Kepla & DeForrest Brown Jr. reunite for The Wages Of Being Black Is Death on PTP, premiere “Black Icarus, Or Uncle Tom”

Kepla & DeForrest Brown Jr. reunite for The Wages Of Being Black Is Death on PTP, premiere "Black Icarus, Or Uncle Tom"
Cover art for The Wages Of Being Black Is Death

Liverpool sound artist Kepla and NYC spoken word artist/former TMT contributor DeForrest Brown Jr. have announced The Wages Of Being Black Is Death, their new album for PTP. The “cassette-only” project is their second release for the experimental NYC label/small press, the first being last year’s Absent Personae (read here, stream here).

The Wages Of Being Black Is Death, whose title to me evokes De La Soul’s Stakes Is High and whose spoken word at times evokes the Black Comedic language/lineage of Paul Mooney, finds the artists exploring “the literal social boundaries and categorical imperatives that are imposed upon black bodies in public spaces” and “having to exist in a world not made for us.” According to DeForrest, “My own personal experiences of feeling unwanted and monitored in supposedly diverse clubs and art spaces by supposedly liberal and inclusive White, White-passing and White adjacent people in New York led me to rethink how and why I felt like I should be in those spaces in the first place.”

Marking the occasion, Tiny Mix Tapes is excited to premiere “Black Icarus, Or Uncle Tom,” the latest single off the upcoming album. Stream it below, read the artists’ full statements about the song and album below that, and find a special bonus mix all the way down at the bottom of this post. The album, which is out “this month, soon,” can be pre-ordered here

From DeForrest Brown Jr.:

For me, I was interested in the literal social boundaries and categorical imperatives that are imposed upon black bodies in public spaces. My own personal experiences of feeling unwanted and monitored in supposedly diverse clubs and art spaces by supposedly liberal and inclusive White, White-passing and White adjacent people in New York led me to rethink how and why I felt like I should be in those spaces in the first place… I was and still am usually one of three (at most) black males in any art or club space at a given time. None of us speak to each other, and every White person shows signs of visible fear and discomfort in our presence.

“Uncle Tom” insinuates a kind of betrayal of one’s cultural heritage and behavior patterns, by even thinking that they could align with interests beyond the expected racial standards; but there’s also the flipside of the “Black Icarus,” the Kanye’s, the Dave Chappelle’s, the Jerrod Carmichael’s of the world who attempt to forge a path into spaces exclusively designed for the Whites and by the Whites in the name of pushing through the limitations of where a Black Body can go. I’ve found that in the end, like the Greek myth of Icarus, a Black Body is always left exhausted, defeated and humiliated, thinking that they should’ve never tried to go farther in the first place. This level of disappointment has been a defining issue in my life and career as a critic/artist.

From Kepla:

The record is situated in a summer of insecurity, I quit my job and imposed precariousness upon my life, in many ways an unprecedented privilege. In the mean time I’d been drawn to ballads, 80s new romantic and orchestral funk, quite sick of the abstract noise I’d laid my foundations on, this aesthetic collided with reigniting my correspondence with DeForrest. Our friendship began with academic kinship but since we realised ourselves as constantly compromised by having to exist in a world not made for us. Anyway, the West is fucked for as long as the upper class keep reproducing interns, “Black Icarus” is us trying to rediscover our soul, truly.

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