- Release Date 2014-11-18
- Label Herb Records
- Catalog HR001
- Jeffrey James Franca
The evolution of this ensemble has happened naturally over the past year and a half. Having captivated audiences from coast to coast, and finished up their first full length record, it is clear that Congo, Haile and Flex are on the rise as a cutting edge musical force. The influences in the music are quite diverse. Congo's time as the drummer for Thievery Corporation has clearly had an affect on his ears as he continues to explore the downtempo, reggae mezcla, with an obvious hip-hop overtone to the over all musical composition. You will be taken through an array of sounds and rhythms, paying homage to the roots of music with thick layers of percussion, signature to the Congo Sanchez sound. Most importantly the band puts out a conscious message which is typically non existent in most of the music we hear these days.
The revolutionary music of the past was hugely instrumental in social progress and civil change. The group maintains that the general population needs to be reminded that the guard cannot be let down, and that artists must continue to use music as a tool for social awareness. In the words of the great Stevie Wonder, "Have we real come this far through space and time? Or is this just a vision in my mind." The current events of this generation are a confirmation that sadly, the progress is merely a mirage for the general blind comfort of the people. It is refreshing to see a young group of artists using their talents to portray a perspective that most are not willing to assume.
We want to thank all of our families and loved ones for the inspiration and support. This album is dedicated to all of the people in our lives that are no longer with us, and to the people and their families that have died and suffered at the hands of unjust brutality. Big thanks to Loren "LOLO" Lujen for the custom album art. Thanks to our musical families and anybody that we have had the pleasure of performing with along the way. See you on the road. One Love. Peace ~ Congo Sanchez
"Dealin' With This," the first full length from Congo Sanchez is an amalgamation of musical influences symbiotically continuing the unique sound achieved by producer and creator Jeffrey James Franca AKA "Congo." The album features the vocal talents of band members Flex Mathews and Haile Supreme, as well as special guests Mr. Lif, Ras Nebyu, and Brittany Tanner. You will even hear a small choir of the bands nieces and nephews featured on the opening cut, "Gentrified Children." Each song tells a different story touching on the real life experiences of the band. From the perils of life on the road, broken hearts and dreams, to deceased family members and political protest pieces, "Dealin' with this" takes it there in all directions. A refreshing, relatable presentation of word and sound, with a relevant, thought provoking message.
The first track titled, "Gentrified Children," brings the listener in close with a beautifully orchestrated introduction that sets the tone for the record. Once settled into the groove, the vocals enter with a mixed choir of familial youth, and the bands singers. The first lyrics are sung from the perspective of a child living in a world where gentrification is running rampant, and the beauty of variance and randomness is tarnished by a society on repeat, only finding comfort in that which is familiar. This message is further depicted by Flex Mathews' verse on the bridge section where he describes the affects of gentrification on his own neighborhood as he has witnessed it in Columbia Heights, Washington DC. The track finishes out with a blend of live and electronic beats accompanied by a rock solid bass line and a psychedelic wash of voices, dripping synths and organic sounds. An AM radio then tunes into the next song, paying homage to the vibrations in the atmosphere that pass through us everyday unknowingly.
"Are You Ready," introduces the soulful voice of the girl next door, Brittany Tanner. Brittany's vocals are longing for love and not just of any kind. She is thirsty for fresh culture, for love of time well spent, and feels as though her music can open the eyes of people blinded by her societies agenda. She wants desperately to give her love to somebody but struggles to find a like minded mate so she puts her energy into music in belief that following her passion will lead her to the true love she seeks. The verse recited by Congo, ties the message together and further calls out the mindless repetition of a society blinded by the dollar. The production on this song stands out with flourishes of jazz marimba, blended with an up beat two step dance beat. A deep approach to hip hop made to free your spirit on the dance-floor.
Track three is the first we hear from the bands singer, Haile Supreme. Since the inception of the collective, Haile, Flex, and Congo have been writing together, collaborating on new ideas, and reworking old sketches into fruition. "Stand Beside Yourself," is a brand new collaboration that features a fresh take on rhythm, paying homage to the bands love for dub style music. Haile's soaring vocal depicts a message of humility and understanding. A humble response to the various facets of our world that continue to condemn others who come from a different culture or belief system. In 2014 we have seen a resurgence of bigotry and a further separation of the people. This is supposed to be behind us as a society but the political agendas seem to be perpetuating this style of rule. A moment outside of thyself is what this song is about. A pure moment where all is seen for its true purpose not monetary or political value. Special Guest Ras Nebyu continues with a verse describing his process for which he achieves these moments in his own life, and the struggle that sometimes arises when he tries to stand beside his-self. Polished off with a blend of live and electronic sounds, the moments created musically in this track are equally as euphoric as that moment when you can truly remove and reflect.
"Love Lost," a collaboration between Congo and Mr. Lif, finds it's spot batting clean up on the record and does nothing short of knocking it out of the park. The song, based on a melody from Turkish Psychedelic Singer Kamuran Akkor, describes a journey in which a girl follows her heart all over the world in search for her lost love. She goes through physical and emotional perils leading almost to her death. Mr. Lif's vocals paint a clear picture evoking emotion throughout the verses. He presents many archetypal instances of love and shows his depth and wisdom with his creative approach. The beat on this track will take you back. Filled out with a hypnotic modal guitar, accompanied by an 808 holding down the low end, and just enough vintage synths to bring you to into outer-space and back, this song will find its way into your timeless folder for sure.
Track five, "Shadows Left Behind," continues on a subject we can all relate to, love. The chorus realized by Haile and Congo, describes the story of a couple torn apart by the tests of life, and the aftermath of feelings that comes with this experience. These days everything is visible through social media. This song is about being forced to see somebody that you once loved, move on, and live their life without you. The bands rapper/MC Flex Mathews captures the story and runs with it, lacing up a verse full of honesty and emotion describing the situation, feelings, and actions that one goes through when they experience one side or the other of this heartbreaking loss. Musically this track stands out with layers of MPC and Live drums, topped with beautiful vocal melodies that paint a clear picture of the moment at hand. The pain can be felt in the guitar playing of Colin Thompson, bringing a psychedelic-blues sound to the overall mix. His solos scream and cry with the emotion of the song connecting the various vocal sections. Ras Nebyu appears again with a verse describing a scene where his lifestyle of partying and denial puts his emotional recovery at bay but a reliance on his musical endeavors and a focus on his true gifts brings him back to a centered self. This is the Opus, the heart of the record.
The beginning of "Out on the road" sets the mood perfectly for the topic of the song to come. The band chose to sample actual voicemails that they've received over the years, to paint a picture of the different types of relationships that one may encounter when living the life of a touring musician. The chord progression on this jam is full of emotion with an old school driving house bass line. The band shows their skills in all directions featuring Haile's versatile voice on the intro and choruses, and the stellar MC work of Flex Mathews on the verses. This is the band as you will see them live in their pure form, as they have been for the first year of their existence. The energy level of this song is high, and the beat, an up tempo 4 on the floor with sounds of the brazilian underground, blended with the deep vibes of Chicago and Detroit. "Out On The Road" is a playful, polyrhythmic, dance masterpiece.
"Save Me From Myself," is an example of an old idea revitalized by the collaboration of Congo and Haile. Based on chords from Joy Division's "Love Will Tare Us Apart," this Haile Supreme original took new life when Congo adapted a downtempo mix of Bossa-Nova and Future RnB to the already soulful vocal. The story of this song is about a character from an old Outkast song. Sasha Thumper was a girl who fell victim to the void of drugs and felt lost in a society where drugs are the cure for drugs. Disease for profit. We all have our own vices and this song is about keeping yours in check and reaching out for help when you need it. Flex Mathews sums it all up with his verse. Ever conscious, Flex breaks down a perspective of his own once again hitting the nail on the head. His writing on this song does not stop at his verse. Flex wrote a spoken word piece that is recited by Brittany tanner that precedes his verse. These are the inner thoughts of anybody who seeks clarity and new skin. A prayer asking for strength and inspiration.
The albums title track, "Dealin' With This," stems from the original sessions where the band first started to collaborate. The song opens with a sample recorded on Congo's phone while he was sitting in traffic one day. He was listening to a program on first hand accounts of Japanese Americans during World War II, and their accounts of being segregated out of society and put into prison camps. This particular excerpt is a Japanese woman discussing her experience and that of an American "white boy" who's sympathy for the imprisoned Japanese Americans became to great, so he had to leave knowing that the society around him was not sympathetic towards the situation of the prisoners. Before Haile's vocal even comes in, the listener already feels the depth of this song. The chorus represents the disbelief that one goes thru when dealing with loss, tragedy, war or depression. The band has dedicated this song to all who have lost a loved one, and was inspired by the loss of the youngest in Jeffrey's family, his little brother Nicholas Toms Franca. The words of Flex on this tune hit very close to home when aware of the topic at hand. Coupled with Haile's pre-chorus chant and desperate vocal melody, the trio shines to the fullest on this one. The rhythm of the beat is very unique with the characteristic world percussion layers of Congo's productions. An atonal synth pattern and dense production style is representative of the chaotic feeling of a life out of control flying by without slowing down, and the strength that it takes to get back up to speed, merging back into the lane that takes you back to your path.
"Lament," is a sad but happy song that takes a refreshing turn back to the roots of music with the simple orchestration of voice and guitar. Written amidst the vast political crisis' of 2014, i.e. Russia and Ukraine, Israel and Palestine, American Police Brutality, Perpetual Classism and Racism, and Sexism to name a few, this song embraces the feel of a classic rock era protest piece. Calling it as he sees it, Congo comes to terms with the world but not without putting it all out there in the lyrics. A dark ponderous melody with a strong tension release, leave hope for life, and hope for death. Not glorifying either of the two, just being clear that one cannot exist with out the other.
The final and somewhat "secret" song is a 12 minute mediation of epic proportions. "Release," comes in three waves. The first, a heavy John Bonham style drum beat over a cavernous synth wash rising and falling with a natural improvisatory jazz feel on the drums. Congo displays his drumming skills but not with out purpose. Many times when life gets challenging music and the drums in particular have been very therapeutic for our society. This is Congo's release after mourning the various societal losses that he has witness as a young man. The drums call the spirits to possess the player, who then possesses the listener into a heightened state of being. Listen to the whole piece and you will feel the energy, the sadness and the anger that come along with these times of life. The second wave gets more violent and begins to rise and fall faster implying eye of the storm or rock bottom point where one realizes the only way out is up. Finishing out the song and album is a flourish of synthesizer sounds and Ginger Baker style drumming. Playing pure feeling and emotion of the moment, Congo's improvisation on drums brings the rhythm of life to the listener and sounds of the album to a close. A truly unique approach to sonic art glorifying a blend of many influences, organic, electronic and everything in between.