Is This Rap’s First Performance Art Group?
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because you’re hungry for what’s next in thoughtful music.
By Rozena Crossman
It’s the kind of song that makes you stop whatever it was you were doing to make sure you heard correctly. Is it Pavarotti? Is it hip-hop? No, it’s the Black Opera.
Made up of various individual artists but headed by Magestik Legend and Jamall Bufford, the Black Opera soars through genres with a wide musical wingspan. Based in Detroit, they could be rap’s first performance art group, changing costumes during concerts to channel the identities that different songs represent. Their mission is unity: to unite music and to unite people through music. Considering that their fans range from Deepak Chopra to Snoop Dogg, it seems they’re succeeding.
“The Beginning of the End,” featuring Georgia Anne Muldrow and directed by Jay Brown, was the first video from their latest album, The Great Year. In it, they hide behind simple sunglasses as they wax lyrical about the Black Opera experience: “The Big Bang, mushroom cloud BOOM / Shift change, switch it up New Costume … The crowd move like the ground move, Pangea / You better of tryina join us ’cus you can’t beat us.” Although they don’t broadcast their live shows on YouTube, the description is accurate: They begin one avant-garde piece, and as the dust settles from the fusion of new sounds, a completely different performance begins while the crowd flows as one to their rhythm.
While the performers switch from trap masks to dashikis onstage, the constant in the Black Opera’s equation is the inspiration from social and political issues. In their music video “Villains,” which Snoop Dogg chose as No. 1 on his show Underground Heat, the lyrics about cyclical street violence are mirrored by a child in a makeshift cape gathering “treats” from the bad guys that pollute his neighborhood. Their single “Talking Revolution” takes on the hypocrisy of the Internet Age: “This shit we own be so backwards / we just hashtag and then that’s that / we a Black Panther when it’s all caps / then we fall back when it’s calm after that storm.” Their topics are as varied as their music, which helps them engage a diverse audience. “Black is not an ethnic reference,” insists their website. “Black represents the combination of ALL colors, races, creeds, ideas and concepts. WE are ONE.”
Already free spirits, the Black Opera recently broke off from Mello Music Group, the independent label based in Arizona, to expand their creative abilities even further. “We are no longer bound by contractual obligations,” says Magestik Legend. “We are expanding the TBO movement by finding, signing and grooming new talent. We are here to give a platform to those unseen. We are here to give a voice to those unheard.” The rupture may have actually been the end of the beginning as the musical collective matures and grows bolder.
- Rozena Crossman, OZY Author Contact Rozena Crossman