“What if it were no niggas / Only master teachers? I stay woke (dreams dreams),” Erykah Badu sang a decade ago in “Master Teacher”. The song was written by soul and R&B singer Georgia Anne Muldrow, who thus (re)introduced the word “woke” to the world. A couple of years later, the hashtag #staywoke would become one of the sparks that kept the struggle against social and racial injustice ablaze in the Black Lives Matter movement.
“People keep asking me about ‘woke’,” the singer with an Angela Davis afro says with a laugh. “What does it mean to me? Check out your mind, work out your own insecurities, bring yourself up to care for the next minute. But ‘woke’ can mean many things. It’s not the word that I’m interested in, but the activity.”
Muldrow does not think of herself as the person who put “woke” back on the agenda. “I am not the first person to have witnessed injustice, and I haven’t been the last person. Which is a shame. But I’m not going to be Little Richard about woke, it’s not like I invented rock ‘n’ roll.”
In the same vein, Muldrow does not want to describe her new record Overload, on which lines like “B’fore I’d be a slave I’d be buried in my grave” are intoned like a mantra, as political.
“I would say it’s a cultural record. The solutions to what we’re going through politically are going to be answered culturally.” The album, she says, is primarily about herself. “It’s about me maturing, evolving as a person. Another big part of it is exploring accessibility as an experiment, embracing the Afro electric sound I was raised with.”
The American artist has been cooking up new sounds in soul and R&B for a decade and a half now. She releases albums constantly, the one more psychedelic than the next. Sometimes she collaborates with her partner, the rapper Dudley Perkins, but then she’ll appear on records by alt R&B singer Blood Orange or jazz innovator Robert Glasper.
In 2012, she climbed up out of the underground with Seeds, an album that she made with hip-hop producer Madlib.
Overload is Muldrow’s first album on Flying Lotus’s experimental Brainfeeder label. Oddly enough, it’s her most accessible album, though she remains the R&B version of the high priestess of cosmic jazz Alice Coltrane.
“Oh man!” Muldrow roars with laughter. “I always think it’s crazy when people mention her name and mine in the same sentence. I just enjoy playing with sounds. There are still some radical moments on the record, but it’s not as crazy as it was in the past. You know, my daughter will be sixteen soon, and I want her to think my music is cool too. Everybody wants to be the cool parent, don’t they?”
> Georgia Anne Muldrow
2/11, 19.30, Vk* (Show postponed to 12th April 2019)