Wax Poetics Issue 61: James Brown / Curtis Mayfield
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- Paid in Full: Fred Wesley did his second stint with the James Brown Band during the Godfather of Soul’s rebirth in the 1970s. Here, Wesley reminisces about their seminal and best-selling record, The Payback, which can be seen as a hard and cold metaphor for social justice.
- The Message: The Impressions were up and down on the charts for a decade, depending on the creative inspiration of its songwriter and lead vocalist Curtis Mayfield. The final three increasingly sociopolitical charttoppers he wrote for the group—“We’re a Winner,” “This Is My Country,” and “Choice of Colors”—would lean more towards Black Power, alienating some fans and radio stations, but would set the tone for his incredibly important solo work to come.
- Golden Child: After releasing his first mixtape, 2012’s Nehruvia, at only sixteen, New York phenom Bishop Nehru arrived as a fresh voice laced with erudite wordplay and a penchant for classic beats. With his EP strictlyFLOWz the following year, he grabbed the attention of MF DOOM, resulting in their recent collaboration, 2014’s NehruvianDOOM. As he prepares his solo album, with Nas on board as executive producer, the old-soul poet is poised to help bring the art form back to New York.
- The Champ: In an arena where MCs seldom have extended careers, Wu-Tang’s Ghostface Killah has increasingly improved through two decades after his 1996 solo debut, Ironman. His use of cryptic slang and his gift for spinning complex tales leaves an unmatched legacy—one that’s still growing.