click to enlarge The cover for McKinley Dixon's upcoming album, "For My Mama And Anyone Who Look Like Her."

The cover for McKinley Dixon's upcoming album, "For My Mama And Anyone Who Look Like Her."

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Spacebomb Announces New Album By McKinley Dixon

Local hip-hop artist's "For My Mama And Anyone Who Look Like Her" out May 7.

Posted By on Tue, Feb 16, 2021 at 7:43 PM

Richmond's Spacebomb Records announced a new album today by local hip-hop artist McKinley Dixon titled "For My Mama and Anyone Who Look Like Her," due out May 7. You can pre-order the album here.

The Richmond-based artist has "always used his music as a tool for healing, exploring and unpacking the Black experience in order to create stories for others like him," according to Spacebomb press notes by Max Mohenu. Dixon's former two albums were self-released and included lyrics addressing police brutality and the collective trauma of Black people.

Below is a video directed by Jordan Rodericks for a debut track from the album titled "make a poet Black":

According to Spacebomb's release, Dixon said that “Black people have an ability to talk about the concept of home—meaning communities, blocks, hoods -- from a really thorough place because of those concepts’ connection to Blackness. That ability, and sort of already internalized and in place language, allows for the speaker (rapper) to exist in their current setting, while also being able to reminisce, dissect, and discuss their past.”

He goes on to discuss the idea of rap as time travel.

“If time is 'non-linear,' what is stopping me from going back to process the past? I am here now, having learned what I have, and because of that I am able to go back and figure out patterns and trajectories to see better how I’ve gotten to this point. And to see what I can do differently for the community and people around me in the future to make where we’re going, together, better. For me and other Black folks, when you hear rap music, you are then able to take those moments in the music and apply them to your own life and patterns. It’s a glimpse into the worlds of others that look like you, and it allows you to feel a sense of belonging—and in a way, a sense of home. Rap music has a very sturdy trajectory of ‘I want to be somewhere else, one day I’ll be somewhere else, and I’ll take my whole community with me.'”

The notes add that the new album is the third piece of a trilogy, "[finding] Dixon working through inner demons, complex relationships with religion, and trying to make sense of mortality for Black peoples." His best friend was killed in 2018.

“The album is me processing for myself now, and for my younger self,” explains Dixon. “It’s also a conversation to my homie who died, who didn’t have access to the same things as I did—didn’t have access to music, therapy, books.” “The language accessibility aspect of this project draws right back to communication and connecting,” Dixon explains. “I think about the messaging, and how this can be a way for another Black person, someone who looks like me, to listen to this and process the past. Everything I’ve learned about communication for this album culminates with this bigger question about time. Is time linear when you’re still healing and processing? Westerners look at time travel as something to conquer or control—it’s a colonizer mindset. That’s ignoring how time travel can be done through stories and non-verbal communication, and doesn’t acknowledge how close indigenous people are to the land and the connections groups have because they’ve existed somewhere for so long. Storytelling is time travel, it’s taking the listener to that place. Quick time travel. Magic. These raps I’m making are no different than stories told around the campfire. They elongate the culture.”

Here's the rest of the press release from Spacebomb:

The origins of "For My Mama And Anyone Who Look Like Her" go back almost three years, beginning with a song written in 2017 called “Chain Sooo Heavy.” Having worked with over 30 instrumentalists on his last record, Dixon formed a more solid band to bring this album to life. Never relying solely on beats, Dixon continues to tap into a hybrid of jazz and rap, pulling in an array of piercing strings, soulful horns, percussion, and angelic vocalists throughout the album—plus features by Micah James, Lord Jah-Monte Ogbon, Pink Siifu, and more. Jazz instrumentals add a level of uncertainty, with the sounds and shifts evoking a lot of emotion and vulnerability. It’s an energy he describes as “Pre-Kendrick Lamar To Pimp A Butterfly,” the era when rap adopted more live instrumentation.

When Dixon is trying to find the words to describe a moment, he draws inspiration directly from literature. “Called for Jesus/Now I’m gonna curse his daddy,” from “B.B.N.E.”, was inspired by renowned novelist Toni Morrison, an influence who shows up throughout the album. “I’ve got so many of her books. Reading her work gives me the language needed to access this version of musical time travel I’ve been talking about. I’ll open up a Toni Morrison book, read it, and try to find sentences where she’s trying to describe what I’m feeling and I’ll go from there.”

“Bless the Child” evokes the strongest sense of Dixon tracing patterns through time. Shifting through three beat switches, it’s a figurative shrine of past thoughts and feelings around his friend’s untimely passing. “The tone with the beat switch allows me to shift from being in the past with these memories, to the present right now where I’m very conflicted, and ends in the future with me, the artist, processing it all,” he explains. “The song is a literal translation of my homie’s passing and how I’m processing it. It’s a mixture of sentiments and asking myself what it means to ‘do it for them’ at this point.”

"For My Mama And Anyone Who Look Like Her" challenges Black people to revisit more than one timeline and question everything they’ve been taught about processing grief in order to rebuild their present and future selves. There’s no definitive end to the darkness and trauma of the past, but this album is a stepping stone in Dixon’s pursuit of moving forward, and being a voice for Black people still learning how to advocate for themselves.

“The best way to sum up this album is: I was sad, I was mad, and now I’m alive,” Dixon explains. “These things I talk about on the record have had harmful and brilliant effects on my timeline, and have forced me to be cognizant of the fact that living is complex. Rap has allowed me the language to communicate, and be someone who can communicate with people from all over. Knowing how far I’ve come, I think people will find trust in the message I’m sending.”

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