Funk Spirit Rising: Georgia Anne Muldrow and Dudley Perkins' Dueling Soul Excursions
“Every few minutes, another plane full of people who just finished praying and are on their way to seek pleasure or work or home are leaving Los Angeles. That’s a lot of energy and focus and spirit passing closely by [Dudley and Georgia’s home] in such short intervals.”
— Quaze, member of their SomeOthaShip movement
Inside the two-story home, studio and record-label headquarters that Georgia Anne Muldrow, Dudley Perkins and a small circus of children share, everything is green, especially in the sitting room. The walls are smooth and hushed, a welcoming, gentle green embracing a couch that stares out onto a few Inglewood blocks somewhere between 100th and 110th streets.
The large picture window offers a view set on high, and (in between the muted rumblings of LAX’s comings and goings) the sound of someone mowing one of the many well-manicured lawns reverberates in the room. Perkins wears a green T-shirt that claims “Marijuana cures racism.” In any other room, Muldrow’s shirt might appear gray, but here, it hues the day’s dominant color. The couple’s 7-month-old son is sitting on Muldrow’s lap. He’s a different kind of green.
“If you can’t catch inspiration from something that’s just green, something that grows out of the ground and doesn’t talk — like a tree — then I just don’t know,” she says. “I found out that green is one of my colors. Green is the heart chakra — that’s the loving. I can understand whoever assigned the colors that green is the heart chakra, because green is the Earth, and the Earth is loving.”
There is good reason for the new-life symbolism, even beyond the little man who was birthed in a tub down the hall less than a year ago. After each of them released albums on indie-rap darling Stones Throw — the same label responsible for their love-at-first-sight introduction — Georgia and Dudley are readying the launch of their SomeOthaShip Records by dropping two solo albums on July 28. And they’re also finding new creative grounds.
With Holy Smokes, Perkins has found the happy middle ground between his rapping persona (he was once known as Declaime) and the D’Angelo-on-spacecrack warbling that has defined the releases under his government name. Holy Smokes is his first solo album without Madlib behind the boards, and is as focused a work that his weed intake could possibly allow.
On Umsindo, Muldrow’s second full-length offering, she’s searching out the world’s roots with a spiritual journey into the planet’s ancestry, one powered by her live-instrument production, powerful rapping and incandescently wafting vocals. She did the production on Perkins’ album, and Perkins seems to be spearheading the movement’s urgency. The combination forms a foundation with goals beyond just making music.
“I feel like, coming to this planet, I had a purpose,” Muldrow says. “I was lucky enough to not forget it too much. I might’ve fallen back on those obligations at certain points in my life, but there was no point where I didn’t know what my job on this Earth was. That’s the guidance that my ancestors provided for me, speaking to me in my dreams or through nature ... the gift of insight at an early age, being able to read at an early age, those things were gifted to me, I didn’t have to struggle with those certain things, you know? Even my sense of rhythm isn’t mine.”
An intrinsic spirit-channeling is definitely present on Umsindo (which translates from Zulu to mean “sound”). “Later Lauryn Hill” might be a common critical touchstone once Umsindo makes the review rounds, but Muldrow, a.k.a. Ms. One, isn’t searching for anonymity the way Ms. Hill seemed to be, because Muldrow hasn’t been blessed/cursed with Grammy success. Her soundscapes aren’t in opposition of her critics or the pressures of fame but of the world’s evils at large. And it’s that stance — along with what Perkins calls “that musical zone” — that has her recording with Mos Def and Erykah Badu, while lesser-known (but-still-known) emcees squabble over her beats.
“It was an inspiring thing because the week that [Mos Def asked to remix her song ‘Roses’ for his new album], I stopped calling myself broke and started to follow certain spiritual laws one must observe in order to call oneself successful,” she says. “You can’t cancel out all the resources from the divine realm, which are trying to help you. I’m very inspired by what energies can be brought in through cleansing the bad habits and negative energies toward myself. Or directed toward what I think about myself. And that’s the most inspiring thing, because that’s what ‘Roses’ is about: finding happiness from within.”
While Muldrow talks and holds their son, Perkins silently positions the tape recorder toward his partner. Occasionally, something piques his interest, but it’s rarely one of my questions. Rather it’s the games that 7-month-old infants like to play. This is a stark contrast to the Perkins from a few hours before, when he was smoking a blunt with Quaze in his “office.” There, he couldn’t keep quiet. From the grandiose goals of SomeOthaShip and battling Xzibit over the rapper/actor’s own beat in the mid-’90s to Perkins’ disappointment with some of his higher-profile friends for not helping out their less-fortunate mutual friends, the emcee/crooner speaks a mile a minute in uninterrupted monologues.
Several years older than Muldrow, he’s battled addiction, and survived a regretted military commitment, the literal manifestation of demons, and more baby-mama drama than anyone would wish on their worst enemy. While Muldrow seems completely devoid of self-detriment, rage or anger, Perkins still has his moments. There’s heat in his voice when he discusses the sparse attendance at an old friend’s funeral. But it mostly manifests itself in the healthy competition of the hip-hop true school: He thinks he’s the best emcee ever (and gets a little peeved because the world doesn’t yet see it). Yet, even with the anger, he’s a far cry from the man who practically berated Peanut Butter Wolf at a dinner party (in front of a certain journalist in 2006) until the Stones Throw label-head left early. It was around the time that Stones Throw was preparing to release Expressions (2012 AU), and Perkins wasn’t happy with his album’s marketing. He doesn’t drink anymore.
“A lot of people say that my music is dark because I talk about some of these [apocalyptic] things, but I’m just open to the possibility of 2012,” Perkins explains, perhaps unaware that 2012 is about to be a movie starring John Cusack. “I’m open to the positive possibility of a cosmic shift ... if there even is anything. If there ain’t, there ain’t.”
“What I see is a complete dismantling of that European structure, know what I mean?” Muldrow offers. Her stepfather is the Rev. Michael Beckwith, best known as the teacher in The Secret book and film, while her mother is Rickie Byars-Beckwith, a recording artist and musical director of the Agape International Spiritual Center in Culver City. “I don’t really see it as the end of the world, although some people would consider [the fall of Europe] the end of times. I see it as the dismantling of European philosophies because they’re too immature to flourish. And then people can just get back to a natural state of being. It’s just fact. It’s almost like, if I had a child, and then he’s telling me what to eat. It doesn’t work that way. This world is very old, and it’s only a recent reality of not having clean water and air.
“That number rings in a lot of people’s hearts, for whatever reason, and it’s been documented throughout history that certain things could happen then,” she continues of the year 2012. “There’s a lot of fear behind it and there are people on this planet with melanin in their skin, and it keeps them in kind of a confused state, so they can’t help to keep building the universe. I have a feeling that something is definitely going down — or maybe something is going up.”
Kind of like an airplane.
Umsindo, (SomeOthaShip Records)
Holy Smokes, (SomeOthaShip Records)
Editor's note: The original version of this story contained an editing error. It was Dudley Perkins who wore a green T-shirt that read "Marijuana cures racism." We regret the error.
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