Adrian Younge
The American Negro


4.0
excellent

Review

by Brendan Schroer CONTRIBUTOR (159 Reviews)
April 16th, 2021 | 28 replies


Release Date: 02/25/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: "Do we know who we are and where we belong?"

One look at that cover and that title, and you understand exactly what this album is all about. It doesn’t sugarcoat anything, and it’s better for not doing so. Adrian Younge wants you to know just how much he and his brothers and sisters have suffered from systemic racism in the United States. The American Negro isn’t just an album condemning such bigotry - that much is clear - but also an account of the ripples it has caused among the black community. Present and past issues are addressed in painful detail, from the difference between “Black Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter” to the fact that 12 U.S. presidents owned slaves. And considering we all got a reminder of how bad things still are with the tragic death of George Floyd in 2020, The American Negro is incredibly topical today. Even after all the progress made towards African-American rights over the last few centuries, it’s depressing that we still see such persistent remnants of an unfortunate stain on American history.

The music that anchors such heavy topics is incredibly smooth and well-arranged with shades of soul, jazz, funk, hip-hop, and a slew of other genres. As intense as the lyrics are, they also serve to make The American Negro a race-affirming act of solidarity; as such, the music tends to be paradoxically uplifting at times. The beats are very old-school and reminiscent of Golden Age hip-hop from the late 80s, but not to the degree that they sound like an anachronism. “Revolutionize” is a perfect example, mixing soulful vocals with an organic lo-fi beat to create something that sounds oddly timeless. You’d imagine such a warm and comforting production style would clash with the grim subject matter, but it somehow provides the perfect compliment to it. Sitting atop the beats are lavish strings, some trumpet work, a few guitar flourishes, and what sounds like a classic Rhoades piano (or at least a keyboard that’s replicating its sound). Just listen to the jazzy keyboard chords that soar above the rolling basslines in “Dying on the Run”, or the way Younge’s rich soulful vocals perfectly match the psychedelic guitar lines found in “Light on the Horizon”; this is just the right kind of old-school.

Admittedly this sound does become a bit one-note after a while, but the songs are separated by spoken-word bits to break things up a little. Without the musical embellishments, these tracks are an even more direct communication of the album’s themes. They’re short, sweet, and a strong way to prepare the listener for each following track; they also manage to be some of the most impactful moments on the record. Opener “Revisionist History” immediately sets the tone, as Younge ponders on where African-Americans really are or belong in today’s society; this is all capped by one very poignant line:

“If my Blackness is a costume fabricated by stereotypes, what symbolizes my true identity?”

This is further elaborated on the following title track, in which he states:

”I am a black American
colored by America’s ineptitude;
I am an African American,
struggling with my allegiance to the motherland”


The tracks get at the root of The American Negro, which is to ask: “how can we expect to be safe and prosperous here in America if the country’s corrupt system is already naturally against us… and has been for so long?”

It’s worth noting that the “future” comes up a lot in this record as well, as if Younge is envisioning what kind of future his child and other people’s children will have if systemic racism persists like it still does today. In that sense, the album can serve as much in an educational sense as it does a musical experience. The poetry being spoken and sung here is so dense and labyrinthine at times, yet you always get the full picture of what Younge is addressing at any given moment. The American Negro is not a light listen, but it’s a powerful and informative one; it mixes soulful, optimistic melodies with a lot of lyrical pain and suffering. But at no point does Adrian Younge give up on the possibility of a future with more racial equality and less oppression. We all know what’s in our rearview mirror… what choices will you make when you start looking ahead?



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Comments:Add a Comment 
DivergentThinking
Contributing Reviewer
April 16th 2021


9435 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

One of the most challenging reviews I've ever written, but I think it went pretty well. This is a very powerful album... check it out when you get the chance



Here's the Bandcamp link: https://adrianyounge.bandcamp.com/album/the-american-negro

Slex
April 16th 2021


11172 Comments


Only know him from the Ghostface collars but those are incredible so I need to check this

Digging: Origami Angel - Gami Gang

FabiusPictor202
April 17th 2021


913 Comments


nice can you review Shmurda She Wrote now it's the appropriate follow up

DivergentThinking
Contributing Reviewer
April 17th 2021


9435 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@slex: yeah, I highly recommend this one. Haven’t listened to a ton of Adrian Younge’s music yet, but everything I have heard so far from him has been great

cordwainerbird
April 17th 2021


1056 Comments


the album title has caught my attention

Digging: Sparks - Kimono My House

DivergentThinking
Contributing Reviewer
April 17th 2021


9435 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It definitely doesn’t jerk you around, that’s for sure

dedex
Contributing Reviewer
April 17th 2021


7832 Comments


Effing good rev dude

DivergentThinking
Contributing Reviewer
April 17th 2021


9435 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks man, I appreciate it!

SIMBOLIC
April 19th 2021


5939 Comments


*sees album cover and "black live matter" in the review

aaannd im out lol

DivergentThinking
Contributing Reviewer
April 19th 2021


9435 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

lol yeah, I was already aware I was waltzing on a minefield with this review xD

nolerthebowler
April 19th 2021


8958 Comments


and im in!

nolerthebowler
April 19th 2021


8958 Comments


and my axe!

Ectier
April 19th 2021


309 Comments


This wont be my thing the genre isnt for me. But holy crap that album title combined with the art is powerful and a hell of a statement.

Digging: Mother (BE) - I

nolerthebowler
April 19th 2021


8958 Comments


as are people's reactions to it.

Ectier
April 19th 2021


309 Comments


Have to respect the artist for it, damn

Chambered79
April 19th 2021


786 Comments


i dig the artwork for this. the music not so much

Muhlysa
April 19th 2021


321 Comments


Please don't use the term "African American" . That's insanely offensive .

Chambered79
April 19th 2021


786 Comments


lol

Chambered79
April 19th 2021


786 Comments


oh boy. this will go well

Chambered79
April 19th 2021


786 Comments


i thought it was a good review



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