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B L A C K I E, Kanye, and the Melrose Plantation

Monday, 22 February 2016 1289 Views 0 Comments
left, B L A C K I E promo image (2008); right, Kanye promo image for 'Yeezus' (2013)

left, B L A C K I E promo image (2008); right, Kanye promo image for ‘Yeezus’ (2013)

In person, there are two images of B L A C K I E I’ve witnessed and both are just as true: one is the quiet, contemplative Michael LaCour, foot kicked up against a brick wall, smiling from behind his glasses and afro; the second is B L A C K I E in concert, defying any of society’s boundaries he chooses. At times, he seems one or two primordial howls away from defying gravity. If you’ve ever been to a B L A C K I E show, you know. You just know that you’ll never see anything quite like a B L A C K I E show ever again in your life. His sound can be found at the intersection of hardcore punk, noise, rap, and freedom. Imagine if you strapped dynamite to all the notions of conformity in mainstream music (and society) and then hit the detonator; that explosion and its aftermath is what B L A C K I E’s music is like.

Texas is home for him, but his family is of Creole origin. His bloodline can be traced back to Louisiana. In an interview with the Village Voice, he mentioned his Louisiana roots, saying that his African family inherited a large amount of land (and therefore wealth) from a deceased French plantation owner who had fallen in love with one of the slaves.

In fact, the Frenchman was named Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer, the slave was young Marie Therese Coincoin, and the events transpired on Melrose Plantation when Marie was 25 in 1767. Marie’s story is incredibly unique because she used the wealth that came from her 70 acres of land (which eventually became 12,000 acres) to buy back all of her children who had been sold away. The family also built their own Catholic church, where white people sat in the back. The family would eventually become the wealthiest family of free blacks in the U.S. Marie even has her own city holiday in Natchitoches, LA: February 8th. B L A C K I E is a direct descendant of the African woman who was the Frenchman’s love interest.

Sure enough, further digging turns up a man named Charles LaCour, who settled in Louisiana somewhere between 1718 and 1724, a coat of arms, and a LaCour, Louisiana, about 55 miles north of Baton Rouge, but much closer to the Mississippi border/river. LaCour is one of 43 unincorporated (and four incorporated) towns that make up Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana (population 22,802 as of the 2010 census). Blues legend Buddy Guy was born and raised just up the road, less than 10 miles away, in neighboring Lettsworth, Louisiana.

Several relics bearing the LaCour Plantation Company name are on display in the Pointe Coupee Parish museum.

Melrose Plantation

Melrose Plantation. (source: Wikipedia)

Louisiana also has a deep history of Voodoo practice and supernatural occurrences, something B L A C K I E is keenly aware of.

“I don’t really mess with that shit!” he said, “I’ve heard some things. My dad died mysteriously. I’ve seen my mom do stuff. I’ve seen some ghosts…”

Louisana is one of the most haunted states in the country, and voodoo is intertwined with local ghost folklore. B L A C K I E admits to having supernatural experiences that seem to follow him.

“From what I understand some people can see ghosts and some people can’t. I’ve seen them quite a few times, usually in old houses,” the young LaCour continues, “Even when I was a little boy, people would snap a photo of me and there would be orbs of light and weird image distortions in the photos. I know people go out looking for that kind of paranormal stuff but it basically follows me around. I don’t know what to think about it.” In concert, B L A C K I E channels those otherworldly spirits.

On his latest offering, IMAGINE YOURSELF IN A FREE AND NATURAL WORLD, B L A C K I E puts his own sound under a magnifying glass and experiments with some 80s-style synth bass. The album is three tracks long but clocks in at just under 40 minutes, like a Fela Kuti record.

Lyrically, B L A C K I E continues his anti-establishment narratives with lines like, “Now it’s time to cry, pig,” and “A vulture rises / it turns itself into a fist / a vulture rises / it told me its name was injustice;” he also turns introspective with “Wings blocking out the sun / I can’t see anyone below me / is this freedom? / it sure feels dumb.”

Prepping for his upcoming tour, B L A C K I E hopped on the phone to talk about about the many sources of inspiration he draws from.

Sama’an: Where are you right now? What does it smell like?

B L A C K I E: I’m on the beach! It smells like salt.

S: Your genealogy in the U.S. descends from Louisiana. How much do you know and believe in the tradition of Louisiana Voodoo?

B: I don’t really mess with that shit! I’ve heard some things. My dad died mysteriously. I’ve seen my mom do stuff. I’ve seen some ghosts… From what I understand some people can see hosts and some people can’t. I’ve seen them quite a few times, usually in old houses. Even when I was a little boy, people would snap a photo of me and there would be orbs of light and weird image distortions in the photos. I know people go out looking for that kind of paranormal stuff but it basically follows me around. I don’t know what to think about it.

S: Your lyrics are some times aimed at the Establishment (patriarchy, racism, corrupt officials, et al). When was the first time you can recall experiencing racism, or being treated differently because of how you look?

B: Back in elementary school. I was the only black kid in the class. I kept raising my hand because I knew all the answers to all the questions the teacher was asking but she never fucking called on me, ever. Take that for whatever it means.

S: I don’t want this to be a thing we continue to harp on, but I think it’s important for our audience to know about it: in an interview with New York’s Village Voice you said you had solid reason to believe Kanye West was listening to you in the studio during the Yeezus sessions. Then there was also the peculiar similarities between the Yeezus promo images and a black & white image of you. And he’s apparently not the only “big-time” rapper who has you on their radar– Bun B has mentioned you several times. Can you expound on the Kanye stuff?

B: I was hearing from people “that knew people” that Kanye had some of my albums in the studio. That Yeezus album had special production tricks that I know I used to implement. (the article called them “smash cuts”)

One thing the various music also shares is the “smash cuts” or glitch-like samples of songs that may seem out of place or dated in comparison to the way the rest of the song is presented (in West’s case this would be “Gyöngyhajú lány” by Omega being sampled in “New Slaves” while LaCour uses “Wild World” by Cat Stevens in “B L A C K I E… Is Still Alive.”) (source)

I guess I derived the “smash cut” thing from a band called Charles Bronson & of course Public Enemy/The Bomb Squad. Hip-Hop in general is all about sampling. Flipping the sample. Flipping it in the most bombastic manner.

S: In the past, your songs tended to be shorter and packed a lot of punch. On Imagine Your Self… the songs are longer, but they still hit hard. It sounds like you really, consciously tried to build and develop each of your ideas.

B: I approached the entire recording process with a fluid mentality. I thought since a piece of wax can physically only have 2 sides, I wanted to go the distance and fill up each side of the record with a story. But it definitely has some stories going on. Several stories going on within the album actually. I wanted it to be played in totality, no skipping, no pausing. Put the needle on the record and get high. Let it play & have sex. Be free. Imagine yourself free.

“a vulture rises / it turns itself into a fist / a vulture rises / it told me its name was injustice”

“wings blocking out the sun / I can’t see anyone below me / is this freedom? / it sure feels dumb”

“Now it’s time to cry, pig.”

S: “Cry, Pig!” is a very vivid track, what do you envision when you hear this song?

B: There is an empire on a continent that’s become corrupt. Their main warrior is being exiled from the continent because truly ONLY this warrior can challenge the tyrant emperor. The exilement is portrayed as an expedition to explore for a new continent so the general populace will remain passive. While being exiled the warrior is abducted by a megalithic bird. The bird takes the warrior to a new land. While on this new continent the warrior hunts, is consumed by, and ultimately becomes the embodiment of a pre-historic feathered snake that guards the continent. The warrior returns back to the home land and kills the tyrant. “Now its time to cry, pig!”

But I also aside from everything i just said: I can view the entire project as a tragic love story.

You get distracted by a new woman. “wings blocking out the sun”. She makes you cheat on your old girl “Like snake”. You get sad about it because you fucked up and you’re alone now. “Now its time to cry pig”

I used the bird, the snake, and the pig to reference the three poisons that cause suffering in buddhism and the final lines “i resurrect ” “my skeleton steps” represent reincarnation.

Cry, Pig! was like man… my dad used to play WAR alot. I cant even sing but damn I was really singing on that one man! RIP to my pops…

S: “Wings Blocking Out The Sun” seems to incorporate a variety of influences, my ears hear 80s synth bass and Middle Eastern melodies. Am I far off?

B: Exactly man! I was really going for a tonal shift. I wanted to channel old-school hip-hop, jazz, and funk into an apocalyptic framework. So yeah I was influenced by the bass on Too Short songs & WAR songs & other jazz & funk songs (Stanley Clarke/Jaco Pastorius). The whole damn album was influenced by WAR, to be real. The band and the act.

S: Want to share a final message to close things out?

B: THE WORLD IS FALLING APART BECAUSE ITS A FUCKING ILLUSION. AND I HOPE IT FALLS AWAY COMPLETELY SO WE ALL CAN FINALLY SEE THE TRUTH IN OUR HUMANITY.

(originally published on revolt.tv)

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Sama'an Ashrawi

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