December 13, 2018
One of the most daring yet under-appreciated artists of her generation, Los Angeles-born vocalist and producer Georgia Anne Muldrow is finally getting the credit she deserves.
Listening to Georgia Anne Muldrow’s music can often feel like moving backwards and forwards through time simultaneously, dipping into the cosmic well of artists like Sun Ra while consistently breathing futurism into funk, hip-hop and soul.
After 14 full length albums, it’s no surprise that her latest offering Overload is being released by an equally prolific, genre-hopping label, Brainfeeder. In fact, the real question is why their orbits didn’t coincide much earlier. Overload slots perfecting onto a label of such contemporary, astral-facing experimentation, but does so while dealing with real-life matters: love, family and the black experience.
When we speak, Muldrow is in her Las Vegas home, cleaning dishes one-handed with two of her kids darting in and out of the kitchen, while we discuss ancestry, courage and the power of music.
There are very few people, let alone musicians, who have spoken so concisely to parts of me like you and your music has. It’s clear that you’re unapologetically you through music. I read the Afropunk interview where you said that you were really inspired by courageous people. How do you manage to maintain your courage?
Man, thank you. You don’t know how much that means to us [as artists]. Some folks just don’t know what we’re talking about, but when someone’s like ‘that spoke to my soul’, that reminds us why we’re doing this. Me and Dudley [Perkins] – we’re the exact same people that you hear on the records.
And I think it’d be harder to drum this all up in some kind of vacuum. Even though we have all this technology and other things to distract us here in 2018, the demands are pretty much the same, if not more. We [as black artists] have to stand up for people, creating new aesthetics that have nothing to do with the European aesthetic, and step outside of the colonial mind-frame. It takes so much courage because that other way is so prevalent.
There are so many things: we’re getting killed, we’re still enslaved, we’re in last place whenever it comes to beauty. All this while we’re setting the precedent for all these human processes, because we’re the first link in humanity. The simple fact that we’re still here and we can be a link to the original world means that there’s still hope and a reason to keep pushing on. You need to be courageous to push forward otherwise you remain invisible. I have to take all that into the music.
How do you find creativity when times are tough?
If I can work myself up to a place where I can say something, that’s powerful too. When I was younger, I used to write a journal and turn those diary entries into songs, but before, it was just me complaining on paper. Now when I write I’m really trying to affirm and create my reality in the music. If I want someone else to feel that from the music, it definitely has to work on me first though, right? Can’t just be making y’all my guinea pigs [laughs].
So which journal entries shaped the making of Overload?
That’s interesting because I don’t know. The main message is to cherish your family. We’re facing so much in this world, and it’s time to show love to the people that are around us. The way the world is going discourages that kind of action between people. The music industry is discouraging messages that promote family, and that’s why Overload sounds like something on the radio, but without the same topics. They’re always talking about being in the club and doing people wrong, and meanwhile I’ve been with the same guy for 14 years. Dudley is my creative muse. But then a lot of people were asking me how I could have all these love songs and then put ‘Blam’ on there.
That song is about self-preservation though, which in itself is love. I think it’s a common misconception that all music is for everybody. I understand that concept of wanting to share your music with as many people as possible, but certain people just won’t get the message of certain music.
It’s the same way with people. The way you are as a person won’t make everybody happy.
True. Moving on, music has always been a tool for communication, meditation and healing for people of colour. Music is nutritious…
I know for sure that when I hear a record that I haven’t heard in a long time and it happens to be one that got me through, it’s just like drinking water.
So, when was the last time you felt this?
Recently, when I listened back to the Art Blakey & Thelonious Monk record [Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers With Thelonious Monk, 1958]. That’s comfort food.
I did a song with the drummer from Hiatus Kaiyote, Clever Austin, for his upcoming album. The song we did was cold-blooded. He is real talented and it’s clear that he loves music a lot. Nai Palm too. You can tell that these are artists whose relationship with music has made their lives better.
I’ve also started listening to lots of mbira music from Zimbabwe. We talk about feng-shui, waterfalls and all of that, but I was playing some of those records and I swear it cleansed the air in the house. It was like incense. It reminded me that black people have been scientists for a long time. The mbira is so ancestrally powered. Music is our way of travelling through the limitations of physical space. It’s a time machine, a teleport.
Have you ever looked into your ancestry?
I’ve had dreams of Togo, Benin and especially Ghana, but I feel like we are all pan-African moments, so I claim all of Africa as home because that is the gift of the diaspora. The same goes for claiming all strands of black music because they are all variations of each other. How can you say you don’t like reggae, yet you like other music of the diaspora? They are the same. Black people are everywhere, everything and the original thing before there were regions. I like the idea of being an African mutt. The ancestors gave me sound.
That brings me back to your earlier point about how lineage and family heavily influence Overload. What is it then like to see your music grow alongside your children?
I love my family. My daughter just turned 16. I’m chasing her around the kitchen right now, but she’s been taller than me for about three years. It cracks me up when your kids are singing your songs back to you because they know you better than everybody else. My boy is singing, out here free-styling. My eldest daughter be rapping. Everybody in here is musical to the point where they know that music is just a part of life. They are music. I’m just watching them grow, and letting them know that it’s cool to be yourself. They’re doing a great job of that.
We have an unconventional way of raising our children. It’s almost pro-black hippy parenting. My 16-year-old goes to school once a week, and otherwise works from her computer here with us. Our youngest is turning ten soon and he’s at the school of life. It’s just about respecting kids as people. Yes, we’re there to guide them, but we’re not here to stress them out about school and grades. That makes no sense.
That’s beautiful. You’re playing in London this week. I’m excited to see how the music transforms from studio to the live stage.
The band is a whole other beast. Playing the music live with other people has breathed a new life into them. The music takes care of itself when we’re all present with one another and when the musicians are willing to act on that something magical happens. No performance is ever the same either. I’m thankful and confident. It’s a whole lot of funk.
Georgia Anne Muldrow’s latest album Overload is out now via Brainfeeder. On 15 December, she plays at the Brixton Academy to celebrate the label’s 10th anniversary. Tickets can be found here.
Illustration by Bethany Porteous