After a long week, I like to cop some new music on Friday and go for a long drive. No actual destination; I just drive until the music runs out. This drive was especially good, because I had August Greene‘s new self titled album on. August Green are what you can call a ‘supergroup’, made up of three very distinguished members in the hip hop and jazz community. The group consists of drummer/producer Karriem Riggins, keyboardist/producer Robert Glasper, and legendary MC Common. They have collaborated with each other a lot throughout the years; in fact, Riggins was the main producer on Common’s last album Black America Again. Glasper heavily graced that album with his skills as well. If you follow Common‘s discography all the way to the beginning, you’ll see Riggins on there going back 20 years. August Greene is a wonderful blend of hip hop, r’n’b, and jazz, so hop in, buckle up, vibe out, and enjoy the ride!
‘FOR CENTURIES, THEY’LL REMEMBER ME FOR MY SIMILES‘
The drive starts with “Meditation”, which begins with a spoken word into. Very quickly into this song, you get the feeling that this is going to be a special album. Although Riggins and Glasper are incredible musicians, they simplify their parts to make the listener really focus on Common. His flow and lyrics on this record sound completely reinvigorated. “Black Kennedy” is one of the singles off this record, and for a good reason. It has a very memorable chorus and a beautiful piano outro from Glasper. Glasper was one of the many contributing artists on Kendrick Lamar‘s To Pimp A Butterfly, which this album resembles with its jazz and hip hop fusion.
There aren’t many features on this record. One of them is Samora Pinderhughes, who lends his smooth vocals on the hooks of many songs, including “Black Kennedy”, “Let Go”, “Practice”, and “Fly Away”. One particular high point in “Let Go” is when Common rhymes ‘faster than me’ with ‘haphazardly’. “Fly Away” is my favorite song on this record. Djembe and flute are the main instruments that power the music, along with strings and acoustic guitar. Common spits some of his most vulnerable rhymes here as well, like ‘I was in love with an actress, a singer, and a tennis player‘, referring to his famous relationships with Kerry Washington and Taraji P. Henson (actresses), Erykah Badu (singer), and Serena Williams (tennis player). He ends the song by saying ‘checking in and out of Heartbreak Hotel, man/bag lady, I’m the bellman‘, referencing one of Badu’s songs “Bag Lady”. “Fly Away”, as well as the next two songs “Aya” and “Piano Interlude”, all have an interlude feel to them. Riggins’ drumming on “Aya” might be his flashiest on the record, kicking a break beat and ending with a snare drum solo.
At this point, we’re on the highway full speed ahead. “No Apologies” bursts out after the past three songs, and since the majority of the record provided a laid back feel, it’s the fastest song in regards to the tempo and also Common‘s flows. He raps in double time, quite possibly the fastest I’ve heard him since he went by Common Sense in his beginning days. Glasper also has a nice electric piano solo in this track. The next two songs feature wonderful r’n’b vocals from Brandy. Yes, that Brandy. I don’t know where she’s been, but she too sounds reinvigorated. “Optimistic”, a Sounds of Blackness cover, is another single off of the record. The two songs with Brandy (“The Time” and “Optimistic”) might be the strongest ones on the record. Common raps double time again in the latter, while Brandy repeats ‘you can win/as long as you keep your head to the sky/be optimistic‘. The musical cruise ends with “Swisha Suite”, which is a straight-up jam song at just under 13 minutes. The song switches up a few times as Riggins keeps a break beat going throughout. It almost has a ‘secret song’ feel to it at certain points. Riggins really has fun on the drums on this song with many hip hop and jazz beats. Common doesn’t even come in until the ten-minute mark. The album then fades out during a jazzy drum solo.
Other than being a very beautiful and cohesive album, it is a very important project. Riding on the momentum from the Black Panther film, this is a very unapologetically black album, positive and powerful, incredible and inspiring. August Greene is more than great music, it is extremely compelling and will be remembered for a very long time. Common‘s bars are some of his best yet, and the chemistry between him, Riggins, and Glasper is very apparent. You can tell that the three are very comfortable with each other after collaborating for all these years. Grab yourself some August Greene and ride out!
Notable Tracks: “Fly Away”; “No Apologies”; “Optimistic”
FFO: Common, Kendrick Lamar, Robert Glasper