A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Bright Black

After the success of Digable Planets, including a Grammy for Best Rap Performance in 1994, Ishmael Butler decided to go in a different direction. He collaborated musically with rappers Camp Lo and electronic act 4-Hero, among others. Around 2001, Ish teamed up with Thaddeus Turner, Gerald Turner, and Bubba Jones to create a jazzy new hip-hop project named Cherrywine. The group released one album, Bright Black, in 2003.

The backing music on Bright Black alternates between twangy guitars and eight-bit video game beeps and boops. So much reverb drenches Ishmael’s vocals that every “s” turns in to a tsunami of echoes. I picture the engineer smiling next to a delay knob that goes to eleven. “Anchorman Blues” is contradictory like paintings by Belgian artist René Magritte. “I had to lie to you,” this announcer cheerfully admits to us, and the track can make us think about how the news media makes their decisions regarding what to present to the audience.

“See For Miles” is thematically similar to the “Quentin’s On His Way” skit by The Pharcyde. While “Quentin” was a brief joke about the group’s weed dealer, “See For Miles” goes psychedelic, sprawling, and spacey for six minutes of mumbling and repeated cheering that, “The cocaine’s coming.” Listening to this song really places the listener into a vortex of addiction and inevitable consumption.

As a rap traditionalist, my favorite tracks on this album are “Dazzlement” and “A Street Gospel.” “Dazzlement” perfectly captures the themes of excess which Bright Black explores. “Flow like a rap kid, piles of blow did, million dollar nest,” goes one lyric. On “A Street Gospel,” Ishmael raps in his trademark stream-of-consciousness style, adhering to the conventions of rap yet remaining free-form, a skill he frequently utilizes throughout Bright Black. When placed alongside classic works like The Great Gatsby, or Wall Street, this album shines as a multifaceted study of American wealth. Written by Novocaine132

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