Jesse Boykins III and MeLo-X: Zulu Guru
“Schwaza” is German for “swag,” according to Jesse Boykins III. In actuality, it isn’t — “schwaza” isn’t a word and its only legitimacy stems from an Urban Dictionary entry that Boykins and his team made themselves. Along with his schwaza, Boykins says he’s been calling himself a Zulu Guru since he was 21, “before I really knew what I was talking about.” Now, apparently, he does. Sure, the listener still might not know how Boykins has ascended to this status, but who cares? Making sense of it would just ruin the fun, the mystery, the delightful zaniness. Teamed up with Brooklyn renaissance man MeLo-X, this hour of music ranges from world soul to futuristic hip-hop stylings to Afrobeat. It serves as a twisted answer to the question “What is Zulu Guru?” that is as entertaining as it is vague. The music may seem all over the place in points and it definitely isn’t a hip-hop album built on lyrical virtuosity, but the essence that comes through, an essence of cultures converging and barriers being broken, brings this album to a place of unexpected clarity.
Zulu Guru‘s flair for taking disparate sounds and molding them successfully into some strange amalgam of electronic beats and cultural tropes can be seen best on “Primal Chance.” Its smooth layers of both soul beats and hip hop attest to MeLo-X’s and Boykins’s skill as producers. Though it’s a term that is somewhat vague and at times misleading, “world music” is an apt description for the progressive, varied beats MeLo-X and Boykins III create. They lay on the electro-synth liberally and sometimes it sounds like something Dan Snaith would cook up. It never takes itself too seriously or makes any attempt at understatement.
The charisma of these two men flows throughout the album and manifests itself most irresistibly on the final track, “Schwaza Etiquette.” “This is crazy,” says Boykins. “It just all makes sense…This is the type of collective you’re gonna look back on 30 years from now and say ‘Wow, all these people existed in one space? That’s kinda crazy’” It is crazy ‒ it might be insane, actually. And I can’t help but agree and feel grateful to see these artists “in one space,” creating a futuristic world that’s defined only by its aversion to definitions.
MP3: Jesse Boykins III & MeLo-X “The Perfect Blues”
Buy: iTunes or Insound! vinyl