Title: (american) Fool
Artist: Jerry Quickley
Label: Temporary Whatever
Formats: Digital (MP3, FLAC, etc. available via Bandcamp)
Release date: February 16, 2018
Jerry Quickley is no stranger to taking risks and producing avant-garde depictions of his experiences. During his career as a performance poet, scholar and journalist, he has been a visiting fellow at Stanford University, where he developed his groundbreaking theatrical work Through the Looking Glass. He served as foreign correspondent for Pacifica Radio Networks in Iraq, which laid the foundation for the documentary Beats for Bagdad; his project Whistleblower (commissioned by Philip Glass) debuted in Europe at the Amsterdam Dance Event in 2016; and he wrote and produced the film Vampire Wars (2016), a fictional account of post-Civil War America. Quickley currently hosts a Los Angeles radio show, This Is Happening, discussing contemporary politics, arts and culture.
His latest offering, (american) Fool, is a collaboration with Los Angeles rapper and beatmaker Busdriver, who is also the producer. Two other L.A. musicians, Mike Ladd and Jevin Lamar, add their own flair to selected tracks. Quickley’s MO is raw from beat one of the album’s first single, “Colonist.” The song is multi-representative from the perspective of two brothers, during the mid-colonizer period, who theorize on their positionality within the system. As he states to Alex Albert Ross of Noisey, “Initially I conceived it as a duet between two brothers, both colonial soldiers, who were filled with regret at the horror of their work, writing old school snail mail letters to each other, from vastly different spear tip points of some horrific global colonial operations. But after my first verse, it takes a turn and goes somewhere else with the martyrs, big and small. Then Mike Ladd comes in with his verses and they take the track even farther out in some ways. But in the end I think that maybe, somehow, we might have accomplished a drunken time travel version of my initial idea of a conversation between two brothers, both trapped and being used as spear tips in a colonial nightmare.”
Other offerings, such as “Passenger” and “A.I.,” showcase Quickley’s masterfully crafted storytelling. He spins lyrical, mystical tracks addressing some of the most socially conscious issues relevant to modern day. Not to be missed is the short narrative, “Prep School,” featuring Jevin Lamar, who discloses the all-too-familiar story of discrimination within the educational system. While Lamar offers no solutions, the track still impacts through its gritty honesty.
Quickley is no fool, American or otherwise. He clearly knows how to bring together a diverse collection of topics, dropping them against Busdriver’s driving beats, and turning them into a creative project to be methodically analyzed over and again. With each play of (american) Fool, Jerry Quickley’s message resonates more poignantly than ever before. In times like these, music with that ability is nothing less than a work of true art.
Reviewed by Amy Aiyegbusi