Published Apr 08, 2015All in all, Young Fathers' "Nest" is as catchy as any other pop song currently ascending the Top 40: its grooving rhythm is an undeniable force of nature; its hook is warmly singable, thanks to its rhyming of "sister" and "mister" amidst shouts of "Hey!" and a choir murmuring "Baby baby." But what's even more astounding is how snugly the tune fits on an album that is otherwise abrasively industrial, rife with fiercely spat hip-hop and occasionally reaching the far-flung corners of world music.
These are the vast hemispheres that Young Fathers traverse on White Men Are Black Men Too. And just because "Nest," the eighth of 12 tracks, is the most accessible point of entry, that doesn't make it a lull on the LP's rugged terrain. Consider it an oasis, or the eye of the hurricane, because the album otherwise gusts and bellows and downpours, electrifying all the while. Preceding track "Old Rock n Roll" has a taunting "nah nah nah" rhythm that slowly builds tension as MC Alloysious Massaquoi (who trades verses throughout the album with Kayus Bankole and Graham 'G' Hastings, who also produces) not only raps about his refusal to "blame the white man" but also assertively declares that a "black man can play" that Caucasian.
The album's contrasting pop and experimental aesthetics collide on "Dare Me," White Men's penultimate track. It opens with the kind of gentle crooning that fits on most power ballads, or at least on hazy, dark R&B, but its midway drop off into grinding lo-fi drones, rat-a-tat drum lines and harshly whispered raps about being "safely tucked in" by blankets "over your chin," is as terrifying and sadomasochistic as Trent Reznor's worst nightmare.
In less assured hands, these contradictions of genre, tone, and theme would capsize an album. Fortunately, Young Fathers have proven themselves to be more than capable of not only balancing all those elements, but also letting them budge just enough to make every song utterly unpredictable. Case in point: midway track "Rain or Shine," on which the rapid organ riff that makes the track so upbeat escalates quickly enough to make it foreboding. That twitchiness is furthered by Hastings' plaintive singing about "no demons" and "no Jesus" in his life, as if he were begging for that wish to come true. Massaquoi's subsequent monotone raps sound uncaring and unforgiving in comparison.
None of it should coalesce, but it does. White Men Are Black Men Too is a perfect storm of influences and talent that make for an unforgettable album. (Big Dada)