The new Abdu Ali song, “Keep Movin (Negro Kai)” is a staccato stream-of-consciousness rap backed by a steady muffled bass thump, a meditative benediction on liberation, strength, motivation, and faith in the divinity of self. Each verse is a powerful affirmation of radical self-love specifically as it relates to blackness and living as a black male in America in 2015: “I’m a king / I’m a fuckin queen / Every time I step outside / Nina Simone starts to sing / She sings: Baby you got to believe / Can I believe? / Yes! / Damn I feel so good / How dare I have the audacity to feel so fuckin free / Divinity is where I want to be / These chains so heavy, they don’t mean shit to me / Can I breathe?”
Verses orbit around a central refrain of “You know it’s shady and crazy / but we gotta keep moving, baby” until the song dissolves into a cacophony of jazz sax (sampled from a Japanese saxophonist) and increasingly unintelligible vocal scatting, dissolving even language in the ever-urgent push towards freedom.
On his soundcloud, Ali accompanies the song with a diary-style post, being explicit about his intentions and situating it within the current political context: “i see the song as a modern day negro spiritual. as u can see even though i proclaim a lot of shit like im black and beautiful i still am battling with feeling that way and being from from my circumstance: being black queer a man living in america 2015. a lot of my songs are packed with imagery and are more like monologues. im speaking out to anyone who will listen and can join in. i wanted to create music that can serve as a mirror to the identity and mind state of someone like me but also serve the same purpose as negro spirituals did for slaves back in the day. to provide a voice and a affirmation that everything will be ok.” Like Kendrick Lamar’s “i”, it feels vital right now.
“Keep Movin [Negro Kai]”, produced by Mental Jewelry with co-production by Ali, is a new track that is featured on the Deathbomb Arc-released best of cassette tape as a bonus track and will be featured on his next album, OCTARINE, which will debut later this year. The cover art is by Adam Joumal Echahly.
Hear the song and read the post in full below:
the songs purpose and creation is still subjective even to me. i say tht my songs arent created by me but by some super nova energy tht sends them to me to deliver. sometimes i dont know what the songs i make mean til a while later. anyways. the song is sampling tricky a rapper from the UK, and a jazz saxophonist from Japan, my hope for my new music is for it to be world music, i want all ppl esp ppl of color from the world to be able to relate or feel it. i want to incorporate indigenous sounds like bmore club to baile funk or and incorporate more instruments tht are region specific.
the first verse of this song, i start off with a narrative, in order to be transparent, so that people can see how this “song” started. i don’t go into detail but i give a bit of context so that you can see “where i’m coming from”. literally. i then because of my circumstance you gotta be more than a “nigga”. than i claim that i am by using the “mansa musa” metaphor. mansa musa is the epitome of black opulence and power. he counters the western contemporary image of blackness and being a black male. and it also shows that i know where my roots lead and knowing that i don’t fuckin come from slavery! then i go on to compare body parts to opulent shit like john coltrane, purple haze (jimmy hendrix n camron n other metaphors), flesh is thorns (melanin reference), my soul is magical is a reference to voodoo which was a religion of west africans a long time ago which is said to be the religion of the slaves that was brought over here, I’m an old man with enormous wings is a reference to a story b the great Gabriel Garcia Marquez a founder and pioneer of magical realism one of my fav genres of literature. i also like that imagery of being an old man with enormous wings, kinda triumphed divine and shit. the life i lived ironically provoked me to be this bitch: a mother fucker who aint playing no games and is powerful and worthy.
the chorus is me talking to myself and the listener too. it serves like a chant, a hymn, to motivate and restore faith.
the 2nd vrs was all a freestyle. i wanted to let go and find a new way to do a vocal arrangement n delivery style. so i jus freestyles. every line is an instant thought that came up. i like the idea of CARPE DIEM in music creation. some things can only be unlocked in that way. And at the end I sing with no words channeling some skat jazz shit. I’m into the idea with having vocals with no words and just str8 spirit and passion, creating another language in a way.
but overall. i see the song as a modern day negro spiritual. as u can see even though i proclaim a lot of shit like im black and beautiful i still am battling with feeling that way and being from from my circumstance: being black queer a man living in america 2015. a lot of my songs are packed with imagery and are more like monologues. im speaking out to anyone who will listen and can join in. i wanted to create music that can serve as a mirror to the identity and mind state of someone like me but also serve the same purpose as negro spirituals did for slaves back in the day. to provide a voice and a affirmation that everything will be ok.