Camae Ayewa’s latest project, Black Encyclopedia of the Air, is a thirteen-course degustation that will leave you feeling full to the brim. Ayewa’s intention with this album is clear, she mentioned that “I wanted to make it more accessible, and to get to ears that don’t really know me or have been afraid of me.” The album does that perfectly by blending soul, 90’s RnB beats and house music which on a surface level, makes this album already replayable, however, it is when you look deeper into the lyrics that you can understand the full breadth of Ayewa’s genius. Although palatable, the tracks never lose their powerful meaning, such as on Race Function Limited where her words cut through the track...“Mama made me/Tall baby/Out the guts of slavery/Grits and gravy/Shackled babies.”
One frequent downfall of experimental albums is that they can often become tedious, especially when the tracks tend to drag on, however, Ayewa has successfully triumphed over this cliche. All tracks other than the explorative ambient track Tarot, keep themselves to under 3 minutes. Although the full album is only just over 30 minutes in length, we are taken on a journey through Ayewa’s message of collective responsibility and intergenerational trauma, which is spoon-fed to us in a way that sounds somewhat familiar, yet completely new.
The opening track, Temporal Control of Light Echos, introduces us to the album like a narrator would introduce a play. The curtains rise and the show begins... Race Function Limited treats us to a feature by Brother May who gives us a taste of that classic South London sound. The following track, Shekere, transports us to the West Coast with a sound that is reminiscent of the Odd Future gang, whilst Iso Fonk has hints of a more experimental Yeezus. Made a Circle lulls us in with a lo-fi beat and buttery flow before Nighthawk takes us to another planet. The album is rounded out with Clock Fight where the incessant drumming and agitated ambience under Ayewa’s intense poetry is maddening yet exhilarating.
This album is a journey through hip-hop culture whilst also being an insight into the genre’s future. Although softer than Moor Mother’s previous work, this album is no less exciting than the others. Every track seems to propel you into the next, making your listening journey invigorating, interesting and inspiring. Ayewa is quoted “It’s about understanding the different ways that I have to go with such a radical message. My music is tied to a future and a history.” And that future is in Moor Mother’s hands.