Gotta Have It! (Young Fathers, Cocoa Sugar review)
I’m reminded of this skit from Aziz Ansari in a film called Funny People. He heads on stage to a midsized bar crowd and announces that Cold Stone Creamery is an incredibly fucked up place. People picks sizes called, Like It, Love It, and Gotta Have It! It’s like picking ice cream for recovering drug addicts.
But sometimes that’s how we feel about things we really like, it’s a sugar spike, and the crash is oh so worth it.
Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar
released March 9, 2018
Young Fathers are a Scottish band that simply cannot be classified. A three piece act, Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole and Graham ‘G’ Hastings formed the group in 2008 after spending a ton of time together at clubs and challenging rap expectations. They love to explore social dynamics, as the title of the album would suggest. Many people have tried to fit them into multiple genres, but the truth is that they are willing to use lo-fi, soul, R&B, hip hop, dubstep, industrial, and pop to various effects in creating what has now become their unique brand of music. But Cocoa Sugar is a little more refined.
That, and they’ve switched to a higher fidelity sound. So that’s cool and sweet.
I’ll stop with the puns now.
Cocoa Sugar is their third studio album, and what’s incredible about it, is that not only has their sound actually improved from sophomore album White Men Are Black Men Too, but it’s also surpassed their genius debut Dead. I say this with both shock and awe – when many had thought that by revising their vision, it would dampen the music of Young Fathers, myself included.
But the sequencing is well considered, and overall the tracks gel incredibly well together. Now, unfortunately, some of the tracks do feel more like instrumental openers then anything (looking at you See How, Fee Fi, Wow and Wire), but that’s a minor loss for an enigmatic and charming disc. This album is entirely more accessible they’ve done before, choosing to focus on symbolism about biblical themes and political ones, but the politics never feel overt nor obnoxiously stated.
As I mentioned the religious themes, I also want to add that there are some more universal tracks too. In My View is the catchiest and easily most relatable song on the album, telling the story of a miser who is grossly rich and regrets his quest for power. It may be the second single from the album, but it works just as well as the quasi gospel song, Lord, which was released in the fall of 2017.
There is freedom in Cocoa Sugar, much like previous Young Father projects, but what I loved the most about it, is that it gets better and better on repeated listens.
Pros: There is an incredible and powerful focus in the vocals, lyrics and melodic choices, and if you are into off-kilter music with gospel tinged tips then In My View, Lord, Border Girl, and Holy Ghost will give you some sweet affection.
Cons: Fee Fi is a little too repetitive and can become grating to listen to, which made me wish it wasn’t included, but then there are also other songs with shorter track lengths that suffer, not because you strain while listening, but because the music builds up, starts to resonate, and then abruptly stops.
Runtime: 36 minutes
Points of Interest: In 2014, they won the Mercury Prize for their debut album Dead. Bankole and Hastings are Edinburgh born and raised, while Massaquoi was born in Liberia and moved to Edinburgh at age four.
Released on the Ninja Tune label back in March, Cocoa Sugar is one of the shorter albums I’ve listened to so far this year, and if it’s not clear yet, let me be more plain. My major disappointment with it, is how short it feels, but when we get songs, they are amazing to behold.
It’s artists like Young Fathers, and their contemporaries The Weeknd, 3T, Micachu, and Foreign Beggars that live on the fringes. Their music makes a difference and informs the choices of more popular music to try new things, to experiment in the lab and come up with something appealing to digest. It might not be for everyone, but if you have a sweet tooth, my theory is that Cocoa Sugar is a great treat.
And speaking of treats, have you heard the new MGMT? I already did a written review of it, but in case you mssed that, here is a video endorsement from Brendon and I. There’s something incredibly appealing about dark pop right now, and these dudes are dialed into it.
And if you like either of these album reviews or both of them, please like and share the video, and of course, please subscribe to the blog and channel for more awesome theories on the arts.