Openly presenting a cultural and personal deep-dive into historical context and the individual experience, Terry Blade‘s debut album takes intention and artistry to profound and complex new depths.
Far from simply a musical ode to black history, American Descendant Of Slavery, The Album brings together cinematic intricacies, fascinating and often distressing spoken-word fragments from as early as the 1940’s, elements of hip hop, jazz, soul, funk, and a plethora of scene-setting tools – all of which is eye-opening and often unsettling in nature.
This is the point of the album – its complexity, the discomfort and realness at its forefront. Blade delivers these elements by means of a seemingly theatrical yet deeply moving collection of performances, which dictate the story and the weight of contemporary life for American descendants of slavery in a captivating and brilliantly creative way.
Featuring a handful of interludes, from the Opening onwards, the project breaks up musical offerings with extracts of conversations that quickly compel you to turn up the volume and tune in more closely. The effect of this is brilliant, it keeps the poignancy of the project at the front of your mind, so the soulful and entrancing music connects all the more intensely.
From a musical perspective, INward starts the playlist with a hip hop fusion of heavy impact and shock factor. Then we get the bluesy swagger and ache of Black Hurts – an unforgettable, seductive yet heart-breaking song, beautifully crafted and pristinely captured in this intimate, live-sounding setting.
MTF is a bold example of the immensely unpleasant and raw nature of much of the album’s writing. The joyful optimism of the music and melody create a striking contrast with the unthinkable pain and distain of the lyrics – a clever and compelling trait that connects many of the songs on this release.
Acoustic purity allows a breathtakingly delicate and melancholic Mr. Robertson to intrigue and connect. Then we have references to masculinity, sexuality, and other cultural aspects of identities that further impact the individual trajectory in our world. Interlude: All They Have Is Masculinity delves into this in an interview-like format, clean-cut and impossible to ignore.
While the entire album is heavy and difficult to take on, certain moments really speak out in a manner that proves rightfully haunting. Certain lyrics, certain melodic inflections, and certain recordings, dig at the soul as they emerge – Interlude: The Highest Bidder is undoubtedly one of those moments.
They Must Be Kin is a musical stand-out for its artistry and sense of space – it invites a closer listen once again, and approaches things from a provocative, poetic and emotive angle. Then the rap and downpour of synths for Reparations really recaptures attention for its juxtaposition.
The softness of the sentimental ballad that is Same Gender Loving stands out for Blade’s soulful and passionate delivery towards the end of the album. Then again the artistic redirection of The Silent Treatment recaptures a different kind of awareness on a contemporary, topically relevant level.
Closing: Who Cares For Me? is powerful, a spoken-word performance that begs for you to witness it in real-time as and when the opportunity arises. Then we get a completely unexpected and refreshingly poignant take on the infamous Linkin Park single Crawling, as a bonus track. The lyrics suddenly take on a whole new realm after the journey of the album, and Blade’s delivery is so intimate and vulnerable that it feels like a perfectly connected addition to this audio experience.
Far from an easy listen, but an important one, and a topic faultlessly explored by Blade. Sensational music – so impressive that on occasion you may almost (almost) forget the hardship and trauma of the writing.
An intentional and well-structured project, which operates all at once as a documentary, playlist, and open letter to those who don’t fully know or understand the tribulations and terrors of life for slaves and their descendants.