McKinley Dixon calls himself a bridge. A reissue of the rapper’s 2016 mixtape, Who Taught You to Hate Yourself?, ushered genre expanse at petite tape outlet Citrus City, which introduced modern indie acts Crumb and Camp Howard previously. In September, Dixon’s work marked another milestone:
“I’m the first person to say ‘nigga’ on Saddle Creek [Records] – not only the first black person and the first rapper,” announces the Maryland-raised performer. “Nobody has said it’s not true.”
The artist’s union of jazz and rap, aligning orchestral complexity with free-flowing ease, landed on a two-song 7-inch for Saddle Creek’s Document Series. Produced by experimental Chicago emcee NNAMDÏ (Ogbonnaya), first track “Anansi, Anansi” invokes a sharp storytelling character from West African folklore. Known to Dixon since childhood, the figure inspired his current gig as an evocative story-gatherer.
“It’s really not that hard to listen to people. The key is just remembering everybody’s names and pronouns,” explains Dixon. “But, I try to find the nuance. I’m not trying to be a bowl; I’m trying to be a filter. Am I really hearing it, or am I just listening?”
Many carefully sifted tales weave on Dixon’s second album, The Importance of Self Belief. With some 30 collaborators, horn-embellished instrumentation supports the lead’s measured lines on police brutality and other violent ideations. The project grew from his current home of Richmond, Va., where he came across frequent house shows and a band of pro jazz players after relocating for college.
“Before moving, my extent of black lives was just black masculinity,” says Dixon. “This community here – that I found, and made, and became indoctrinated in, and found love in – showed me there’s more. All these albums are an exploration of that.”
Tue., Dec. 10, 9pm