productions that swap ferocity for bounce, gloomy moods for fierce swagger. Erez has truly found her style, growing into a crisp bombastic sound she crafts with Rousso, that contains tension and release, anxiety and remedy, and masterly melodic licks in swipes of stomping brass, all wrapped around Erez’s versatile vocals that quick-switch from clipped flow to smoky purr; from stadium chorus to street-ready beats.
KIDS contains songs about loss, personal relationships, politics, and the relationship between parent and child – addressing serious subjects without compromising catchiness. KIDS dishes out perfect pop hits, ‘VIEWS (feat. Reo Cragun & ROUSSO)’ and ‘NO news on TV’ – the latter of which drops with funk and wiggle, whereas ‘You So Done’ explores toxic personal relationships. On ‘Knockout’ and ‘Bark Loud’ she gets self-critical with lyrics about her own ruthless ambition – “I find it interesting, that you can treat yourself as a victim of circumstance in order to be relentless” she explains.
The album’s political tracks like the stripped back productions on ‘Fire Kites’ and ‘KIDS (feat. Blimes)’ strut around heavy bass drops, addressing the conflict in her region – on mothers bringing up kids on either side of the divide, and incendiary devices at the border. Mortality is a running theme in tracks like the sprung RnB of ‘End Of The Road’, after a personal loss changed their outlook – evident in the albums closing track, ending on a whispered late night lullaby that swells with emotional strings.
Throughout the record there are snippets of Erez’s mother speaking – including the endearing ten second opener ‘KTD’, part of the album’s reflections on the relationship between parent and child: ”We got to thinking about the relationship between one generation to the next,” says Erez. “These are songs about what we inherit from past generations, how we pass things on. How this game of evolution of our culture and humanity is very much in our hands. We were all somewhat a blank page at some point. KIDS talks about humanity’s potential for both beauty and destruction.”
Richmond, Virginia-based artist McKinley Dixon has always used his music as a tool for healing, exploring, and unpacking the Black experience in order to create stories for others like him. On his previous two self-released albums, Dixon’s songs looked at concepts ranging from self-love to police brutality, and the complex trauma Black people navigate collectively and as individuals. For My Mama And Anyone Who Look Like Her, Dixon’s debut album on Spacebomb, is the culmination of a journey where heartbreak and introspection challenged him to adapt new ways of communicating physically and mentally, as well as across time and space. "Black people have an ability to talk about the concept of home—meaning communities, blocks, hoods—from a really thorough placebecause of those concepts' connection to Blackness. That ability, and sort of already internalized and in place language, allows for the speaker (rapper) to exist in their current setting, while also being able to reminisce, dissect, and discuss their past,” says Dixon explaining the idea of rap as a form of time travel. “If time is ‘non-linear,’ what is stopping me from going back to process the past? I am here now, having learned what I have, and because of that I am able to go back and figure out patterns and trajectories to see better how I've gotten to this point. And to see what I can do differently for the community and people around me in the future to make where we're going, together, better. For me and other Black folks, when you hear rap music, you are then able to take those moments in the music and apply them to your own life and patterns. It's a glimpse into the worlds of others that look like you, and it allows you to feel a sense of belonging—and in a way, a sense of home. Rap music has a very sturdy trajectory of 'I want to be somewhere else, one day I'll be somewhere else, and I’ll take my whole community with me.'"This unique concept of musical time travel elevates the storytelling on For My Mama And Anyone Who Look Like Heras it moves through different stages of Dixon unpacking and processing his surroundings. The new album, which is the third piece of a trilogy, finds Dixon working through inner demons, complex relationships with religion, and trying to make sense of mortality for Blackpeoples. This winding road of turmoil is only amplified by a deeper pain he’s still finding the language to work through: in 2018, his best friend was tragically killed. In the context of just being Black and living in this world, “musical time travel” has become a way for Dixon to dissect traumatic timelines and pave his own road to processing, healing, and survival. “The album is me processing for myself now, and for my younger self,” explains Dixon. “It’s also a conversation to my homie who died, who didn’t have access to the same things as I did—didn’t have access to music, therapy, books.” With Black death constantly happening on a news cycle, within neighborhoods, and within families, processing has never had a specific start and end point. These 11 songs are a way for Dixon to cycle through fragmented memories and unclosed chapters, and begin to reconcile where these stories of racism, death, and trauma live on the new timeline he’s created for himself. “The language accessibility aspect of this project draws right back to communication and connecting,” Dixon explains. “I think about the messaging, and how this can be a way for another Black person, someone who looks like me, to listen to this and process the past. Everything I've learned about communication for this album culminates with this bigger question about time. Is time linear when you’re still healing and processing? Westerners look at time travel as something to conquer or control—it's a colonizer mindset. That’s ignoring how time travel can be done through stories and non-verbal communication, and doesn't acknowledge how close indigenous people are to the land and the connections groups have because they’ve existed somewhere for so long. Storytelling is time travel, it's taking the listenerto that place. Quick time travel. Magic. These raps I’m making are no different than stories told around the campfire. They elongate the culture.” The origins of For My Mama And Anyone Who Look Like Hergo back almost three years, beginning with a song written in 2017 called “Chain Sooo Heavy.” Having worked with over 30 instrumentalists on hislast record, Dixon formed a more solid band to bring this album to life. Never relying solely on beats, Dixon continues to tap into a hybrid of jazz and rap, pulling in an array of piercing strings, soulful horns, percussion, and angelic vocalists throughout the album—plus features by Micah James, Lord Jah-Monte Ogbon, Pink Siifu, and more. Jazz instrumentals add a level of uncertainty, with the sounds and shifts evoking a lot of emotion and vulnerability. It’s an energy he describes as “Pre-Kendrick Lamar To Pimp A Butterfly,” the era when rap adopted more live instrumentation. When Dixon is trying to find the words to describe a moment, he draws inspiration directly from literature. “Called for Jesus/Now I’m gonna curse his daddy,”from “B.B.N.E.”, was inspired by renowned novelist Toni Morrison, an influence who shows up throughout the album. “I’ve got so many of her books. Reading her work gives me the languageneeded to access this version of musical time travel I’ve been talking about. I’ll open up a Toni Morrison book, read it, and try to find sentences where she’s trying to describe what I’m feeling and I’ll go from there.”“Bless the Child” evokes the strongest sense of Dixon tracing patterns through time. Shifting through three beat switches, it’s a figurative shrine of past thoughts and feelings around his friend’s untimely passing. “The tone with the beat switch allows me to shift from being in the past with these memories, to the present right now where I’m very conflicted, and ends in the future with me, the artist, processing it all,” he explains. “The song is a literal translation of my homie’s passing and how I’m processing it. It’s a mixture of sentiments and asking myself what it means to ‘do it for them’ at this point.” For My Mama And Anyone Who Look Like Herchallenges Black people to revisit more than one timeline and question everything they’ve been taught about processing grief in order to rebuild their present and future selves. There’s no definitive end to the darkness and trauma of the past, but this album is a stepping stone in Dixon’s pursuit of moving forward, and being a voice for Black people still learning how to advocate for themselves. “The best way to sum up this album is: I was sad, I was mad, and now I’m alive,” Dixon explains. “These things I talk about on the record have had harmful and brilliant effects on my timeline, and have forced me to be cognizant of the fact that living is complex. Rap has allowed me the language to communicate, and be someone who can communicate with people from all over. Knowing how far I’ve come, I think people will find trust in the message I’m sending.”—Max Mohenu
The Crocodile Presents:
Noga Erez, McKinley Dixon
Thu Nov 4 2021 8:00 PM