Race is a touchy subject, especially here in the good old U-S-of-post-Obama A. And, try as they may, most folks just can’t really exorcise their real (or imagined) cultural demons in one star-spangled sitting. It’s difficult. And I’m not saying that listening to the debut of the blackest Punk/Rock/Rap/Metal/Experimental multi-generational band known to the current American music scape–The White Mandingos The Ghetto Is Tryna Kill Me–is necessarily going to solve that, but it sure does come close. Close in the sense that Tyrone White, the album’s fictional protagonist, lives out a slew of black/white complexes, shortcomings, struggles, and accomplishments in 16 genre-bending (1 bonus) tracks that stir up even the most sanitized room of racial politics
Comprised of Los Angeles MC, Murs, legendary Bad Brains bassist, Darryl Jenifer, and author-slash-god satirist, Sacha Jenkins (full disclosure, also the Editorial Director of Mass Appeal), The White Mandingos are nothing short of light-bearers for the dimly lit phenomenon known as the North American ghetto. In the particular case of their debut album and title track, that place is a low income, poverty-stricken cesspool that’s remarkably well-prepared (with firepower, one way tickets to correctional facilities and poisonous fast food) to annihilate kids like Tyrone White.
But let’s not get it twisted, The Mandingos aren’t about a polarized perspective either, i.e. “blame whitey for everything.” Nah man, this thing’s bigger than that and, like this review, shock value’s a great tool when followed up with a message. Murs says it best in “Black N White” when he asks “Does this sh*t sound black? Does this sh*t sound white? Can it just be sound? Can that be alright?” Lines like that let me know that the message The Mandingos are really sharing with their music (apart from inspiring cats to live out their true artistic dreams) is to challenge the listener’s experience to question the social constructs of environment and race beyond their obvious limitations. That and several important life lessons about the dangers of record deals (“Warn A Brotha”), running the block (“King of New York”), rising about self-hatred (“Mandingo Rally”) and unpaid taxes (“Wesley Snipes”).
Depending on the racial, geographic, and historical proficiency of the listener, The Ghetto Is Tryna Kill Me is a sonically-diverse ride through some genuine and possibly uncomfortable terrain that utilizes music the way it was meant to, as a platform to express, challenge, and inform. It’s the opposite of conformity. It’s real. I’ve been digging it for a while and as far as the finished product goes, I still do. Any black music project that covers Minor Threat’s (a white hardcore band) “Guilty of Being White” just to mess with your noggin’s sense of racial perspective is more than good in my book. The message is clear, both black and white suffer
Hats off to The Mandingos for putting out an independent album that makes people of all colors question the validity of 2013 racial politics and celebrity culture. While the hypebeasts are watching for Kanye’s cryptic and avante messages, I think I’ll bank on some tried and true old school lessons instead. New slave, old slave, no slave, the story of Tyrone White via The Ghettos Is Tryna Kill Me is something that I’d like more coherent music listeners that’ve read this far into the review to really consider supporting and bumping.
Cop the white vinyl double LP + download via the Fat Beats online shop.