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“I’m so Black” by Emcee Monte

The walls are closing in, the synthesizers tightening their grip and the bassline slithering into central focus, and yet the chorus of “I’m so Black” features a lead vocal from Emcee Monte himself that could never be trampled upon – no matter how powerful the instrumentation may be. In this latest release, Emcee Monte issues a call to arms for those standing in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, tying together the civil rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s with a latter Black revolution impossible without the groundwork laid by the former.

His words are unmistakable, spellbinding and highly inspiring, while the very tone of the music they’re being presented tells me that his mind was on motivation over big money when structuring this piece. “I’m so Black” is neither accusatory nor campaign-approved; it strives not to exist within the conversation so much as it seeks to start a new one, independent from those you might have had prior to now. It’s a bruising commentary from the frontlines, and yet the introspective diction of its creator makes it implausibly personal and impossibly intimate in every way that actually counts for something. 

We’re treated to some phenomenal swagger from Emcee Monte right from the jump in “I’m so Black,” and while he’s stealthy in his adornment of the bass element with some added kick from the percussion, he doesn’t hide his immense talent for poetic purging on the mic. These synthesizers reach a couple of points where they actually feel too powerful for the tight mix they’ve been put in, but they never become so overbearing that the lyrics – nor their deeper meaning – get lost in translation. One of the most impressive parts of this single is just how brilliantly everything has been spaced, as though Emcee Monte knew from the start that this was going to be a chest-pounding anthem too big for its own beat. It would be cool to hear a remix, but the template is the bigger thing here; at no point does this single feel like a stunt, but instead a sneak preview of what’s still to come from an artist clearing hitting his stride at the right time. 

Hollywood vibes don’t often mix well with a humble narrative, but when they do, the result is an unmissable track like “I’m so Black” that hip-hop fans around the country really need to take note of this season. The advent of modern rap has taken us to a very special place, socially speaking, in the past four years, and if Emcee Monte wasn’t already receiving praise for his abilities before, there’s no question that a release like this is going to shake things up in a really positive way. I’d love to hear him strip this single down for a remix come summertime, but even if he decides to move on from “I’m so Black” and onto a new project in the next couple of months, he has absolutely won my respect for a lifetime. 

Mindy McCall 

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