“Art will save us,” Dr. Tang told me as we drank coffee and played chess at a Berkeley Starbucks. She suddenly stopped, her hand still holding her rook a few centimeters above the board. She shook her salt and pepper hair, took a deep breath and smiled. “Let me rephrase. Art will not save is, Shawn. But it will make the bullshit easier to deal with. It will inspire us to do good work. It will gives us new eyes through which to see.” Checkmate. As Dr. Tang got up to leave, she told me one last thing. “As usual, the art that will get us through is music.”
I wanted to dispute this. I wanted to talk about the political dimensions of aerosol art, street theater, cyphers of emcees (like this still happens) — but in my experience, she was totally right. Almost all of my prosocial politics have come from music. Music has been there for me when so many others chose not to, or I didn’t allow them to. Music has been as much a part of my life and growth as geek culture.
We are living in some wild times. Hate has stopped holding its breath and is breathing easier than it has in years. The United States government has allowed white supremacists to have top positions, and have told us — with absolute zero ambiguity — that civil rights for all is not a concern of this current administration. Women are about a handful of legislation away from The Handmaids Tale. And if you’re queer, Muslim, or both… I hope you have passports and getthehellout money.
Back in the day, we had a good amount of art that tried to stem the negative tide. Not all of it was successful, but I truly appreciated the effort.
I’m not feeling it now.
I’ve yet to experience any art that has addressed this sour times (shout out to Portishead). There has been tons of clever, tongue-in-cheek art, snarky comedy, attempts at adbusting, but I haven’t had a feeling like, say, when Public Enemy dropped Fight the Power. I’ll admit that I’m old, jaded, and have turned into a near-hermit, so maybe I’m out of the loop on where and when art that speaks truth to power is being unleashed. This isn’t to say that it is not happening — I’m sure it is — but I haven’t felt terribly moved or inspires, until recently.
Music is a powerful force. Hell, militaries used it to spur warriors into battle. Sports teams use it to get their minds right. Boxers walk to the ring with aggressive theme music announcing their arrivals. And in in this political moment, I need this.
I need music that will shake me out of my sadness and spur me forward. Truth be told, the reason why I haven’t been contributing too much here is that I am almost paralyzed with despair. Every day is a struggle to find even the smallest bit of hope in this country. If I didn’t have a daughter who needed me, I’d be a recluse — never leaving the house, rocking a tinfoil hat, waiting to see if Armageddon would be American made or imported. Unexpectedly, I lucked up on a bit of Armageddon repellent.
Hyp of Triple Ave. and Subterraneanz has helped ease my anxiety from watching our society devolve.
99:1 Looking Forward, Back and Now is not so much a traditional album as it is a political experience. Hyp, the producer, played piano, harp, and percussion throughout, with Mike Shea on the contra bass, and violin duties handled by both Andrea Oey and Christine Banks. No one musical element was stronger than the other. They were in near-perfect equilibrium — playing their parts, not crashing into each other, but laying the foundation for some of the most inspiring words spoken.
Not only was the music great on the album, it enhanced the words of Arundhati Roy, Michelle Alexander, Tariq Ali, and others. I learned more, felt more, from the words include here than in undergrad.
I listened to the album on repeat and it lifted me. And this is how I judge music: How does it make me feel? Does it engage my heart, head, or both? Does it make me think of things other than what I’m listening to? 99:1 did that for me. It helped me to shed the anxiety; gave me hope, and is currently providing my soundtrack as I step into the ring.
I recommend this to everyone who needs that little extra push to see a better and brighter future.
Cop it here.
What: 99:1 Forward, Back and Now is (album)
Who: Hyp of Third Ave./Subterraneanz
Release Date: Now
1) World Wide Revolution (WWR)-Malcolm X
2) Internal Security Threats- Arundhati Roy
3) The New Jim Crow-Michelle Alexander
4) Human Nature Vs. Aggression-Howard Zinn
5) The Political System In The US-Noam Chomsky
6) Taking On The Empire- Naomi Klein
7) 99:1-Michael Moore
8) World Wide Revolution II (WWRII)- Tariq Ali
9) Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome (PTSS)- Dr. Joy DeGruy
10) BLM- Black Lives Matter