Dutty Artz, the New York-based record label I run and release music with, just put out a new EP by Old Money. This morning I put my remix of the title track ‘Mothership’ on Soundcloud, and for a limited time it is available for free download. To get the rest of the EP, which includes a fire remix from Pretoria’s DJ Spoko, head to any of your favorite digital stores.
Old Money is a Black Atlantronic rap group based in Brooklyn. I met them several years ago after having first moved to New York, but had known of their work on popular blogs such as Palms Out Sounds and Attorney Street for some years. I first met them when they hired me to DJ at an art gallery in Manhattan for a party they were starting called Van Sertima. Their naming of the party was my introduction to the black liberationist philosopher, and thus my introduction to the philosophical side of Old Money.
The group came into the more esoteric side of North American black liberationist theory after becoming disillusioned post-grads in Manhattan. Coming from working class neighborhoods in the outer boroughs, they had both received degrees from prestigious East Coast universities in the U.S. However, these degrees didn’t magically change the social conditions of their city, and forging a righteous path to independence and adulthood remained difficult for two young black men in the city. They looked around their immediate surrounding for inspiration and answers, and instead of walking past the corner preachers from groups like the Moorish Science Temple of America and the Nuwaubians in their neighborhoods, they stopped and listened.
The Mothership EP is firmly in the tradition of the black liberationist thought that informs such groups. The mothership Old Money speaks of is a cornerstone of the preachings of everyone from Marcus Garvey, to the Nation of Islam, to Sun Ra. Some call it Afro-futurism, because of the science fiction element. But more than anything it sums up the needs and desires of the past and present generations of people of African descent in the Americas – from any cultural, national, or language background.
What sets Old Money apart from this history, is their relationship and access to the greater Atlantic world. The last mainstream wave of Afrocentricity in the U.S. died out in the early 1990’s. Old Money is part of a new wave that is less outwardly political, but more rooted in an awareness of contemporary Africa. They are just as inspired by Kwaito, Kuduro, South African House, and Grime, as they are by pan-Africanist leaders of past generations. By engaging with elements of contemporary Africa they are enacting a new pan-Africanism, a fresh and exciting one that I still have yet to completely wrap my head around. By collaborating with myself and DJ Spoko they are manifesting the potential contained with the idea of the mothership, and perhaps setting the pace for a new idea of liberation for people of African descent in the Americas.
This new American pan-Africanism might not always be explicit. It is summed up by the appearance of a South Bronx-raised Moroccan-born gangster rapper, a pair of Seattle-bred Somali-pirate-trap rappers, of a couple of Azonto-ing Jamaican Dancehall superstars, and an Afrobeats-ing Trinidadian Soca monarch. It’s the pan-Africanism of Yasiin Bey and Young Guru in Capetown, of Rick Ross in Nigeria, of Beyonce and Chimamanda’s feminism, of Kanye West and D-Banj’s Oliver Twist, and of Solange’s everything. It is that essay on Afropolitanism, and all the ones refuting it. It is returnees, and ‘just comes’, and heritage tourists, and DNA tests. It’s mediated through capitalism, and immigration, and the Internet, and young people, and style and fashion. Many actors in this new pan-Africanism may not claim their place in it, however by not acknowledging it, it is left open to become a vessel for anyone else to insert a political pan-Africanism inside. BBC1xtra DJ Seani B did just this in the description of his recent Afrobeats vs. Dancehall mashup mix by saying, “I like to think of this mix as bringing the dancehall Artist back home to Africa…” These days buying them a plane ticket, is the same as putting them in a mix and posting it on the Internet. That’s magic, African magic, Science fiction and Afro-fantasy. This magic is the ship that brought Africans into bondage in the Americas in the first place, and is the new ship that has come to save us all. And like Binyavanga, these possibilities are what excite me most about our contemporary world.
[top photo from District 9]