Higher Ground

When it comes to commercial black music, “high concept” makes the record industry very nervous. Motown initially told Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye that people wouldn’t like their political songs. Stax told Isaac “Black Moses” Hayes that radio wouldn’t play his 16-minute album tracks. Today, for every breakthrough iconoclast like Erykah Badu or Lauryn Hill there are thousands of artists whose attempts to explore spirituality, politics, or “healing your inner child” through music have stopped their careers dead in (and with) their tracks. So I’d like to devote this space to three recent releases that pursue an artistic vision too pure to rely on trendy guest stars, currently fashionable producers, or the sample-loop du jour — black music which dares to, shall we say, elevate the range of sounds and ideas aimed at mainstream black radio. Continue reading “Higher Ground”