Funk, Soul, Boogieman & Zombies

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Childish Gambino’s Awaken, My Love has been on a near constant repeat since it came out last week…..(with the exception of takin a break to mix, listenin to the new J. Cole & a homie’s weary blues….) I was drawn in by the single Redbone, whose swagger, bassline and refrain of “stay woke” worked on complex levels….the album continues the course of Glover’s recent cultural production werk, in the television show, Atlanta, which displays full and complicated expressions of Blackness which are not only the central focus of the show, but the intended gaze, the werk he is producin’ feels like it has very little to do with being palatable for white consumption.

The theme of awakening/wokeness/and other permutations of the wake, remind me of  Christina Sharpe’s latest werk…. In the Wake: On Blackness and Being. In her writing she uses the various meanings of wake; the path behind a ship, keeping watch with the dead, coming to consciousness to interrogate the ways in which Black life and being are represented and constructed in the aftermath of TransAtlantic chattel slavery. She formulates the wake and “wake werk” as sites of cultural production, resistance, consciousness, and possibility for living in diaspora which seeks to affirm the dignity and centrality of Blackness to life. Gambino’s music and other cultural productions, live, breathe & resonated in the wake.

Sonically, Awaken, My Love, builds on the legacy of Black Atlantic sounds, the funk on this album is thick…the bass is weighty, its the heaviness of conditions… and the albums got that iconic future soul sound which channels the vibes of its predecessors like Sly, The Parliament Funkadelic, Bootsy Collins, Prince….its undeniably southern in its delivery….Glover mentioned in a recent interview, that as a cultural producer, he is searching for moments…of this werk, he says “even on some of the songs, we play with pitches and sounds that I think affect people in ways they don’t realize is happening until the fifth listen.” ….he goes on to discuss how this album and creative process were about stripping down much of the reliance on technology to achieve sound, instead relyin heavily on a full band, vocals sans filter/pitching and percussive rhythms derived from tongue clicks.

Awaken, My Love and Glover create an interesting juxtaposition between the use of technology in the delivery of the album to audiences and the production of the album. While he werked to remove computers and their sonic influence from the orchestration of the album, he is using technology to augment the experience of listeners….thru his release on “virtual reality vinyl” which will work to simulate the experience of a concert performance he gave called the PHAROS Experience in Joshua Tree, California…which was itself a mix of heavy reliance on technology while simultaneously refusing it….lol anyways, all of this is really long aside to say that I love the ingenuity of Black and Brown folks, how we manipulate technology, and am excited to see where this every growing augmented consciousness/cyborgness takes us next…..

This album takes you places, if you let it…..the interplay between the tracks Boogieman and Zombies have been heavy on my mind…..In Boogieman, Gambino, speaks directly to  the conditions of whiteness and its need to pathologize Blackness, and in this case particularly Black masculinity as inherently violent and something to be feared…. the Boogieman is the projection of white fears onto Black bodies, to a deadly effect…..In the aftermath of the Walter Scott verdict this week….the weight of his lyrics feel even heavier….

[Refrain]
With a gun in your hand
I’m the boogieman
I’m gonna come and get you

[Verse 2]
Every boy and girl all around the world
Knows my niggas’ words
But if he’s scared of me
How can we be free?
Yes—

The track ends with a question that we have been/are grapplin with on the daily living in white supremacy. When white fear/fragility turns to white rage at the mere existence of Blackness (Otherness) , how can we be free?  The transition into Zombies highlights the parasitic relationship that whiteness and capitalism have with Black creative expressions, this concept of the Zombie, underscores the unthinkingness, the anticritical, autopilot tendencies of those who profit from the consumption of this labor, without ever having to engage with the source of its productions, or the humanity of this source.

[Verse 3: Childish Gambino]
All I see is zombies feeding all around us
All they eat are people (and you won’t survive)
They don’t know what happened, they just stay alive

[Hook: Kari Faux & Childish Gambino]
We’re coming out to get you
We’re all so glad we met you
We’re eating you for profit
There is no way to stop it
There is no way to stop it
You will find there is no safe place to hide
(That’s right, that’s right)
We’re coming out to get you
We’re all so glad we met you
We’re eating you for profit
There is no way to stop it
There is no way to stop it

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