Aren Johnson


kassa overall takes on the prison industrial complex

January 7, 2020
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While Kassa Overall began his musical career as a jazz drummer — and remains a damn fine one — his artistic arc is increasingly taking him into creative spaces without easy categorization. If his debut album, Go Get Ice Cream and Listen To Jazz, showed him searching for a next-level relationship between jazz and hip-hop, Kassa’s upcoming sophomore effort, I Think I’m Good, presents his singing, songwriting, MCing, production, and love of electronics, intertwined with an ever-expanding love of textures. Most importantly, there’s a more laser-focused sense of narrative than Kassa had previously presented, which is where the magnificent “Show Me a Prison” comes in. It’s the sound of an artist raising his game.

Featuring contributions from Brooklyn-based singer/writer J. Hoard and the legendary freedom fighter/activist Angela Davis, “Show Me a Prison” is one of a number of album tracks that directly engages issues inside the Black community and Kassa’s own mental state. It’s a ballad based on a Craig Taborn piano sample and an evocative, off-kilter beat which sounds not unlike a jailhouse stomp made by metal dishes hitting prison bars. Over it, Kassa delivers an emotional, plaintive vocal that overwhelms with empathy: “Show me a prison, show me a jail/ Show me a prisoner whose face has gone pale/ I show you a young man, with so many reasons why/ There but for fortune, may go you and I.” The power of that lyric is raised even further by Hoard’s doubling-down on the words “show me” in a full-hearted wail, and by Ms. Davis closing remarks of support. Powerful shit!

Kassa Overall’s I Think I’m Good Drops in late February.