Fresh from the post-Juneteenth BBQ after-party, your favorite neighborhood audio adventurer is back with something special for you all. I have been enjoying a few successes in my life—ESSENCE’s The Playlist being one of them—and I want to salute everyone who has been reading this page and playing the music with a new idea I have.
Dinner Party, a new supergroup featuring Terrace Martin, Robert Glasper, Kamasi Washington and 9th Wonder, has been in my rotation before their single “Freeze Tag” hit DSPs all over the World Wide Web. To add some extra flavor to this week’s edition, the fellas and I are co-curating The Playlist under the theme of “art and good music as soul food.”
“Soul food is eternal,” producer 9th Wonder says. “It never gets stale. Ever.” The camaraderie shared by this winner’s circle of musicians is captured by Amani Washington—a painter, artist, and Kamasi’s sister—with the group’s album cover depicting them as a representation of a family united under one groove. “Amani was the perfect person for the job because she has a unique ability to convert sounds and music into colors and images,” big bro Kamasi confesses.
“We’ve all been dear friends for a long time, and I look at us like the soul army,” West Coast Get Down member Terrace Martin says. “We all came together for the common goal to spread love and soul to the earth.”
In the spirit of a rich and enjoyable dinner party, The Playlist will feature five song choices by the group and five chosen by me as an offering of great music to you, the listener. Consider this your 10-course meal of delicious grooves, salivating-inducing riddims, and artists who embody an authenticity that feels like home cooking. “We have the best of the vegan selection and the best of the meat selection. We have something for everybody,” Martin adds.
As the name lends, Dinner Party is invite-only for those who not only live in the now, but also cook up recipes that will be shared for years to come. “When music is attached to real emotion,” Grammy Award-winning pianist Robert Glasper says, “it is always fresh and never goes away.”
With that said, pull up a chair, grab your favorite drink, and enjoy this mix of classic and new music from Goodie Mob, Mulatu Astatke, Donny Hathaway, and more below.
1. Dinner Party — “Freeze Tag” (ft. Phoelix)
First up is “Freeze Tag,” the lead single from the Dinner Party supergroup album, and a song that speaks on the issues going on in the streets right now. Kamasi Washington shared a bit more insight as to how the song came together, saying, “‘Freeze Tag’ started with a track [that] 9th Wonder sent to us. We were working on it, adding some musical elements to it, and Phoelix was singing some ideas into his phone. I had no idea he was going to breathe a whole new life into the song. It was like magic!”
2. Tobi Lou — “Neither Here Nor There”
Chicago’s own Tobi Lou consistently gives off those dope summer vibes no matter the weather. On “Neither Here Nor There,” his penchant for K-pop-meets-hip-hop grooves are on full display on this feel good song that makes me want to find the nearest rooftop, plant my umbrella in the corner, and drink Brownstone Punch all the live-long day.
3. Terrace Martin — “Shea Butter & Blueberries” (ft. Robert Glasper & Alex Isley)
Sounds of Crenshaw founder Terrace Martin picked “Shea Butter & Blueberries,” a two-step-inducing number from his Conscious Conversations project that came out in April. “Health is very important to me and self-care is very important to me,” Martin shares via email. “Both the blueberry and shea butter contains so many powerful minerals, but yet can be so smooth that working on this song felt like one that would make someone feel good.” Be sure to play this one on repeat while passing those buttery rolls around the family table!
4. Mulatu Astatke + Black Jesus Experience — “Ambassa Lemdi”
Legendary Ethiopian jazz composer and bandleader Mulatu Astatke has spent a lifetime fusing different flavors into rich textures using alchemy. His latest work, To Know Without Knowing, confirms how brightly his jazz vision burns on as he connects with Melbourne’s Black Jesus Experience on “Ambassa Lemdi.” A traditional Ethiopian song, vocalist Enushu Taye channels her grandmother’s words and delivers a tone-bending tune in Amharic.
5. Kendrick Lamar — “These Walls” (ft. Anna Wise & Bilal)
The brothers of Dinner Party have known each other since their teenage years. “I’ve known Terrace [Martin] since we were 15 years old at jazz camp,” Glasper says, sharing a fond memory while picking Kendrick Lamar’s “These Walls” as his Playlist choice. “One time, he made me some amazing Buffalo chicken with pasta. It was just me and him and it was some of the best I ever had!” Coming together as Dinner Party is “only right,” according to Glasper, and if these walls could talk, they would surely agree.
6. Blimes and Gab — “Shellys (It’s Chill)”
Blimes and Gab are one of my favorite hip-hop duos out right now. The hype about their style, substance, and charisma will continue to grow as “Shellys (It’s Chill)” is a perfect example of those attributes in action. The Lou Koa and The Roswell Universe-produced ear worm is an escapable jam that adds extra spotlight to their forthcoming debut album Talk About It, which features the likes of Bahamadia, Method Man and Iamsu.
7. Goodie Mob — “Soul Food”
“Timing is everything,” producer 9th Wonder says about working with Dinner Party as a group. “Terrace and I have always worked together on several different occasions, so it was only right that we expanded and connected.” His choice, “Soul Food” by ATL’s Goodie Mob, emphasizes the art/music as something that when prepared well can stick to your ribs. “Soul food is eternal. It is a part of our DNA and in our blood,” he says. “That’s just as universal and eternal as math.”
8. Toni Braxton — “Do It” (ft. Missy Elliott)
Toni Braxton and Missy Elliott give pure icon vibes with this hip-twisting remix to “Do It,” which originally dropped back in April. Already a top five hit on the charts, the remix ramps up the anticipation meter for a follow-up to the multi-Grammy nominated album Sex & Cigarettes, and proves this is a quintessential throwback jam for summer 2020. Just make sure you’re six feet apart while hitting that Electric Slide, y’all!
9. Donny Hathaway — “I Believe in Music”
“I chose this song from Donny Hathaway’s self-titled album because it feeds the hope in my heart that the path I’ve chosen in life is one that can make a difference in this world,” Kamasi Washington says about his classic song choice, “I Believe in Music.” A powerful number which was originally written and recorded by country music singer-songwriter Mac Davis highlights that good food, fellowship, and frequencies are just what should be played after someone gets ran off the Spades table.
10. Rapsody — “Afeni” (ft. PJ Morton & D Smoke) [Remix]
To close out this first co-curated Playlist for ESSENCE, my last pick is a new remix of Rapsody’s “Afeni,” which was on 2019’s Eve album. For it, she brings Inglewood’s own D Smoke to the PJ Morton-guested party and he waste no time in getting a plate and delivering a conversation starting verse. The Jamla Records artist definitely needs to serve a second helping to the people in the form of a music video with this one!
Catch new bi-weekly editions of ESSENCE’s The Playlist on Fridays and follow @KevitoClark on Instagram and Twitter.