Bucking tradition like a Bronco under the cockiest cowboy’s weight, media powerhouses like Mara Brock Akil, Salim Akil and Ryan Coogler are using their convictions to bring superpowered Blackness to mainstream big and small screens. Daring us to remember the future, a new dawning of Black superheroes is upon us. And it looks and feels real good. It sounds good too because we can now add Karreim Riggins to this list of culture crafters.
August Greene – the band he’s comprised of himself and fellow Super Soul Heroes Robert Glasper and Common – does sonically, what Akil and Coogler do visually: combine mighty forces that rescue us from the evil soullessness of the world.
As if the brilliance of each man in this super group weren’t enough to guarantee grooves that stick and stay, their debut track, “Optimistic”, has them teamed up with champion songstress Brandy. Her buttery tone is a golden lasso we happily succumb to.
August Greene’s Sounds Of Blackness reprise remains a souled-out celebration of resilience and motivation. Only a few moments into the song and we’re quickly reminded of the magic Robert Glasper and Brandy make when they link up. There’s a tonal and emotional depth she explores in Glasper infused waters. This go ’round, her vocal command honors the sadness bubbling under the lyrical surface and it’s captivating. Coupled with Common and Karreim’s impossible-to-ignore tattoos on the songline, “Optimistic” is sophisticatedly adorned and poised for showing off.
The B+ directed short film for the song is a stunning vehicle for it’s haunting beauty. Filmed in Mississippi during the Martin Luther KIng Day weekend, it features cameos by respected notables the likes of Dr. Cindy Ayers, Frankye Adams Johnson,Hollis Watkins and the Maddrama Performance Group. An inspiring message from Jackson mayor, Chokwe Antar Lumumba is particularly apropos: “We confront real challenges but it’s what we do in the face of those challenges that really defines who we are.” Woven with in-studio captures of the super group, B+ creates a compelling visual tapestry.
The mighty forces of August Greene understand the makings of good music. Their first collaborative work, “Letter to the Free”, was featured in Ava Duvernay’s documentary 13th and earned a 2017 Emmy for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics. Their debut album, scheduled to drop in March on Amazon music, is a soulful adventure we look forward to.