Veteran California MC Declaime—who also goes by his given name, Dudley Perkins—is known for his lyrical dexterity, his adventurous tracks that blend dusty funk, soul and jazz, and his collaborations with artists such as his wife, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Flying Lotus and Madlib.
Declaime maintains this aesthetic with his new album, “Young Spirit,” which came out today (August 18) via eOneMusic and SomeOthaShip Connect. The 18 tracks cover everything from spirituality to materialism to police violence. Take “Pattie & Stokley,” in which he raps:
This is no perm music/
Some of that good old God music/
Heaven over hell music/
Free water, free food acoustics/
Uplift that that gift that keeps givin’/
Change up your mind state, prove how you livin.’
Tie a yellow ribbon around that old oak tree/
Better that ribbon than little old Black me
Jailhouse boogie for the brothers locked up in it/
They said daddy did it when Lord knows he didn’t/
And on ”Internally Yours,” an otherworldly soul track featuring Blu, he spits:
All the truth that must be fought/
and the battles to be fought/
For new millennium humanity to look/
and the means that must be took/
for the trustees of the human race/
to turn some mirrors on they face
The album Declaime has created with his partner in life, left-field artistry and SomeOthaShip Connect, seamlessly transitions from one song to the next—which is why one track, “Cops Ain’t Shit,” is so jarring. That song begins with a homophobic hook over heavy drums and distorted guitar:
Batty batty boy/
Some young boy shot/
by one dumb cop, inhale him rot, inhale him rot
“Cops Ain’t Shit” is obviously about fighting racialize police violence. That makes Declaime’s decision to build a hook around “batty boy,” a slur popularized by Jamaican dancehall music that has led to artists such as Beenie Man and Buju Banton losing jobs, all the more unsettling.
In a phone interview this week, Declaime insisted that he was directing the slur towards police, and not LGBTQ people. ”It’s a low-budget word, like a lot of words that are being used in hip-hop, but it’s used in certain ways,” he explains. “My daughter’s gay, I got gay family falling out the cracks and crevasses. I’ve heard the saying in Jamaican songs a lot, so I use it in a musical sense to berate the police. I’ve heard [Jamaican artists] call the police that in their songs, but it’s not towards the gay community, just towards the punk-ass cops.”
None of that rhetoric appears on the following song, “Cops Still Ain’t Shit,” which features Saul Williams, Muldrow, RileyxFresh and Ms. Denzy, Declaime’s aforementioned daughter. Her verse addresses the title’s themes with passion:
These pigs clown with loud sound followed by a bang/
Smoke clears up then the mommies sing/
I mean, dang, even Sandra Bland had to get it?/
I’ll say her name, yo, I ain’t forget it/
Now you tell me, who’s the victim? Call somebody, they dropping bodies/
Oh yeah, that’s right/
To protect and to serve, we the wrong type
“Cops Still Ain’t Shit” boasts the most contributors of any song on an album that also features Aloe Blacc and production by Madlib—both of whom, like Declaime, are signed to the experimental hip-hop mainstay, Stones Throw Records.
In keeping with the album’s familial ties, Declaime says he laced “Young Spirit” with messages to kids growing up in turbulent times without historical context.
“A lot of cats don’t know what Malcolm X was about, so you know they don’t know who Marcus Garvey is. It’s strictly a program-based situation now, through television, media, news headlines, the food that we eat—everything that’s fed into our bodies is strictly controlled right now. [My mission] has always been to utilize music for a message.”
Stream “Young Spirit” via your service of choice, or listen to the select tracks below, to see if that message comes through to you.