The moment you read or hear the title of this record is the same moment you come to realise that the artist behind it means to leave her mark. Unyielding and yet playful, expressive with a reserve of ‘more to come’ and the duality that makes this record most powerful is the link between the present and the predecessor. The Tragic Mulatto EP offers an indelible insight into Breezy, who helms her debut EP with majesty and touches of madness.
The first voice you truly bear witness to on this record is Nina Simone. She is waxing on the definition of freedom in her low lyrical tones while Breezy’s mood-setting melodies hum a unison of identification. The present and predecessor. Enter ‘Low Power Mode’, an anthemic swell of a song, the refrain of which is a highlight of the entire EP. Backed by stark keys and a simple but ever-satisfying drum groove the song is a vehicle for Breezy. She streams a consciousness that is frustrated by depressive tendencies, anxieties, injustice and prejudice. The admittance of having been in ‘low power mode all year’ is matched by ‘I think it’s time to switch it up to high gear’ and herein lies the struggle at the centre of this record. Like all well structured arguments and essays, Breezy states her conclusions at the beginning in a song replete with imagery and examples she will return to throughout the record.
Along the journey, we meet interlude words from James Baldwin, Mat Johnson, Samantha White and more from Nina Simone. Breezy offers a lush vocal hook on Fuhhhed Up, while she offers perspective on the ‘complicated’ fact of being mixed race. Exploring the post-colonial conundrum of being drawn from both oppressor and oppressed, Breezy zones in on colorism. The reflections run deep. The song ends with Breezy catching a break from the difficulties, getting at some homegrown green to clear those blues.
As the record continues, the blues, RnB, hip-hop, motown soul and even smatterings of pop all make appearances on the record. While the record is predominantly couched in what many listeners would consider hip-hop, it clearly marks a variety of pathways that Breezy may take going forward. Take ‘Get Ready’, pushed along by an organ bassline and warm, natural claps, Breezy gives her higher ranges a run around and offers something of her playful side. There’s something of Diana Ross’ ‘I’m Coming Up’ here, a statement of arrival and intent to take space. In that space, Breezy demonstrates a cultural honoring and her pointed political intelligence.
On ‘Queens’, the vacuum of governmental power left in the rise of the multinational technosphere finds Breezy crooning, almost desperate in her apathy. She still remains resolute. She passes through the refrain ‘You don’t even care about us’ and eventually turns to giants of the African-American community. ‘Thank goodness for all my queens, Billie, Nina and The Supremes.’ Solace in community, heritage and rhythm is her answer.
More direct political messaging can be found in ‘Welcome’. A dark trap-infused tune with a clear cutting vocal performance. Breezy systematically deconstructs America, the concept and the reality, with flow patterns reminiscent of an early Eminem. ‘Welcome to America, the home of the brave/ where we pop pop black folk every day’ – it is perhaps here where Breezy is her most unyielding. The song is after all prefaced by an interview conducted by James Baldwin in which he discovers the man he is talking to was first arrested at age 8 years old for talking to a white girl. Breezy’s response is rightfully direct.
With a haunting synth-line and a central bubbling bass as the backdrop, Breezy hits some classic RnB vocal melodies on ‘Do Better’. The songs central thesis is summed up in its unforgettable chorus – ‘White people you can do better, do so much better’. Even here, in the most playful song on the record, Breezy is unfailing in her nuanced approach to discussing race. The patronising tone of the hook is cut through with some cutting critique: ‘Ask yourselves why you’re shooting us down/ try to pretend to you care’. The entire song is heavy with a haunting, almost uncomfortable feeling that underscores how difficult it is to say these things and yet Breezy treats the topic with humor and without hubris.
‘Too Many People’ closes off the album. Its warm acapella beginning, its slow layering of luscious blues vocals, its harmonic movements, its simple and potent refrain ‘I’ve got too many people bailing on me’, its whispery adlibs, its calm step rhythm and then its switch up. When the song unexpectedly samples itself and becomes a patchwork collage of Breezy’s opening vocal the song blossoms from a hymnal blues ballad to an outright celebration. Using the natural timber of toms, spacey clap sounds and slow soaring additional vocals, the song ends simply feelin’ itself, representing its uniqueness and honoring that in rhythm.
The entire cycle of feeling that runs throughout the album is represented as a microcosm in this song. With a single vocal running the span of its tireless 4 minutes and 16 second length, the tune is a ballad and an anthem in one. It is unyielding yet playful, expressive with a ‘there’s still more to come’ and links the predecessor to the present with poignancy.