10 // Black Future Month // John Forte, Self-Actualized.

Posted on February 12, 2012

I’ve been thinking about The Blues more than usual, lately. Been taken by the dry notes and stirred by the airy, breathy moments in between them. Been thinking about Houston and Cornelius and a roll call of unidentified bodies who struggled with their indigo, who let their cobalt get the best of them.

For the future, I dream Black folks who look like themselves, who spell deeply on the nature around them, who sing songs to exorcise their demons, who then lay the troubled spirits down, without prematurely pushing their bodies to rest. I’ve been dreaming sweet songs about emancipation in the right time. I’ve been pondering liberty, and its expense. I’ve been trying to figure out who I want to be — and how to get there, and every time I land on a strategy, a blues melody starts playing somewhere nearby. Happened today.

Through a friend’s guidance, I landed at Le Castle, a new site and effort spearheaded, in part, by John Forte. You know John Forte? Nutshell: Brooklyn musician; Exeter alum; roomed with Kweli at NYU; spent time at Rawkus records; worked heavily with The Fugees as producer and emcee; released a critically acclaimed solo project that didn’t move as many units as it might have; got caught up in a potentially lucrative narcotics hustle; served 7 of 14 years in the federal system, while he taught himself to play guitar — using music, study and spirit as paths to his own liberation; and got free before his sentence was commuted by none other than George W. Bush. Given that run-on list of credentials, Forte is undeniably Hip Hop. But this Blues thing don’t let go. Here’s a clip of one of his newest music videos, co-starring the arresting Valerie June, Give Me Water.

I’m moved by Forte’s capacity for introspection and faith, for accepting responsibility, for expanding our ideas of what Hip Hop can do. And in this case, expansion of a new form means reflecting on its roots. Neo-blues, I think he calls it, in between bars. I dream a future with Forte singing water songs for his as yet unborn children.

His duet with Ms. June reminded me of this duet with Blues pioneer Charley Patton and his wife and recording partner, Bertha Lee.

Thickwit salutes John Forte, the new Le Castle site, and the future inherent, therein.

We reflect on folks like Charley Patton and Bertha Lee — and their undeniable impact on the music that saves our lives.


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