E.G. Bailey: American Afrikan

31 March 2010 at 9:00 am (Music, Press, Recordings, Releases, Spoken Word) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

E.G. Bailey: American Afrikan
By Peter S. Scholtes, City Pages

With all respect to Alexs Pate’s inspired arguments to the contrary, rap is not poetry, and poetry is not rap. Lyrics function differently when isolated from music, which is why “Surfin’ Bird” is a great lyric and not great poetry. Yet poetry-with-music is an honorable if maligned musical tradition that connects Dada, Langston Hughes (backed by Charles Mingus), the Beats, Amiri Baraka, Gil Scott-Heron’s timeless “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” punk rock (Minutemen more than Patti Smith), slam poetry, and inevitably hip hop, wherever beats and rhymes are disconnected in a spoken way. Nobody has more persuasively claimed this vein for an African American oral and protest tradition than E.G. Bailey and his collaborators on 89.9 KMOJ-FM’s Saturday-night staple Urban Griots.

So what’s surprising about Bailey’s debut album isn’t its aural cinema—linking what sounds like a slave ship hull to the voice of Martin Luther King Jr. to field recordings of rapper Idris Goodwin (talking about blackness) and Liberian folk songs—but how great it is as music. Bailey is a reminder that Public Enemy started as radio guys, too: The Liberian-born spoken-word performer makes blindsiding funk his space for meaning, and vice versa. Working with producer Ben Durrant and M.anifest beatsmith Katrah Quey, along with a host of other gifted Twin Cities musicians and singers, Bailey crafts one dope riff after another. He makes his crisply voiced musings (“Black voices save the African man”) and those of guest Ibé Kaba (“a slave is a slave is a slave”) seem at home in the James Brown-like shimmy of the title track—well before M.anifest takes over rapping on the bonus “M.ANIFESTations Mix” (though I actually prefer the full 11-minute poetry version).

In total, Bailey spreads out only seven poems among 16 tracks (plus four alternate mixes), amid sample collage, gospel, and found audio. The results are more like Brian Eno and David Byrne’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts reinvented to signify African-ness explicitly, personally, and profoundly than like poetry set to music. But don’t sell the words short. Addressing “Afrika” and America as urgently as any African American before him, Bailey is uncommonly tender: “America, your friends are worried,” he says of the wars he can’t defend. “Am I strong enough to love you with the love you deserve?” he asks an Africa he can only visit. This album is strong enough to give that sentiment the music it deserves.

Originally posted on City Pages on 31 March 2010.

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‘Tuo Tuo’

23 February 2010 at 9:00 am (Music, Recordings, Releases, Spoken Word, Work Notes) (, , )

Tuo Tuo (Liberian Children’s Song)
Children’s song by siblings + family
Recorded in Saclepea, Liberia by e.g. bailey

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‘Oracles of Equiano (Starkie’s Pushing Mix)’

23 February 2010 at 9:00 am (Music, Recordings, Releases, Spoken Word, Work Notes) (, , )

Oracles of Equiano (Starskie’s Pushing Mix)
Produced by Starskie
Music by Starskie
Written by e.g. bailey
(E. Bailey, O. Knabben)

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‘This Child Will Be Great’

23 February 2010 at 9:00 am (Music, Recordings, Releases, Spoken Word, Work Notes) (, , )

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‘The Unknown Soldier’

23 February 2010 at 9:00 am (Music, Recordings, Releases, Spoken Word, Work Notes) (, , , )

The Unknown Soldier
Produced by e.g. bailey + Ben Durrant
Music by DJ Limbs
Written by e.g. bailey
Additional voice by Sha Cage
(E. Bailey, V. Carreon, S. Cage)

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American Afrikan (Album)

23 February 2010 at 9:00 am (Music, Recordings, Releases, Spoken Word, Work Notes) ()

American Afrikan

Press Release • Listen • Liner Notes • Quotes

Click on each of the track titles to listen to the track, plus additional information and notes about each track.

1. Professor Goodwin’s Preface

2. Liberia

3. Love Songs In Middle Passage: Africans in America

4. The Unknown Soldier

5. K Street Blues: The Bailout Plan

6. America

7. Verbal Graffiti Radio

8. American Afrikan

9. Gemini Cities

10. Blues People

11. Home

12. Motherless Child

13. Oracles of Equiano

14. Afrika

15. Tuo Tuo

16. Afrikan is the New American

17. American Afrikan (Space Station One Mix)

18. Oracles of Equiano (Starkie’s Pushing Mix)

19. Afrika (A Capella)

20. American Afrikan (M.anifestations Mix)

21. This Child Will Be Great

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American Afrikan (Quotes)

23 February 2010 at 9:00 am (Music, Recordings, Releases, Spoken Word) ()

AMERICAN AFRIKAN
Quotes + Comments

Press:

“There is so much history, culture and experience packed in American Afrikan that to summarize would be to attempt to summarize all of African American experience.” – Jon Behm (Reviler)

“So what’s surprising about Bailey’s debut album isn’t its aural cinema but how great it is as music. The results are more like Brian Eno and David Byrne’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts reinvented to signify African-ness explicitly, personally, and profoundly than like poetry set to music.” – Peter Scholtes (City Pages)

Fans:

“Straight shit mad orgasms.” – Tiffany

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‘American Afrikan (M.anifestations Mix)’

23 February 2010 at 9:00 am (Music, Recordings, Releases, Spoken Word, Work Notes) (, , , )

American Afrikan (M.ANIFESTations Mix) (featuring M.anifest)
Produced by e.g. bailey + Ben Durrant
Music by Katrah Quey
Written by e.g. bailey + M.anifest
(E. Bailey, K. Tsikata, D. Hollins)

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‘American Afrikan’

23 February 2010 at 9:00 am (Music, Recordings, Releases, Spoken Word, Work Notes) (, , , , , )

American Afrikan (featuring Afrika 7 <e.g. bailey + Ibé Kaba + Sankaradjeki>)
Produced by e.g. bailey + Ben Durrant
Music by Katrah Quey
Written by e.g. bailey + Ibe Kaba + Sankaradjeki
Background vocals by Mankwe Ndosi
(E. Bailey, I. Kaba, J.E. Joss, M. Ndois, D. Hollins)

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‘Afrikan is the New American’

23 February 2010 at 9:00 am (Music, Recordings, Releases, Spoken Word, Work Notes) (, )

Afrikan is the New American
Produced by Katrah Quey
Music by Katrah Quey
(D. Hollins)

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