Tag Archives: Soul

Cody ChesnuTT Recorded His New Album In A Barn

Cody ChesnuTT

In 2002, Cody ChesnuTT emerged as a nostalgic figure in modern rock. Adorned in black leather and long scarves, he embodied the acid-infused haze of the 1960s and bleeding-heart soul of the 1970s. ChesnuTT was everything all at once: Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Richie Havens, Marvin Gaye. He was confident, if not downright cocky—a bad motherfucker, a strong symbol of black excellence. Humility be damned; in ChesnuTT’s mind, he—not Chuck Berry, not Little Richard—is the father of rock ‘n’ roll. Details of its conception made for a cool song. The Roots dug it.

ChesnuTT’s stance has evolved over the years. Across a few projects, like 2010’s Black Skin No Value and 2012’s Landing On A Hundred, he stood as a beacon for the black experience, harboring the love, pride, and self-awareness from which the community attains its strength. For the most part, ChesnuTT was still the same guy we heard on his debut album—2002’s The Headphone Masterpiece—but his music took more of a soulful slant. ChesnuTT’s new LP, My Love Divine Degree, represents a slight return for the musician: ChesnuTT recorded the new full-length by himself in a barn, similar to Headphone Masterpiece, which he compiled alone in his bedroom. We spoke with the musician about Degree, his opinion of current soul music, and what it’s like living on his own planet.

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Keeping the Flame Alive: The World of Deep Funk Archival Compilations

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“‘Deep funk’ was really just a name I came up with for my club night,” remembers Keb Darge, a DJ and devoted 45s collector. “The rare groove scene had played funk, but I wanted to get it across to the possible customers that we were digging much deeper than had been done in the past.” Though he might today view his off-the-cuff subgenre designation as arbitrary, he remains inextricably tied to it. Not only did he begin the famed Legendary Deep Funk night in 1994, moving it to Madame Jojo’s in London’s Soho district a year later, but, perhaps more impressively, he kept its bizarro flame lit for 20-plus years (later with the help of DJ Snowboy).

In the same vein as England’s northern soul movement of the late ’60s and ’70s, deep funk was forged from stacks of obscure 45s by little-known black American artists and long-gone, one-off labels (many of which were private press). Darge thought some of the nastier funk heat could be found on the flip side of a rare soul record, the side that back then wasn’t being paid much mind. “Because of my time in the northern soul scene, I could tell what a genuinely rare record was and what an ‘I’ve not seen it before, but it’s not really rare’ record was,” he says.

Whatever relic Darge spun during the Legendary Deep Funk heyday, chances were decent it represented the only living evidence of an artist or band’s existence. The more cryptic the record, the more exclusive value it had (as long as the music was worth a damn). Even more likely was that those who played on the cut had zero clue it was filling a dancefloor across the Atlantic, decades after it failed to make a ripple in the States.

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ÌFÉ’s Otura Mun Explores His Divine Destiny

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Photo by Mariangel Gonzales.

DJ, producer, percussionist and composer Otura Mun was born Mark Underwood in Goshen, Indiana. A drummer fluent in R&B and jazz (and the youngest member of the renowned University of North Texas drumline in his freshman year), Otura Mun took his first life-changing trip to Puerto Rico almost 20 years ago. He now calls the island home, and it’s where he and his ensemble ÌFÉ create electronic music that channels the musical and spiritual worlds of the African diaspora throughout the Americas and the Caribbean.

The ensemble and the music they make are also connected to Mun’s desire to study the Cuban rumba—which led to his initiation as a babalawo, or Yoruban high priest. The perspective now orients both his musical and his personal life.

As Otura Mun explains it, he chose the title IIII+IIII for ÌFÉ’s debut because it marks “the beginning of a new era, a change in the guard, a spiritual awakening,” a path an individual can take on their divine destiny.

To talk with Otura Mun is to become caught up in a heady whirlwind of ideas about music that’s constructed with layers upon layers of aligned signs and evoked meanings. We caught up with the San Juan-based Otura Mun via Skype to get a glimpse of the wondrous, spirit-filled world that informs his music.

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(She’s Got) Power: Tasha’s Soulful Ethos of Black Love and Liberation

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Tasha. Photo by Zachary Belcher.

Tasha Viets-Van Lear, who records music simply as Tasha, believes unapologetic black love is crucial for black liberation. An activist with BYP100 as well as a musician, Tasha weaves the political with the personal, promoting inner power. Her music focuses on love as a force against societal institutions that would prefer black people hate themselves and their skin. The poetic, thoughtful “Divine Love,” the title track from her 2016 EP, sets forth her ethos with warmth and passion: “I want a song that’s gonna tell me I can love myself/ But not for the purpose of being better at loving someone else/ Got all this light around me/But I can’t see it through this haze of my own insecurity/ This fear in me that I can’t glow from the inside out/But naturally, see, I got moonlight spilling from my mouth.”

Tasha’s a regular on the Chicago scene, playing often, sometimes with a full band—a powerhouse group of talented musicians whose members also play alongside Jamila Woods, Noname, Ric Wilson, Kaina, and more. While she hasn’t released anything since last year’s Divine Love EP, there’s a lot more in the works—music videos, a new website, and new music. Right now, she’s concentrating on building a robust foundation before releasing anything new.

We sat down with Tasha over tea at her Chicago home and talked about her processes, self-actualization, anger and joy, community and activism, journaling, and her music.

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Album of the Day: Tanika Charles, “Soul Run”

Soul Run, the debut LP from Canada’s rising soul star Tanika Charles, is ostensibly a breakup album. But these songs are so exuberant, and Charles’ voice is so defiant and confident, that it hardly registers that way. Charles’ 2010 EP What! What? What!? demonstrated that the Edmonton singer wasn’t content to stay within the parameters of retro soul—the G-funk-influenced “Parkdale,” in particular, demonstrated her eagerness to cover fresh ground—and Soul Run continues that imaginative streak, yet often in subtler ways.

Charles constructed these songs with a series of producers, including the Drake collaborator Slakah the Beatchild, and as a result Soul Run presents itself as a grab-bag of surprises. The short “Intro,” with its modulated voices and effects, provides a thrilling launch pad into the thumping title track, while “Two Steps” leans on an unexpected and glimmering Afrobeat guitar riff. Both “Endless Chain” and “Money” evoke vintage Muscle Shoals recordings, but with an emphasis on precise and booming percussion that keeps them fresh and modern.

These varied styles give Charles different contexts to experiment with her vocal gymnastics. Throughout the album, she pays homage to legends like Aretha Franklin and Etta James—on “Sweet Memories,” she does an uncanny take on the Jackson 5’s shrill howls—but she’s got a sense of spunk that’s all her own. From start to finish, Soul Run serves up one kiss-off after another to Charles’ ex. At one point she insists that she “don’t need a man to walk me home,” and by the album’s conclusion she declares, definitively, “I won’t be back.” But because she manages to channel her angst in a way that sounds more playful than bitter or mournful, Tanika Charles makes it clear that she’s moving forward. We can’t help but want to follow along.

Max Savage Levenson