Real Bad Man & Lukah, “Temple Needs Water. Village Needs Peace.”
By Blake Gillespie · April 01, 2024

The arc of Memphis rapper Lukah’s six-year career can be summed up with a simple proverb: “You can never step in the same river twice.” Albums like When The Black Hand Touches You and Why Look Up, God’s In The Mirror were designed as guidance to his son and to himself, respectively. But the scope of Lukah’s concerns was always widening, confronting systemic racism on Raw Extractions and Permanently Blackface—creeks become streams, which flow into rivers. With Temple Needs Water, Village Needs Peace, Lukah is standing at the estuary to an ocean declaring, “I took a nimbus to the tallest mountain and I drink from this knowledge fountain.”

A collaboration with L.A.-based production team Real Bad Man—who have been on an impressive run of their own helming records by Boldy James, Blu, Kool Keith, YUNGMORPHEUS, and Pink Siifu—the sonics of Temple Needs Water are built from loops of live instrumentation. Chants, vibraphones, basslines, and Shabaka Hutchings on horns and flute combine to create a sound that effortlessly spans the continuum of Black music from Southern rap to Jamaican sound clash, with more stops in between. Contributions from billy woods and Adrian Utley of Portishead are big feathers in the cap, while Lukah’s hometown of Memphis makes an appearance via Sypha’s gruff reggae toasting, the neo-soul vocals of Talibah Safiya, and in up-and-comers Stooky Bros. A rising painter in his own right, Deener of Stooky Bros puts the art world under a Black lens on “The AMA,” questioning: “What’s the psychological effect of having art on the wall that don’t even look like ya?”

Like many of his predecessors—Poor Righteous Teachers, KRS-One, Talib Kweli, Kendrick Lamar—Lukah is at his best when the music meets us where we are, as it does on “The Cleansing.” The hook, “sometimes you gotta throw it out the window,” is Lukah’s way of cautioning against boxing up your emotions—let the breeze in, let things go.  By the time “The Burial” arrives, it’s clear that the temple of the album title is as much a place of knowledge in the village as it is your own mind.

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