The world is slowly falling apart. Whether through a virus pandemic, political instability, climate change or social unrest. Birmingham, Alabama musical polymath Pink Siifu knows this all too well, yet his music so far has occupied a musically serene, emotive and soulful space dedicated to black and female empowerment. Hi 2018 album ensley was a mesmerising body of work capturing his soul and vulnerabilities beautifully over a 25-track album that is on heavy rotation until this very day. Having followed his career since about 2013, it goes without saying that I’m proud of his musical evolution, taking inspiration that ranges from the cosmic energy of Sun Ra, to the psychedelic musings of Gonjasufi to his contemporaries. His knack for experimentation makes him a musical chameleon, and his new album NEGRO embodies his fearlessness perfectly, with an unsettling, fascinating, avant-garde project that embodies every bit of prophetic soul within him. It’s a mind-bending project that I’m still trying to wrap my head around and that it why I’m so enamoured by it.
NEGRO feels heavy. Pink Siifu is able to embody the black experience in America with a rumbling, chaotic and cacophonous energy, bringing an aggravated, unsettling tone throughout its 20 tracks. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever heard before from the artist, who channels his inner punk emphatically on this album, celebrating his black identity while at the same time releasing all the pain and frustration caused by being Black in America. The album starts off with “BLACKisGod,A ghetto-sci-fi tribute(_G).” It’s a track dedicated to the late and great LA legend Ras G, who tragically passed away last year, and features harsh cacophony of manic drums, percussion and horns, which intertwine into a manic, raw and powerful sound that kept me on the edge. The energy from that point onward just gets darker and more manic. “SMD” kicks off with a a powerful excerpt from the 1973 crime-drama movie The Spook Who Sat by the Door that captures the intensity and power of being black, before the track explodes to life with aggressive and thundering guitars and drums, drowning out Pink Siifu’s energetic and aggravated vocals. He screams “WHITE MAN TRYNNA TAKE MY SHIT” demonically, channeling his inner MC Ride in the process. “FK” is a similarly abrasive and almost abusive track. The heavy, distorted guitar leads throughout this track make for a loud and almost grating energy, as it breaks down into a more subdued track. The production is handled by an array of talented musicians. Jeremiah Jae, Roper Williams, michael lundy and iiye handle it for the most part, with additional help from the likes of Slauson Malone, Nick Hakim, Psychopop and AshTreJenkins among others. The samples and snippets from news outlets and black films throughout the album enrich the experience of it, adding a layer of socio-political commentary that plays out like an abstract collage of one’s experiences in the United States. “ameriKKKa, try no pork.” is an example of this, while tracks like “run pig run.” and the mellow “Nation Tyme.” act as educational PSA’s designed to rile up black folk through educational pieces relating to his own experiences. You hear his anger and pain throughout the entire album, not only through his lyrics and vocal delivery, but also the sonic landscape he is able to paint throughout the project. The soulful and emotive self-produced “myheartHURT.” literally feels like his heart is bleeding out with pain and anguish. “homicide/genocide/ill die” ft Ted Kamal is and abrasive, almost hellish track with fuzzy guitars and a suffocating energy that keeps me on edge. “bebe’s kids, APOLLO” features Philadelphia-based poet, musician, and activist Moor Mother, an is a captivating track, with a poem subdued behind the abrasive, unsettling instrumental. It as as much a punk and metal album as it is an avant-garde project. The way he is able to meander through the disorienting landscapes filled with abrasive electronics, unsettling guitar leads and frivolous drums is impressive. “blackest LOVE, like paint on tha wall” sees him create an abstract, jazz-infused track with subtle horns and live percussion, while “steal from the ENEMY” is another hellish, cacophonous track that brings a pulsating tone, while “ON FIRE, PRAY!” has the groove and rhythm of a proper punk track, with driving drums and guitars that help Pink Siifu scream emphatically down the mic, before breaking down into this stripped back, quieter yet unsettling tone. The album ends with the soulful and reflective “Black Be Tha God, NEGRO. ( wisdom.cipher),” beautifully capturing Pink Siifu’s eclecticism and character. The gorgeous looped vocal sample reverberates throughout the track, as sonically it returns to familiar territory – that of a smooth, soulful and abstract poet trying to make sense of the madness and hell surrounding him.
This album is an experience like no other. As someone who is used to Pink Siifu’s experimentation in music, even I didn’t see this coming. The grandiosity and pure eclecticism of this album makes NEGRO a masterpiece. It’s a stunning, soulful yet menacing album that takes sonic cues from bands like Show Me The Body and Death Grips, while incorporating the sonic beauty and mysticism of someone like Sun Ra or Ras G. It’s a muse of diverse and scattered thoughts, with samples and poems dedicated to shedding light on the complexity and true beauty of black culture and identity, while creating a pulsating and truly unsettling sonic experience that rattled me from start to finish. NEGRO is a masterpiece, and Pink Siifu has elevated himself not only musically, but spiritually through this album.
Please listen to Pink Siifu’s NEGRO with an open mind, it’s a sonic journey you won’t regret going on. You can listen to the album in its entirety through this link, which takes you to an introspective poem and passage written by him, with thoughts and inspirations on the album and his life in general. Click here.
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