Title: Black Man in America
Artist: André Cymone
Release date: September 30, 2016
André Cymone is perhaps best known for his friendship and collaboration with Prince, a relationship that has been brought back into the spotlight since Prince’s death in April 2016. They grew up together in Minneapolis, and Prince even lived with Cymone and his family for a period of time. In high school, they formed the band Grand Central, along with Morris Day. Their collaboration continued well into their careers, with Prince penning one of Cymone’s 1985 hits, “The Dance Electric.” Cymone then took a 27 year hiatus from releasing new music, and in in 2014 dropped his last album, The Stone.
Cymone’s latest project, Black Man in America, is a short EP but it packs a punch nonetheless. The album is overtly political in nature, with the first lyrics we hear being “No Justice, No Peace!” The opening track, after which the EP is named, argues that unless you’re living it, you don’t know what it’s like to be a black man in America. The second describes a “Hot Night in the Neighborhood,” which takes on violence and police brutality.
The third track, “Black Lives Matter,” is where Cymone’s politics get a bit uncertain. Musically, the song is an acoustic, intimate, plea for humanity and black lives. However, towards the end of the song, Cymone includes the phrase “All Lives Matter,” which has been decried by many organizers as a way of derailing the movement, and an unwillingness to stand up for black lives when it really counts. Here, perhaps, it just signals Cymone’s optimism. The final song is a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Far from the slow Jeff Buckley version that is perhaps best known, Cymone’s cover is fast and uplifting—a fitting conclusion to a project calling for radical change and peace.
Reviewed by Allie Martin