The freedom of people to express themselves stylistically as well as linguistically has allowed an influx of ideas and perspectives to have a stake in building and sustaining our generation’s Civil Rights Movement. While we could use our differences in religious beliefs, sexual orientations, academic backgrounds and socio-economic statuses to dismiss one another, music is working as a medium. Music is promoting unity, conversation and challenging our thinking. It’s giving our movement a drumbeat to march forward to.
The Black Opera is apart of that sound off, a creative collective co-founded by Michigan natives Jamall Bufford and Magestik Legend. A movement was birthed nearly 18-years-ago when the two met in a Detroit studio. The duo came onto the scene as hidden figures, choosing to hide their identities in order to make the statement: Art is all that matters.
Jamall and Magestik recently released their fourth Album, African America, which is timelier than ever. The album’s verses interrogate our place in America, while covering topics such as gentrification, black masculinity, matriarchy, black family, relationships and black America’s unfavorable relationship with the police. It’s the story of a generation who feels lost and unwelcomed in their place of birth.
Thankfully, the album doesn’t leave us wondering what the solution is. The call to action is clear: build a new home, or mentally relocate. The Black Opera’s co-founders unmask themselves in an interview with Okayplayer, where they share what it means to be a black artist in a Trump’s America, discuss their latest album African America and the future of the collective which today includes the voices of those from Nigeria, Uganda, France and the U.S.
Okayplayer: How long were you all working on the African America album?
Jamall Bufford: The writing only took three weeks in July of 2016. But the recording and mixing process took us a while because I was in Michigan and Magestik Legend was in California. We completed it officially in October of 2016.
OKP: You refer to the Black Opera as a campaign. Can you explain what you mean by that?
Magestik Legend: Well, the campaign I guess that’s on the other side that is the business part. The campaign is basically the duration of the African America release. You know we operate as an imprint as a label as The Black Opera, but we are also a collective and a group. So we have a lot of different sides other than the artist side. We have the business side. So when we were planning on dropping the project the campaign starts building up and then you have like the release day singles, this, that and the third.
Depending on the project it could be anywhere from three months to like a year. I think really, I think Rihanna is still pushing singles from her album from last year. Her campaign has been maintained. It depends on the budget with us. We usually drop projects that have a message connected to it. So it’s not just about how popular the album is or how many fans we get or anything or whatever awards we get. It’s more so about getting the music through to as many people as possible. If it pays for our service OK cool, we love money, but we don’t think like we need to sell more if our numbers aren’t looking right, you know what I mean?
It’s more so, how can we get this to South Carolina? How can we get this to California? How can we get this to Georgia? Like let’s get it out there. We’ll be pushing this project until March. This was like an end of the year release that dropped on November 11th. So we are going to push this project out until March probably until we stop talking about it.
OKP: Going back, can you tell me how the Black Opera came about?