Wax Poetics Issue 52 celebrates the individual. Cover 1: Sade b/w Flying Lotus. Cover 2: Lenny Kravitz b/w Dam-Funk. Features on Betty Wright, Roller Boogie, Gary Bartz, Cody Chesnutt, and Quantic & Alice Russell. Also in this issue: Georgia Anne Muldrow, Thundercat, Jamire Williams and ERIMAJ, Myron & E, and MeLo-X.
Prelude: There is a whole lineage of Black musicians that hasn’t fit the stereotypical mold: Jimi Hendrix, George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Shuggie Otis, Prince, H.R. It’s within this space that Lenny Kravitz fits. While Sade found she could sit comfortably within the system and make things work extremely well. Gary Bartz didn’t want to be in a box. So if he wanted play funky music, let the outsiders call him a sell-out. Just a teenager, Betty Wright navigated the male-dominated industry, and has continued to stay in it, guiding others. When Cody Chesnutt was dropped by his label, he recorded an album in his bedroom. The majors are no longer the powerhouses they once were. Small, independent labels are giving artists incredible freedom to stretch out. The same label that allowed Madlib to grow artistically is now doing the same for Dâm-Funk, and it’s thrilling to see where he’ll go next. Flying Lotus started his own label to do the same for other artists, like Thundercat. Georgia Anne Muldrow, Jamire Williams, and MeLo-X self-release their material, not having to answer to anyone but themselves. And look at the type of freedom Quantic and Alice Russell have. Who else records cumbia and spiritual soul in Colombia? Or moves fluently between old and modern soul like Myron & E? This new era will be defined by unlimited artistic freedom never before seen. Let’s not waste it.
Lush Life. Sade Adu was a model and a clothing designer who heard a higher calling in music. In the early ’80s, she joined a London-based Latin-funk band that had P-Funk aspirations. But her icy smooth delivery and knockout looks soon became the star attraction as a noted producer brought Sade and her band into the studio to record “Smooth Operator,” which resulted in a worldwide smash. While Sade is often pegged somewhere between smooth jazz and quiet storm, the band culled all its influences—a little funk, pop, R&B, jazz, Latin, and reggae—and made an art out of blurring genres. The end product was cool and mysterious, sophisticated and grown up.
Renaissance Man. Lenny Kravitz grew up singing classical music in a boys’ choir, learned to play multiple instruments like his idol Prince, absorbed the Beatles’ classic studio techniques, and espoused the virtues of vintage equipment before it was called retro. From the very beginning, he clung to his independence and fought the stereotypes of the music industry—even as his stardom exploded. A student of the music who had a sustaining influence on his peers, Lenny Kravitz learned to navigate the industry to become a master of his game.
Electric Consciousness. Flying Lotus is a thinking man. Raised by his great-aunt, Alice Coltrane, he is highly intuitive and a spiritual explorer—seeking out consciousness-altering experiences and asking important questions. Ideas matter to him. Music matters. Surrounded by a culture of electronic music, FlyLo stands apart by releasing art with a purpose. Now after only three albums and one on the way, this well-spoken intellectual is poised to become a musical guru to those who strive for a similar path.
The Prince and the Evolution. Dâm-Funk quickly became L.A. royalty when he exploded onto the scene spinning rare boogie and modern soul, then dropping his own synth-heavy slabs on Stones Throw Records. After nearly singlehandedly igniting international interest in modern funk, Dâm is now broadening his scope and looking to evolve the music into its natural next level.