In today’s age, technology has flooded our lives with content. Caught in the mire are modern musicians who champion an art form that’s more widely distributed than any other throughout human history. And we, more often than not, overlook the music created by unfamiliar faces because it’s challenging. We’d rather have an easy listen, a known quantity to skim through while we think about something else.
Hearing is easy, but listening is difficult. Welcome to “Why We Like It”, where we rebuke the trends in favor of thoughtful analysis and underknown sounds.
How We Found It
Founded by Mir.I.Am, Carolina Waves is a platform for upcoming NC artists to gain exposure. He curated, conceived, and produced the cypher that entered our SubmitHub inbox. He describes “Black AF” as “a protest single and cypher from upcoming North Carolina emcees designed to bring awareness to the current situation of our country and to give a voice to the Black Lives Matter movement.” I believe they have sincerely accomplished their goals. I lived in North Carolina from when I was 15 to 22 and couldn’t be more proud that underground artists are taking and bearing the torch for change.
Why We Like It
It’s been over two-and-a-half months since the protests across the country began over the multiple deaths of Black men and women by the hands of law enforcement and the grip of white supremacy. I have been sick to my stomach seeing Black bodies carried away and tired of watching the oppressors get away with blatant murder. Anger rises and I have difficulty in expressing those feelings verbally and articulately when in person without getting emotionally compromised. It’s a burden that feels personally plaguing. So when I find pieces of art that do some of that heavy lifting for me, my heart’s weight is lessened as it begins to beat to the drums of revolution in rhyme.
On “Black AF” the Carolina emcees team up to give life to language that expresses the frustration and fury towards a system that has its knee on the necks of people that look like me. Over Imani Presley’s murky and sobering production it sounds like soldiers arising from the ashes of fiery destruction. I woke up with them when 2FLY KNG comes in with “Black lives, baptized in the pool of fire.” My heart lights up and he has me in his grasp. His voice is deep and delivers with poignancy as if he’s at a rally speaking his piece before peace talks stop completely. He’s the radicalized pastor who’s had enough and here to gather his people in arms. He’s reverent and large in his presence on the track. He sets the tone and Tagem comes in with the needed intensity to grab the baton and continue where his predecessor left off.
If KNG is the pastor, Tagem is the radical who sees himself as the last man between the police line and his fellow brothers and sisters in arms. His tone is different yet needed — slightly nasally and perfectly juxtaposing the husky voice that came before him. He’s loud with his mic in hand and his excitement for change is evident and informed. He starts off his verse sarcastically acknowledging the Whites Lives Matter movement before digging into them a few bars later with “don’t wanna listen when the protests is silent / so how y’all gone act when the protests are violent.” He’s emotional and realizes violence might not be the answer but that the cathartic feeling it brings is brought upon by years of not being heard. And I understood.
Jooselord, Lena Jackson, and TAGEM know each other well from local shows and events, and have shared lineups together. 2FLY KNG, who is only 19-year-old, is an emcee, producer, musician and community activist and knew of the others from afar, but they didn’t have a close relationship prior to the cypher.” – Carolina Waves for CentralSauce (2020)
While there was a pause between KNG and Tagem’s verses to let the beat breath, Lena Jackson doesn’t waste a second to continue the marathon. Unlike those who rapped with a steady, consistent flow, she spits rapid fire. Her breath control is amazing as it doesn’t sound like there’s a breath taken in-between bars. She even ups her speed as if the words she’s speaking need to get out of her before she burns up inside. She’s working out her trauma in real time to ooze out every bit of her soul in each word. Jackson speaks with pride but not arrogance. She sees her people as royalty and knows in her heart of hearts that they don’t deserve to be treated as anything less. “Be grateful we ain’t turned from peaceful to lethal / stay tuned for that sequel, my people” are her final words as she spits at the disgust of those ignoring their plight.
Finally to bring it all home, Jooselord anchors the song in all the built up rage each rapper built on top of the backs of those broken from previous beatings. He’s gritty, aggressive, and unapologetic. He presents himself as the villain but I think for people like myself, they see him as the unsung hero who’s exposing the devils that have cloaked themselves in privileged armor. His acrimony towards the oppressor is fervent and it has no sign of cooling down until the beat is completely cut. His last few bars are nothing but straight emotion as his delight in being Black is showcased. And with the last few words spoken, my words are gone and my fist is raised with all of them.
Black as Jesus / Video the birth of my son and call it Black the sequel. / I’m black as Bernie Mac jokes that mean I’m black and loud / Black and proud / Big drip get em, when I’m the blackest cloud / I’m Black as slave soul / Black as the bodies of panthers under them gravestones / Black as them n***as in trees / Black as Martin gettin’ beat in the streets / Black as murdered by the hands of police / that’s why I’m black in the streets / and I’ll be happy when I’m black and I’m free / until then, I’m gone be black as can be.” – Jooselord “Black AF” (2020)
From Carolina Waves
About 2 months ago during the height of civil unrest and protests in the wake of the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, I started thinking about what I could do with my specific skill set to lend a voice to this movement. There are many tools for activism in addition to protest, including music. Nina Simone once said, “It’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times.” I am not an artist, but I am a curator and connector, and my network is full of them, so I wanted to put together a group of talented individuals to timestamp this moment in history. Our generation needs to document these times on record, like previous generations did during their fights for civil rights and equality, against war and police brutality.
This was a way to allow artists to amplify their voices to not only build awareness to the racial disparities and injustices that we face daily, but to also give back to different charities and non-profits to amplify their resources to continue the fight. I hope the message received is that we as black people are tired of the systemic racism, oppression, suppression, police brutality and this is a notice to those in power to take accountability and to make amends before this country implodes.” – Mir.I.Am for CentralSauce (2020)
More From The Artists
You can follow Carolina Waves YouTube for more content and videos. For individual recent work, check out Tagem’s previous single “Shots Fired.” Jooselord has his full length projects in his S.K.U.L.L series Nights I Can’t Remember and Days I Won’t Forget. 2FLY KNG has the song “Bright Day” and Lena Jackson has “Another Dead Rapper.”
More to Discover
Subscribe to the CentralSauce mailing list so you never miss out on the freshest sauce. Check out this continuously updated playlist of songs Tyler has added to our Discovery section! Each track or artist has been featured in our “Why We Like It” section, so be sure to check out the page here on the site.