To be honest, I haven’t always been a huge fan of Georgia Anne Muldrow. Like her partner (or “husfriend”) Declaime/Dudley Perkins, she’s always been someone I’ve admired for pushing the boundaries of soul, hip-hop and everything in between–but who sometimes goes too far out for mere mortals to follow. Seeds, however, marks a radical departure for Muldrow, mainly as it’s the first album on which she’s ‘reduced’ to vocal duties, handing over production to Madlid (hey, if you’re not going to do something yourself, you might as well get one of the best out there to do it for you). And thematically, she’s come down to earth with a bump. Seeds is a politically and socially charged album from start to finish. In fact, I’d be so bold as to venture that it’s a record that might mark as significant a sea change in her career as What’s Going On for Marvin Gaye.
Muldrow has always been a very spiritual artist, and Seeds is far from being a 21st century version of What’s Going On, but like Marvin’s opus, it marks a switch up in her game by asking pertinent questions (“People look around you, what do you see? Children going hungry, pain and misery.”), raising issues, touching the soul, providing some dope, dope music to mull over and is propelled by a righteous anger at the state of the world.
The tone is immediately set by the title track, a kick-ass tune full of “right on” messages and a spine-tingling vocal from Muldrow. The theme of seeds, trees and the future is one that runs through the LP, but the fundamental message of Seeds cuts through any metaphor, no matter how simple – we are all unique, we are all equal and we all matter. As the tragic death of Trayvon Martin shows, it’s a message that is (sadly) as relevant in 2012 as it was in 1971.
Seeds is as musically impressive as it is lyrically. Madlib is in fine form – “Seeds” comes hard and “Kali Yuga” is a neck-snapping monster, while “Best Love” shows he can do slow jams too. Almost every track is an instantly recognisable Madlib production, which is to say, it’s full of his trademark smoky hisses, breaks and bass-heavy beats. But like his vocal counterpart, on Seeds ‘Lib displays a focus and tightness that he’s lacked in the past. The way he flips the funky opening of “Calabash” into a brooding, bassbin-troubling joint is the work of a master beat conductor at his best.
But ultimately Seeds is all about GAM. She gives her vocal chops full reign, filling every song with power, skill and soul. She scats, she growls, she howls, she floats ethereally above a bassline (quite an achievement, given her low vocal register). Freed from production duties, she pours herself into her voice and her lyrics, giving a vocal performance that drips feeling and firmly establishes her as a singer to be reckoned with. Seeds probably won’t turn out to be as significant as What’s Going On but as a record for these troubled times–and as a personal achievement by Georgia Anne Muldrow–it’s still huge. This is what’s going on in 2012, and you’d better tune in.
– Will Georgie