- The DC trio highlight the versatility and vitality of Black dance music on an incredible second album.
- An artist name like Black Rave Culture is an invitation to think critically about how to represent a culture that is so often portrayed as a monolith—or even worse, as non-existent. On the trio's second LP, Black Rave Culture Vol 2, the DC-based crew let the question of what "black rave culture" is marinate across 12 eclectic tracks. Their answer is to showcase the diaspora's intrinsic multiplicity. "When it comes to Black dance music, there is very much a perception that a lot of Black artists can only make one thing," the group told RA earlier this spring. "We wanted to touch on a various array of genres to show that we have range and can do it well."
To celebrate Blackness is to celebrate diversity, adaptability and versatility—natural rebuffs to the restraints of white hegemony. The group's second LP demonstrates the wide breadth of Black creative talent, with samples offering credence to the countless subcultures Black people have birthed over the last three decades. The record's commemoration of Black music is a through-line that closely aligns with the mission of the label that released the trio's first LP, MoMA Ready's Haus Of Altr. Since 2018, that imprint, and Black Rave Culture themselves, have kept an ear close to the concrete of the East Coast Black underground, uplifting the sound of Black house, techno and club in America and beyond.
Black Rave Culture members James Bangura, DJ Nativesun and Amal are all strong producers in their own right, sharing a love for rowdy, scuffling breaks. But on Black Rave Culture Vol 2, the trio push themselves outside their comfort zone. On the opener, "Never Left," they spruce up their classic breaks formula with Brazilian funk. Though the track title might convince you otherwise, the crew have not been gone long—their debut album was released just last year. The title could also be interpreted as a reference to the widespread ignorance of the enduring Black innovations within electronic music, along with recent efforts by Black-led platforms like dweller and Black Artist Database to correct dance music's flawed historical narrative(s). As "Never Left'' closes, aquatic pads return repeatedly after intermissions of complete silence, like an artist scurrying backstage only to emerge once, then twice more, for a "gotcha!" encore.
The record's expanse of cultural influences unfurls on tracks like "Something Else," where dubstep wubs meet bombastic chants that could easily be ripped from a '90s Atlanta "booty shake" bass track. This might not sound all that impressive, but when producers assume the task of taking on so many genres at once, the result isn't always this pristine. Like seasoned cooks, Black Rave Culture work these diasporic palettes in a way that avoids feeling contrived or choppy, but instead splices old genres into an all-encompassing, singular style. The lead single "Sub Poppin" shows off this talent best: the Ha stab, traditionally used in ballroom music—a style that emerged out of New York's 1980s queer and largely Black underground vogue scene—is diced and retooled as a main melody on a perky club track.
On "Long Distance Dilemma," another cultural touchstone of Black identity shows up through a sample of Allen Iverson's infamous "practice" press conference speech. The track revolves around snippets of Iverson's defiant answer to a question concerning the Black former NBA player's commitment to practice. Iverson, who faced heavy scrutiny throughout his career (and who was at one point one of NBA history's most prolific scorers) made a valid point: why was there all this alarm about his practice habits when he still demolished every game?
Muttered toward the close of the track are a few of his enduring lines: "I'm supposed to be a franchise player. Listen, we talking about practice. Not a game!" The somber tone of the track—which comes from the idling East Coast house synths that the Haus Of Altr crew has come to be known for—leaves behind questions as to what exactly "practice" means to the trio. A missed call during an extensive tour? A life-altering set clashing with a relationship-altering Zoom date?
Tracks like this hint at the more lackluster aspects of navigating the competitive electronic music world. The isolation of touring, the stress of canceled flights and the horror of dodgy promoters all lie beneath the shimmering surface of the traveling artist's persona. A knowing rawness courses through "Pay Me," a song centered around a two-note melody and a grunt—the kind someone makes when they're feeling a beat or when they're threatening someone who owes them a check—and "Deep Breathing," which incorporates laborious panting over stark percussion. The crew taps dreamcastmoe to unleash his buttery falsetto above the ornate synths on the album's closer, "In My Bizness," where the fellow DC artist details the misunderstandings that come with having hoes in different area codes: "I just come around / When the money's in town / Shawty in my business."
Black Rave Culture Vol 2 makes one thing clear: if these producers are stellar on their own, they're unstoppable as a unit. Their vast scope allows them to highlight a wealth of Black electronic music genres with respect. Just listen to the lush, billowing pads caressing the club beat on "Moroccan Mist"—it's the sound of the crew reaching far and wide, and deep into a collective history—to produce something new and beautiful.
01. NEVER LEFT
02. CEREBRAL ATROPHY
04. MOROCCAN MIST
05. SOMETHING ELSE
06. PAY ME
07. DEEP BREATHING
08. SUB POPPIN
10. ISSA BOP
11. LONG DISTANCE DILEMMA (PRACTICE)
12. IN MY BIZNESS feat. Dreamcastmoe