The death at the hands of the NYPD of Eric Garner in 2014 and the subsequent campaign by his daughter Erica [up to her own death in 2017] provide the inspiration for Vivian Sessoms’ recent song, I Can’t Breathe [For Erica], a powerful, moving and intensely delivered soul ballad, a stand-out track on her new album,Life II, just released by Ropeadope Records. It’s accompanied by a video – one of seven Sessoms shot to go with her recent albums: Lifewas released last November, making her projects a staggered-release double set – that seeks to show the terrible and wide-ranging effects of violence perpetrated on African-Americans, often by police and mostly due to racism, on families across the US.
“I got it down, just some lines, back then, when it happened. It was an answer to what I had witnessed on TV… just a few thoughts,” she explains when I enquire about the song’s gestation. “There is still violence now. Everyone was shell-shocked and overwhelmed; there was heartbreak and anguish everywhere.”
Cocoa Tea is sitting on a small wicker chair in Bobby Digital’s front garden. It’s mid-afternoon and the studio hasn’t come to life yet. Just one or two cars are parked outside and the street’s quiet, much to the cameraman’s relief. VP Records are filming a documentary about Bobby Digital, and Cocoa Tea has travelled the 30 miles from Clarendon to be here, back at the place where they recorded so many hits over the years – including Love Me Truly, shared with Shabba Ranks, Babylon Get ‘Fraid, Holy Mount Zionand covers of Bob Marley’s Heathenand Waiting In Vain. It was tracks like those that persuaded Motown to sign him during the late nineties, but Cocoa’s sole major label adventure proved fleeting, even if it did enable him to become more independent and establish his own Roaring Lion label and studio in Clarendon.
He hasn’t recorded anything for Bobby Digital in years, but the music they created together lives on and we always knew there were tracks in the archive that either hadn’t been compiled or even released before, as well as others that deserved another hearing…
A man of taste and discernment, Rahsaan Patterson is and has always been a huge Chaka Khan fan. You can often hear the great woman’s influence in the way he himself sings. So it was on the subject of Ms Khan’s most recent album, Hello Happiness– which Echoes regulars may recall [from the review back in our Feb issue] I didn’t think passed anything like muster – that we began our first conversation in a few years. What did he think of it?
“I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it,” he says, immediately guessing why I’m asking the question. “In the sense that there was a freshness that harked back to the I Feel For You album, that I felt, and I liked how light-hearted it was. I liked how I could feelher happiness. Having known her all these years and been privy to some of her issues and being able to relate to being a place in her life now where she is at peace with herself and the demons have been exorcised, things the industry can make you feel… yes, I liked it.”
Some people didn’t share his enthusiasm, I say. He laughs.
“I’m sure many people don’t. It defied expectation… ”
“Music is done,” says DJ Muggs.
He’s not offering his opinion on music’s cultural relevance though. He’s referring to the hundreds of beats he’s already got made, just waiting for the right rapper to lend their vocals.
“I’ve probably got enough music for the next 10 years,” he declares. It’s not hard to believe.
Where most producers some 30 years into their career tend to slow down, Muggs is doing the opposite. In the last year, he’s released projects with Roc Marciano, Lil’ Eto and Meyhem Lauren, and produced Cypress Hill’s best album in years. He isn’t showing signs of stopping either. He recently released Tout Le Tout, an album with New Jersey rapper Mach-Hommy, one of the finest things the latter’s put his name to…