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Review: Clint Breeze - Nappy Head
Posted December 01, 2016 by Greg Lindberg
WRITTEN BY
Greg Lindberg
ON
December 01, 2016
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Overlapping synth skids quickly to a tik-tik-tik as Flaco splits, flipping through pages of a book, overread. You love this book, and the pages write themselves. “Needles” is so omnipresent; no need to tell you how to feel because it already knows how you feel. You just have to be. “I don’t think planet Earth is what I really live on,” raps the fervent Flaco, and the fervor of a flawless marriage between producer and vocal artist, passes you too quickly, too often.

Every once in a while you find that golden track that is your time-and-place jam forever, and for me that is “Needles.” But that track is just one beam of joy in the most thoughtful package of production I’ve heard in a long ass time. Emphasis on the ass, because we’re all exhausted: constantly inspired, and looking to be inspired constantly.

After several listens to Nappy Head, I started to get that old writer’s trepidation – any review I were to conjure would not be worthy enough for this album. It’s a problem. But, as strung on sentiment as Clint Breeze, all I can do is dive deep and drown into my defenseless core of uninhibited thoughts. In my head, I keep thinking, it’s too hard to write a well-informed review with everything going on right now. Then I feel guilty for thinking that. Can we even be well-informed anymore? What does that even mean?

Nappy Head is overt in topics of race and hate, but it’s all deeper than that. Whoever you are, you should feel uncomfortable at times by the direct language. You should feel something. Those defunct cursory undertones typically sprinkled in a current message-themed album that become didactic/joyless aren’t present here. The care to what is said and when it’s said is strategically interlaced in glitch-jazz and spatial breathing between verses. For those who need dumb comparisons to nod your head to, Nappy Head is James Ferraro jamming with George Clinton, Thundercat, and Charles Mingus in a Banker’s Life Suite. Now even I know that makes no goddamn sense.

Clint Breeze is Indianapolis creative Carrington Clinton, who understands production and collaboration are a seamless art form, unhinged and formative. Though his literal voice isn’t really heard on Nappy Head, it’s articulated with calculated finesse. Backed by his band, The Groove, on a couple tracks (“Razorblades” and “Blood Splatter”), and featuring a comprehensive Who’s Who of Indianapolis hip-hop rappers, producers, and prolific poets, Nappy Head is the champagne pop of a Hoosier renaissance.

As a lifelong drummer, Clinton comprehends rhythm, and as an audiophile he gets the philosophy of timing when it comes to sampling. And, man, that sampling is so smooth, you’ll either not notice it or start a chart of your favorites. “Lucky” samples one of my all-time favorite Dave Chappelle’s bits throughout the entirety of the track (“Sorry officer, I didn’t know I couldn’t do that”). But even within the humor and upbeat R&B rhythm refrain, “They want us to die, they want us to die / I guess we’re lucky to be alive,” there’s a dark commentary. No matter how much joy we experience in life, there will always be difficult truths, and it’s Clinton’s menacingly tight production that allows for deep thought and conversation, unabashedly inviting you to dance in a torrential downpour of blood and pain and sadness. Shit’s real.

This year, I was listening to a lot of The Last Poets’ self-titled, and, for me, the spirit of that album transcends to Nappy Head. It seems obvious that Clint Breeze has inspirations that include J Dilla and Flying Lotus, but to be inspired by those guys means the artist has an expansive and open mind when it comes to sonic atmosphere. One of the ways Clint Breeze is inspiring me right now is to bust out my SP-202 sampler, which is an instrument J Dilla frequently used. When it comes to electronic equipment, users don’t hold onto items like 25-year old guitars. As I saw hundreds of SP-202’s discarded for sale on the cheap, I held on to the idea of fully mastering and becoming one with the archaic.

It’s clear that Clint Breeze has an appreciation for the forgotten grooves and the current tricks of the trade, but he cleverly embraces the old (without pandering nostalgia) and new (without succumbing to production trends). Nappy Head is, no doubt, a labor of love, but it’s also one man’s thoughts and feelings made clear through a collective consciousness. Even with the controversial cover art (by Jacob Gardner), Nappy Head provokes feeling. I can understand why seeing what appears to be a black man in a noose on an American flag might make someone uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t make you feel bad. The cover is the perfect entry to the tone of the album – there’s light in the darkness. But, hey, what the hell does that mean? It’s open for interpretation. It’s open for discussion. If you feel something from the cover (and you should), then your feelings will swell after giving your full attention to 20 demanding tracks.

My interpretation is ultimately not important, but I’m happy to share my frame of mind over some beers. All I know is I cannot deny that Nappy Head is full of joyfulness. My privileged self was indulgent enough to waste a paragraph internalizing my own fears and doubts about our future as human beings. Where do we go from here? is something I’ve heard repeatedly recently, and it implies that like-minded individuals need to come together to start doing some good. To work towards something greater. Something better for us all. But, dude, that’s all bullshit. Artists, like Carrington Clinton and Too Black, and progressive thinkers are flooding Indianapolis, and it’s pouring into the hate-filled streets of a Pence-ridden red state. We’ve been working on going somewhere for years, and, if anything, it’s outsiders who will fall in line with what’s really going on.

On “Blood Splatter,” influential poet Too Black repeats, “Let’s paint the world in blood splatter,” and continues, “Red / I need more red.” It’s an unforgiving dynamic, bloodshed and happiness. Life and death. There’s too much bleakness in Nappy Head. But there’s also enough love and empathy and happiness to fill that void. I’m an advocate of the genuine, and. unless my bullshit detector suddenly broke, Clint Breeze is genuine as fuck.

Starting with “Reality Check” the album might say right up front that things were never great and we may always be broken. But there’s this light at the end of the tunnel that’s different from that clichéd light. It feels so different. When you get to “The Dawn” you better still be smiling, and don’t stop. Devin Dabney shares, “Hip-hop’s not a luxury.” Damn. He’s right. With all the knowledge dropped from the likes of Oreo Jones, Sirius Blvck, Theon Lee, Diop, Drayco McCoy, Pope Adrian Bless, and more, it feels a lot less like a compilation or mixtape and more like a contextualized modern sermon, full of conviction and honesty. This is a Clint Breeze album through and through, void of being sanctimonious. This album is for hip-hop fans. Music fans. All of the people. It’s what we needed. It’s what we deserve. It’s Indianapolis. Stop complaining, and be inspired. Thank you, Clint Breeze. Thank you.

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