Philadelphia artist Moor Mother, born Camae Ayewa, is known for combining the sounds of free jazz, post-punk, hip hop, and a free flowing lyrical approach that tackles racial strife in a bold and direct manner. Her 2020 collaborative record with Armand Hammer’s Billy Woods, Brass, was an instant classic and the free jazz experiment, Circuit City showed Ayewa as one of the best genre bending artists in recent times.
Black Encyclopedia Of The Air is her latest effort, and one that draws the most from hip hop. Perhaps it’s the artists she surrounds herself with on this record, most notably New York rapper Elucid and L.A. based Lojii, that influenced the sound, but this is an LP chalked full of catchy beats. The collision of jazz, hip hop, and spoken word comes out as downright sinister.
The opener “Temporal Control Of Light Echoes” is overtly ominous with Ayewa’s distorted voice performing the mantra, “After all this madness”. “Obsidian” is a short but pulsating track that features Pink Siifu. “Tarot” harnesses the sounds of artists like Alice Coltrane, building in ambient chaos to a climactic finale.
At its core this is protest music, carrying the torch of Sun Ra’s vision of pairing the revolution with free jazz and poetry. The creative juxtaposition in lines like, “Blackface democracy/ Slave house Senate”, plays as a darkly comedic commentary on modern politics.
This can be a challenging listen at times, both for its unflinching portrayal of our country and history, and for its menacing tone. The record is a convention of the hip hop underground, bringing some of the best from across the country. Ayewa’s artistic scope on this record is about as wide as can be, and it certainly pays off. This is truly something visionary.
Black Encyclopedia Of The Air is out on Anti- Records