"“Don’t run away… don’t hesitate for a second”.
Let’s get that title out of the way first: "White Men Are Black Men Too". Please read the accompanying words, straight from Alloysious’ mouth.
And then the sticker on the vinyl and CD: ‘file under Rock and Pop’. You probably want to know what that’s doing there, right? Well… (breathes) when everything is post post post post something older and better where do the exceptions go? (Exhale). When the sci-fi 20’s ‘Urban’ might as well be the atomic 50’s ‘Race’, when R&B has no blues and hiphop is a boom bip with a shorty, a hoe, it’s off to the street corner we go… where does a group like Young Fathers, who ‘picknmix from the popular music sweety shop and fly no flags and swear allegiance to no country’ (© - 100 interviews with the group in 2014) - where do they go?
They have to go to the place where Beck makes a sandwich with The Beach Boys and Captain Beefheart, where Faust and The Fall tango. In Rock and Pop you are allowed to pretty much be yourself. If you are a blue and green eyed boy from Brixton with the sallowest of white skin you can become the epitome of crystalised soul, itself. It swings both ways.
So… Young Fathers are breaking out of the ghetto.
Fuck these constrictive selling boxes.
For the purposes of this mission, this album, this "White Men Are Black Men Too", is rock and pop. And hiphop, too. (Woops, slipped out). No, you don’t box in the R&B Hits 2003 generation that easily. This sticker is only for the business. The listeners can decide for themselves.
Microphone technique: orders from the sound engineer: “do NOT cup the mic!”.
The sounds are closer on this album, closer to your ears. It sounds as if you are in the room during the recording, possibly experiencing a little existential trauma, but not enough that you don’t notice an earworm hook when you hear one. These hooks, they stay with you. ‘Is that what they mean by pop’? you ask yourself. Could be, Madonna, could be. There are less words than before. Why, for fuck’s sake? Where is the hiphop? It slides in, like a reverse version, a negative, of the hiphop blueprint of eight verses and a sweet, female wail of a hook (while comedy rapper number 6 mutters ‘uh huh, uh huh’, you know, keeping it real). But YFs lob raps into songs that morph into sung verses then back into the tune, with no respect, none! for the law.
There’s nothing to lose. Don’t be afraid.
2014 was an interesting year for the group. Yep, awards etc and they played around 130 shows, from Paris to Sydney, via both Portlands and Paisley, too. The album found itself being recorded in a hotel room in Illinois, a rehearsal room in Melbourne, a freezing cellar in Berlin, a photographic studio in London and their normal hole in the ground basement in Edinburgh. It was easy - it’s always easy. You can hear the smiling.
‘Passionate pranksters, always entertaining’.
These are grown men, battle fit and in their prime. There are no celebrations of dole queue theatre, no fake politics - there’s no need. YFs are right there in the middle of the question: what is your I.D.? Why claim to speak for a dispossessed white or black class or group or generation? When you can only ever speak for yourself.
Someone buys a record - they’re not voting for you. A record isn’t a vote. A free download isn’t a spoilt ballot paper. Keep it real. When they chant ‘nigger nigger nigger’ the group are singing their enemy’s song (and you can all sing along) - it’s not a war cry, it’s the off switch, the left hand turn in the ignition, the pop-hiss of deflation. No more war, motherfucker. The tension is sexual, tuneful, it’s only fun about to kick off.
Synesthesiastically, it’s a hue of a reddy blue with a touch of yellow, like most things. Which is, of course, the colour of the future.
The album title explained (sort of).
This is an extract from an email exchange between members of the group and management. In this extract Alloysious passionately explains his reasoning against worries that the title of the album could be seen as offensive to black people and/or could be seen as negative or pretentious.
19 Jan 2015 “I still prefer the first title by far and stand by it.
I'm aware of the points we've discussed but all that sounds like to me is, we are trying to cater to what other people might think, as if it's a negative thing, which it's not. We came at it from a different angle, a positive angle. it's got issues of race and so what? Why should alarm bells start ringing, even though in general conversations race, politics, sex and religion are always the subject matter? Why should it be discussed behind closed doors and never confronted head on?
How do we help tackle one of the biggest hinderances in people's lives and the world… by not putting the question forward and not letting people debate positively or negatively about the statement?
Motown music helped change the world, made it expectable for blacks to be on radio and seen on tv, MJ did it too. Martin Luther King wanted equality and achieved it to some degree. But, after all that, are things equal in this world? FUCK NO. I still want to ask for it (equality) backed with the best music we've ever recorded. A pop album, our interpretation of what a pop album should be.
Weight with words, which is the title plus the pop sensibility of the songs (respectively).
I wanna stand for something which I helped make. Folk will complain about absolutely anything… Even it's it from the purest of intentions you just can't win. We don't make music to please other people or write certain lyrics to do so, either. Why start now?
When the title was first put forward everybody was excited and 100% there was no fear. That same commitment needs be carried on to make it work despite worries after it's been digested.”
- Ninja Tune