Pop music and politics isn't normally a serviceable combination; weighed down by hefty rhetoric, you run the risk of disenchanting a listener who seeks escape from just that. Still, occasionally a record comes along that manages to meld exposition with innovative pop sensibility.
'White Men Are Black Men Too', the second studio album from Young Fathers, is a prime example of this. An earnest reflection on the ideals of three young men, the LP's exploration of identity made even more palpable by a post-Ferguson climate, the frenetic energy that weaves its way through the record is matched to words that carry the requisite weight to make you stand up and listen.
Of course they want you to dance, as well. From beginning to end the wordplay is packaged in a sort of rhythmic exuberance, as if to offset potential accusations of over-zealousness. Opener 'Still Running' embodies this capricious nature, a heart-racing declaration of introspection, backed by fuzzy percussion and a wailing guitar.
It happens again on 'Shame'; home to some of the LP's most fury-laden lyrics, chanted in your face whilst you're witnessing something akin to the "Carlton swing". Indeed, the record retains a coherent lo-fi, retro feel akin to the rap-sung, funk-filled soul of Janelle Monae - though infinitely more abrasive.
And when they do rein it in, the Edinburgh trio allow their sound to breathe; 'Nest', a contrasting piano ballad with sumptuous coos and a "baby, baby" vocal refrain, replaces politics with unabashed love.
But this is Young Fathers we're talking about - their uncompromising ethos is a reason why the trio are cementing themselves as one of the most exciting, original voices in British music right now. The appeal of this record lies in the intersection between universality and originality, both in sound and sentiment, with convention thrown out the window.
'White Men Are Black Men Too' waits at the fringes of hip hop's international vision, whilst riding an underground escapade into rock 'n' roll. Mad and all-consuming, this is music for disillusioned youth with enough wry wordplay to back it up. In all its angst and menace, you can't help but feel liberated.
Words: Shahzaib Hussain
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