Muhsinah is nothing short of a marvel. In the past six years and change, she has traveled the globe backing the likes of Raheem DeVaughn and Common, landed a coveted spot as a star pupil at the esteemed Red Bull Music Academy, and received a Grammy nod and exaltation from virtually every demigod in the pantheon of left-of-center black music. And in the midst of all this, she’s managed to independently release some pretty amazing critically acclaimed solo material. So it’s understandable if you’re a bit alarmed upon hearing a dirty south snap music beat for the first four bars of “One,” the opening cut from her latest offering. But have no fear. Muhsinah steers clear of Soulja Boy/ Weezy features on the brilliant six-track Gone 2XEP. But trust that she’s always game to buck tradition.
As a knee-jerk refutation from conventional digital music distribution, the D.C.-based wunderkind offers up Gone as a double EP – a nod to the configuration of double-sided vinyl albums and cassette tapes of yesteryear. In a concept somewhat akin to that of Bloc Party’s 2007 effort A Weekend In The City, the duality of the EP exhibits a keen dichotomy of the metropolitan existence: the inner city and it’s more cloistered outlying areas. Side one (aptly titled Urban) finds her contorting contemporary hip-hop and R&B production practices in a sublime house of mirrors with a decidedly electronic approach. Muhsinah equates the surreal experience of being chosen by the object of her affections to hitting the lottery on “One.” Likening a tug of war of the hearts to the unpredictable ebb and flow of traffic, “Stop & Go” fittingly opens with a synth mimicking one of the most ubiquitous sounds of the city: a police siren. The title cut puts a moratorium on the fleeting affair as she admonishes her lover’s crocodile tears and draws a “chalk outline around this crime.” Falling in and out of love within the scope of ten and a half minutes must be one helluva drag.
On side two (Suburban), Muhsinah completely liberates herself from the torrid affair and its accompanying 8-bit Nintendo blips and bleeps. Further delineating the urban from the suburban, she unleashes the beast of her inner alt rock star with a clever variation on EP 1’s theme. “Down To 1” is an unabashedly guitar driven version of “One” with breathtakingly dynamic arrangements. The track bleeds directly into “Stop,” which takes a more affirmative stance on “Stop & Go.” The set closes with a buoyant dance rock version of “Gone” dubbed “Till I’m Gone” that would make Karen O jealous. The creative genius behind the Gone 2XEP is quite ambitious. Yet it succeeds by not being overly conceptual and letting the listener engage with the experience in an uncomplicated fashion. By adeptly illustrating the parallels and discrepancies between inner city blues and suburban angst with a fine tuned sonic palate, Muhsinah has once again proven that her enviable talent is definitely multi fold.
-Rico a.k.a. Superbizzee