He’s a Midwestern-born musical prodigy, celebrity participant and purveyor of funk and soul-laden Minneapolis sound, and a Grammy-nominated performer, songwriter, producer, and singer. Best known as the leader of the quintet-turned-sextet from St. Paul, Minnesota, Mint Condition, his skills on center stage and in the recording studio have secured his notoriety in a variety of genres and garnered a resume filled with names music’s greatest and brightest, including Prince, Jill Scott, Jazmine Sullivan, Kelly Price, Robert Glasper and PJ Morton, to name a few. The man is none other than stokley williamsand his ability to translate old-school rooted analog showmanship and musicality into a current career spanning more than a quarter of a century is an enviable achievement… for him And for us.
His debut in 2017Introducing Stokley, was a skillfully rendered collection that delineated his style outside of the well-established MC collective (“Level”, “Organic”) and whetted his appetite to expand into multiple influences, unexpected collaboration partners and the exploration of his personal beliefs and creative roots. This is what listeners will discover in Sankofa, his second release and the first project created under his own label, BlueRaffe Entertainment (distributed via Flyte Time/Perspective Records, a literal and figurative return to his early mentors, the iconic Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis). Richer in range and robust rendering, Sankofa blends instrumentation with American and African flavors in songs examining life, love, and the current condition that compels us to do what the title, a term from the Ghanian Akan tribe, vaguely implies: forward to the future by returning in the past.
Since there’s been a complete global and cultural reset in the years between Williams’ albums, it’s no wonder that Sankofa feels like a literal, lavish opposite of its predecessor…and that’s a good thing. In fact, his latest project seems as ambitious in its scope and reach as Stokely’s abilities, which are conveyed in all their glory (Stokley played 99% of the project’s instruments, including percussion, keyboards and guitars) .
In addition to lyrics and production, Sankofa features an assortment of players, including Carvin Haggins (Jazmine Sullivan, Jill Scott), Shakespeare! (Justin Bieber), S. Dot (Diddy, Lauryn Hill) and… Snoop Dogg? The pairing actually makes sense, as the Do-double-g brings its unhurried California swag to the flirty skater jam opener, “Vibrant,” and a sneaky kiss of 1970s cool, dipped in a ballad. doo-wop, “Jeopardy: Verbalize:” “Explain to me: you, I just can’t read your mind (why you mad, use your words) / you see how I’m drowning, so why this game of ‘Jeopardy’ tonight“Lesser artists would have lost their sense of balance and identity alongside such an intriguing roster, but duets like the already self-titled hit “Cascade” (featuring The Bonfyre) and its jaw-dropping duet, ” Rush”, only underscore Stokley’s voice. Too often what ends up becoming a “hit” these days reduces women to erotic obstacle courses and interchangeable body parts, so listen to sultry numbers and stratospheric like the #1 hit “She”, the cult “Cafe” featuring Wale, and Shakespeare’s contribution!, “Clouds”, are pleasantly refreshing.
If the long list of tracks and interludes weren’t enough, Sankofa is a sprawling, multi-faceted journey to behold, preferably in your spare time: Mahmoud El-Kati, world-renowned lecturer, writer and professor emeritus of history at Macalester College, who also happens to be Stokley’s own “pop”, bookends the collection with spoken cultural nuggets of wisdom, and the hardships presented by soured relationships (“Slip”), black anti-culture vultures (“Recipe”), and worst-case scenarios gone wrong (“Lost”) are delivered with varying degrees of anger and anguish, but never despair: after all, as he meaningfully states in the title track, “The strength under my wings is the spirits that have gone before me.”
Good music can move your body, challenge your mind, and heal broken spirits and hearts: Sankofa’s the ability to meet the listener in their current state and guide them through different diasporas and realms further reiterates Williams’ gifts. Whether he rides solo or as part of a unit, fans will remain eager to follow him wherever his creative journey takes them next. Enthusiastically recommended
By Melody Charles
#Stokley #Sankofa #Review
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