Arts and Culture

Album Review of (IN)VISIBLE MAN

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Published 05/13/2020 | Reading Time 17 minutes 59 sec 

By Nehemiah D. Frank 

TULSA, Okla. — On April 14, 1952, African-American author Ralph Ellison unapologetically released his National Best Seller, Invisible Man. TIME Magazine ranked his book in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels. The work follows the motif of the everyday African American experience. Issues of social justice joined with discussions involving Black intellectual thought are the emphasis Invisible Man provokes within its readers; it challenges them to think more critically. 

Social justice has always been one of the drivers of the Black art world. Whether it is literary or musical, narratives of the African American experience always find ways to spring up and blossom through the arts. It’s Black people’s way of coping while encountering the system in this section of the diaspora.

Dr. Stevie (Dr. View) Johnson’s latest hip-hop mixtape follows the same Blueprint of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man but in musical form. (IN)VISIBLE MAN serves as a physical, artistic coping mechanism and entertaining device for the culture. TEDC Banner AdIt’s infused with social justice messaging, which ride above melodic beats; it timely arrives after the shooting death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, whose murder was made invisible for nearly two months until Black America arose and made the unarmed Black jogger visible, even in his death.

The closeted tears of Black boys’ cries are delivered on this musical record through a collaboration of local artists, mixers, and producers. Dr. View is the project’s executive director. Black intellectualism is the synergism for which this recording has evolved and now speaks to the culture. 

While appeasing the passionate rage that Black men carry, the album also showcases the growing cultural evolution of Hip Hop’s affirmation of the Black woman and its acceptance of their black same-gender-loving (or LGBTQ+) brothers and sisters.

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That’s to say — it’s refreshing to listen to cisgender, heterosexual Black men publicly recognize the intersectionalities existing within our own Black community. 

The album unconventionally begins with a piano and violin duo that harkens the nostalgia of an old Black hymn. While listening, I couldn’t help but think of the coded messages Black enslaved people were communicating amongst each other — songs that encouraged them to keep their heads above water and focused on the promised land.  

I have never reviewed a musical album. And although I’ve had a past career in entertainment, I do not consider myself a professional in this industry to the likes of an A&R. Therefore, I base my entire review not solely on sound and lyrics but on how my lived-experiences connect me to each track and how the artists and album make me feel. Does it make me feel included? And off the jump (IN)VISIBLE MAN made me feel affirmed, lit, nurtured and called to action. 

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Signup for Dr. View’s listening party here.

The Album Review

(IN)VISIBLE (Musicians: Am’re Ford) — I love the warm nostalgic feeling I get from listening to this voiceless track. It’s our history, present and future. RATING 8 

[(INVISIBLE: (A. Ford, S. Johnson, A. Estes) Arranged by Am’re Ford: 1974 Roman Teller Violin & Steinway Grand Piano Recorded by Jerrel Jackson at The Drum Shop Recording Studio. Tulsa, OK. Mixed & Mastered by Jacc Spade at Mary’s Kitchen Recording Studios. Tulsa, OK. Sample(s): I Feel Like a Motherless Child (Public Domain) & Goin’ Up Yonder by Walter Hawkins & The Love Center Choir. All Rights Reserved.]

CUT DEAD (Artist: think.progress) — This track is relevant to our present times as Ahmaud Arbery is the latest victim of the system of White supremacy. The line “Black boys are denied the right to be young,” was a punch to my gut because, as an educator, I have seen far too many boys possessing characteristics of alpha males of households. There’s a lot I can go into about that, but this isn’t the space for it. As I mentioned before, the entire album provokes its listeners to think deeply. Besides the unapologetic truth about Black boys spilled through the lyrics, the samples are dope. RATING 9 

[CUT DEAD: featuring think.progress (C. Patterson, S. Johnson, A. Estes) Produced by Dr. View Recorded by Jerrel Jackson at The Drum Shop Recording Studios. Tulsa, OK. Mixed & Mastered by Jacc Spade at Mary’s Kitchen Recording Studios. Tulsa, OK. Sample: Stop Taking My Love by The Mellow Moods. All Rights Reserved.]

SWISH (Artists: Thomas Who? & 1st Verse) — I like the self-affirmation I feel from this track. It’s incredibly empowering, and the music coupled with the samples are dope. This is one of the many chill songs on the mixtape. RATING 8 

[SWISH: featuring Thomas Who? & 1st Verse (R. Thomas, D. Clark, S. Johnson, A. Estes) Produced by Dr. View Recorded by Jacc Spade at Mary’s Kitchen Recording Studios. Tulsa, OK. Mixed & Mastered by Jacc Spade at Mary’s Kitchen Recording Studios. Tulsa, OK. Sample: Stop Taking My Love by The Mellow Moods. All Rights Reserved.]

PSALMS 23 (Artist: Dr. View) — We can’t disrespect the Psalms, so I’m just gonna rate this spoken-word piece a 10 and keep it moving. LOL! I don’t want my grandma slapping me from her grave for not giving it the highest rating. RATING 10 

[PSALMS 23: featuring Dr. View (S. Johnson, A. Estes) Produced by Dr. View Recorded by Jacc Spade at Mary’s Kitchen Recording Studios. Tulsa, OK. Mixed & Mastered by Jacc Spade at Mary’s Kitchen Recording Studios. Tulsa, OK. Sample: Stop Taking My Love by The Mellow Moods. All Rights Reserved.]

EARL BOSTIC (Artist: Spunk Adams) — The saxophonist is the shit and is a nice transition to the next track. RATING 9 

[EARL BOSTIC: featuring Spunk Adams (R. Adams, S. Johnson, A. Estes) Arranged by Spunk Adams: Julius Kelwerth “The New King” Recorded by Spunk Adams in Spunk Adams’ crib. Oklahoma City, OK. Mixed & Mastered by Jacc Spade at Mary’s Kitchen Recording Studios. Tulsa, OK.]

OPEN EYES (Artists: Thomas Who? Tony Foster Jr., St. Domonick & M.C.) — I love the jazz and smooth beat of this track. The words are packed with thought-provoking energy. That theme is woven throughout the entire album. The line that stood out the most: “for every black body that scattered the ocean”. My favorite line, “what is the meaning of all this?” RATING 9

[OPEN EYES: featuring Thomas Who?, Tony Foster Jr, St. Domonick & M.C. (R. Thomas, T. Foster, C. Fletcher, M. Crockett, S. Johnson, A. Estes) Produced by Dr. View Recorded by Jacc Spade at Mary’s Kitchen Recording Studios. Tulsa, OK. Mixed & Mastered by Jacc Spade at Mary’s Kitchen Recording Studios. Tulsa, OK. Sample: My Love Don’t Come Easy by Jean Carn. All Rights Reserved.]

GIMME DA ROCK (Artist: Written Quincey) — Written Quincey has done a TEDTalk and is a genius. Period. I only hear prophet and truth-teller when he delivers his spoken word. RATING 10  

[GIMME DA ROCK: featuring Written Quincey (J. Robertson, S. Johnson, A. Estes) Produced by Dr. View Recorded by Jacc Spade at Mary’s Kitchen Recording Studios. Tulsa, OK. Mixed & Mastered by Jacc Spade at Mary’s Kitchen Recording Studios. Tulsa, OK.]

MAKIN’ EM MAD (Artist: Jacobi Ryan) — This is one of my favorite tracks on the album. I think it has lasting power. The repetition of “makin’ em mad’ makes the song memorable. After all, who doesn’t want to make their enemy envious of what they have and at what they’ve accomplished? It’s where the phrase “You Mad” comes from. The ending is triggering, though. If you’re Black or come from a marginalized community, you’ll get it instantly. Then again, with mass shootings in this country seemingly on the rise, we may all be triggered by the ending. RATING 10

[MAKIN’ EM MAD: featuring Jacobi Ryan (J. Isham, S. Johnson, A. Estes, K. Lane, O. Devers) Produced by Dr. View Recorded by Joey Sative in Jacobi Ryan’s Room in Oklahoma City, OK Mixed & Mastered by Jacc Spade at Mary’s Kitchen Recording Studios. Tulsa, OK. Sample: Dedicated to the One I Love by The Temprees. All Rights Reserved.]

CUT DEAD AGAIN (Artist: think.progress) — I love the spoken word of this track. RATING 9

[CUT DEAD AGAIN: featuring think.progress (C. Patterson, S. Johnson, A. Estes) Produced by Dr. View Recorded by Jacc Spade at Mary’s Kitchen Recording Studios. Tulsa, OK. Mixed & Mastered by Jacc Spade at Mary’s Kitchen Recording Studios. Tulsa, OK. Sample: Soulsides by Art Farmer. All Rights Reserved.]

SAM FLETCHER (Artists: Beety, Hakeem Eli’juwon & Steph Simon)  The musical sample is dope AF and the rappers sound great. I’ll point out that Steph Simon is a musical icon in the region. You can really get to know him through his lyrics. Beety and Hakeem Eli’juwon both flow well. But the words, again, are where I pay the most attention. Being from Black Wall Street, I loved the Dick Rowland plug. RATING 9

[SAM FLETCHER: featuring Beety, Hakeem Eli’juwon & Steph Simon (W. Beatty, E. Pigg, S. Simon, S. Johnson, A. Estes) Produced by Dr. View Recorded by Jacc Spade at Mary’s Kitchen Recording Studios. Tulsa, OK. Mixed & Mastered by Jacc Spade at Mary’s Kitchen Recording Studios. Tulsa, OK. Sample: Soulsides by Art Farmer. All Rights Reserved.]

RIVERSIDE (Artists: Steph Simon, Soufwessdes & Parris Chariz) — This track is unique because it’s so locally focused; everyone can relate to the track. The music is excellent, and the lyrics are vivid. I also think the flute and the bass guitar are a great touch to the track. Again, Steph Simon is on the track. I’m a fan of his, so I’m probably biased. RATING 9

[RIVERSIDE: featuring Steph Simon, Soufwessdes & Parris Chariz (S. Simon, D. Jacobs, P. Hoskins, S. Johnson, A. Estes) Produced by Dr. View Recorded by Jacc Spade at Mary’s Kitchen Recording Studios. Tulsa, OK. Mixed & Mastered by Jacc Spade at Mary’s Kitchen Recording Studios. Tulsa, OK. Sample: The Bottle (Original 12 inch Version) by Gil Scott-Heron. All Rights Reserved.]

’93 ROCKETS | ’88 COMPTON (Artists: Soufwessdes, Thomas Who? & St. Domonick) — “I’m on the wave baby,” Damn! The tone of Soufwessdes’ voice and the way he delivers the hook, coupled with Thomas Who? & St. Domonick’s lines give this song staying power. I’ve actually listened to this song multiple times. I like it. And I think it’s probably my favorite of all the tracks because it makes me want to get lit. RATING 10

[’93 ROCKETS | ’88 COMPTON: featuring Soufwessdes, Thomas Who? & St. Domonick (D. Jacobs, R. Thomas, C. Fletcher, S. Johnson, A. Estes) Produced by NOLO Recorded by Jacc Spade at Mary’s Kitchen Recording Studios. Tulsa, OK. Mixed & Mastered by Jacc Spade at Mary’s Kitchen Recording Studios. Tulsa, OK.]

(W)RIGHT BROTHERS (Jacobi Ryan & Deezy) — The “3/5th-of-a-person reference is a powerful reminder of how far we’ve come as Black people. The title is a unique playoff the word/name, but the lyrics explain the why for the title. It’s another deep track with great music. The chorus reminds me of D9 strolling music, the kind of hit I’d hear at an HBCU on the yard “I’m hit, Nigga I’m lit…” I won’t give to much away, though. It’s an excellent sounding track, too. RATING 9

[(W)RIGHT BROTHERS: featuring Jacobi Ryan & Deezy (J. Isham, J. Curd, S. Johnson, A. Estes, M. Cox) Produced by Dr. View Recorded by Jacc Spade at Mary’s Kitchen Recording Studios. Tulsa, OK. Mixed & Mastered by Jacc Spade at Mary’s Kitchen Recording Studios. Tulsa, OK. Sample: Harlem River Drive by Bobbi Humphries

PINE ( Hakeem Eli’juwon) — Here’s a track that I think everyone in a Black community, anywhere in America, will love and appreciate. To me personally, it reminds me of Juneteenth on the lawn in the summer. The lyrics and sound of the voice of the artists are the conversations I’d expect to hear from my brothas in the community. It’s just that real. I also think it has a cross-generational appeal, mainly because of the music and beat. RATING 8 

[PINE: featuring Hakeem Eli’juwon (E. Pigg, S. Johnson, A. Estes) Produced by Dr. View Recorded by Jacc Spade at Mary’s Kitchen Recording Studios. Tulsa, OK. Mixed & Mastered by Jacc Spade at Mary’s Kitchen Recording Studios. Tulsa, OK. Sample: No Long Conversations by Eddie Kendricks]

EVERY PRESIDENT (Dialtone, Beety, Chris The God MC Cain & Keeng Cut ) — The soulful sound of this track is also nostalgic. The sampled voice reminds me of that Black auntie who just felt something — like she’s responding to something profound you just said. Mmm Mmm Mmm! RATING 8 

[EVERY PRESIDENT: featuring Dialtone, Beety, Chris The God MC Cain & Keeng Cut (A. Andrews, W. Beatty, C. McCain, K. Lane, S. Johnson, A. Estes) Produced by Dr. View & Chris The God MC Cain Recorded by Jacc Spade at Mary’s Kitchen Recording Studios. Tulsa, OK. Mixed & Mastered by Jacc Spade at Mary’s Kitchen Recording Studios. Tulsa, OK. Sample: Runaway Love by Linda Clifford]

CUT DEAD ALWAYS (think.progress) — This track spoke directly to my soul and is why I wrote the lead into this album review the way that I did — because Black women and Same-Gender-Loving (LGBTQ) people have too often been invisible within our own community. I appreciate the voice and musicians that architected this and included our plights on this track. RATING 9 

[CUT DEAD ALWAYS: featuring think.progress (C. Patterson, S. Johnson, C. McCain, A. Estes) Produced by Dr. View & Chris The God MC Cain Recorded by Jacc Spade at Mary’s Kitchen Recording Studios. Tulsa, OK. Mixed & Mastered by Jacc Spade at Mary’s Kitchen Recording Studios. Tulsa, OK. Sample: Runaway Love by Linda Clifford] 

My overall rating for this album, which again is my first, is a 9 out of 10. The album has multiple tracks that have lasting power, which I’ve read — is one of the most essential things A&Rs and record executives listen for when determining if a track makes the final cut for albums. It is for that reason that I highly recommend (IN)VISIBLE to the culture. I found that I can listen to the entire album straight through without feeling the need to skip tracks, which is a credit to the artists, musicians and mixers who put this special collection together. 

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