Young Fathers – White Men Are Black Men Too
Scotland’s Young Fathers have defied classification since day one. Their sound remains staunchly between all things, preferring to take day trips through soul, R&B, funk, hip hop, and TV On The Radio-inspired indie rock. None of these are particularly accurate, since at any one given time Young Fathers have taken a fuzzed-out view of these discrete genres and stamped them with their own particular ideals.
White Men Are Black Men Too rolls through all of these points and more in just under forty minutes. When things start to get a bit too conventional, the group will throw in some sort of oddball gesture – a key change, a time-shift, some squalling noise over top of what otherwise might be a lost classic from Return To Cookie Mountain. It gives the album a sense of familiarity, but that familiarity is then ripped away on a constant basis and replaced with something almost familiar, but also distressing, moving, and utterly modern.
Of course, at first glance no one cares about the music, because they’re all wondering what the hell the title of the album is going on about. The line comes from what is arguably the best track on the album, “Old Rock ‘n’ Roll”, which in itself is partial reframe of an argument between the group’s management and frontman Alloysious Massaquoi. Massaquoi, who came to Edinburgh via Liberia, takes the position that he’s “tired of playing the good black…tired of having to hold back”, and that he’s “tired of blaming the white man / his indiscretion don’t betray him / a black man can play him / some white men are black men too.” He wonders in the full argument with his management why questions of race always have to be discussed “behind closed doors and never confronted head on”. In a way it melds well with the state of affairs in 2015, given Kendrick Lamar’s release of To Pimp A Butterfly, which touches on many of the same issues. The group holds no fear, but forges ahead into the future of both music and politics with their eyes wide open.