Music can be beautiful, and music can be uncomfortable. What exists in BLK ODYSSY's stunning debut album BLK VINTAGE is the type of sound that is beautifully uncomfortable. Raising oft-asked, but rarely answered questions on the turbulence of the black experience in America, Sam Houston's newly solo project after he shifted from his previously Americana-based anthems, focuses on highly topical and important meditations that our society needs to be focusing on in order to grow. The Plainsfield, NJ-born, now Austin-based mastermind's new project accomplishes the absolute pinnacle of what music should be; an enjoyable, transformative and utterly soul-bending narration of experiences translated into a universal medium.
From the first notes of BLK VINTAGE's intro track, you can tell it's going to be special. Sultry samples and choirs build anticipation for a funky and complicated rollercoaster of emotions. Following track "FUNKENTOLOGY" is a clear homage to fellow Plainsfield native George Clinton, a highly ambitious tribute to one of the genre's greatest acts. But Houston pulls it off, with all the grace and allure of a genre heavyweight. A brief tonal shift occurs at "HANG LOW" which functions as a soulful, light-hearted bedroom jam in the midst of the tumultuous project. "BIG BAD WOLF/SOBER" throws the listener right back into the emotional vortex, however, with bone-rattling bass replacing the sultry vibes and distortion-addled anger with an arresting barrage of impassioned lyrics. "GHOST RIDE" finds Houston fully delving into the jazz-rap influences of the project, another torrid sample-based masterpiece. The track is accompanied by a dynamic dual visual paired with similarly nuanced, jazz-hop banger "NINETEEN EIGHTY". The moving final track "DRINKING GOOD" is BLK ODYSSY's "Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst"; a paralyzingly emotional rumination on the state of being black in America following the death of Houston's brother at the hands of police.
BLK ODYSSY exists somewhere between the topical and liberating abstract jazz-funk of Fela Kuti, the smoky and distinct introspection of Kendrick Lamar, and the billowing neo-soul of D'Angelo. What emerges is one of the most inspired and important projects of the year, and undoubtedly the birth of a new and luminous star for modern funk music.