Young Fathers – White Men Are Black Men Too

Young Fathers is a Scottish group of Liberian, Scottish, and Nigerian descent. Their fathers were brothers, and the bandmates are brothers. ‘G’ Hastings provides the beats. He culls his breaks and samples from curious places, perhaps in response to the over-saturation of pitched vocals and screwed soul in every form of popular music. Some sound like they came from a pelog charity-shop cassette, others from an overexcited primary-school band. Alloysious Massaquoi and Kayus Bankole provide the vocals. The two have a diverse range, and bravely adapt their voices to suit moments of adolescent rage and optimistic wisdom. Together, they believe in their music. They rattle to their own beat, the origin of which is hard to place. They believe in their own power to deliver a non-violent message, and to discuss socio-political issues in a non-accusatory light. Calling their second album White Men Are Black Men Too isn’t quite the path of least resistance, but Young Fathers are adamant in refusing to provide a conventional response to the race in music debate.

The group makes racial identity a central talking point on their second album. This a smart move, after two mixtapes and a startling début album (the Mercury Prize’s underdog winner, with 14:1 William Hill odds). Young Fathers are now very much “out in the open” as they proclaim on ‘Old Rock n Roll’. This track also serves as an explanation of the album’s confusing title, which is meant to purposely obfuscate the role that race and racial identity plays in society. A combination African-influenced r&b, lo-fi sampling, and an attitude that everything and everyone can be included, which rightly chides with the conservative methods of radio pop. Listen to ‘John Doe,’ and the album is crystalized. Featuring a local Edinburgh choir, ‘Shame’ has the energy of a 30-man band crammed into a VW bus, with bells and whistles streaming behind. Most importantly, the album is unafraid to reflect on themes of violence and religion, and to divide opinion.

 

Photograph: hitfix.com

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