Poetic and uniquely positive reviews have been consistently coming through the airwaves for Spilligion, Spillage Village’s latest creation. The Atlanta collective’s (consisting of Mereba, EarthGang’s Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot, JID, 6lack, Benji, Hollywood JB, and Jurdan Bryant) major label debut soundtracks 2020’s last leg and gifts the community a project with its heart truly in mind. This project has been on repeat for me this past month because it’s an example of creatively releasing emotions and discussing trauma, while criticizing the current state of the world. What can be heard on Spilligion is the passion of each member and contributor, especially during these turbulent times. With each listen I am picking up sounds I have never heard, different lines are sticking with me, and I am emotionally affected in more complex ways—which is a powerful characteristic of Black talent—in witnessing this experience through different perspectives. By discussing a couple of major themes of the collective’s fourth album, I want to shine a light on Black art doubling as timestamps, for us, for years to come.
The wordplay of the project’s title foreshadows the church and religious motifs that are evident throughout. We begin with the church skit: wise elders trying to put the young folk onto some knowledge. Beginning the album with this gives us that familiar sense of community and also shows us how, as a people, we have always been connected to the church. We can dive deeper into the metaphor, when we think about the countless amount of extremely talented Black musicians who have gotten their start in the church as well; and when we think about how much the community cherishes gospel, religion(s)—Christian origins, and family. It’s clear that the members of Spillage Village are no stranger to these themes. “I pray for my family/I pray about money, I pray about money (money)/I pray about peace/I pray it’s all peace, I pray about peace/I pray it’s all love (JID with the chorus of “Ea’alah”).” There would be no religious motif without the mention of prayer and its power. The project never shies away from discussing what Black people face daily. There’s quite a lot of praying to be done these days—in the midst of a pandemic, during an overwhelming election year/season, as police brutality remains an issue, as the world burns. The world has ended many times by the hands of white supremacy. “End of Daze,” the album’s lead single, expresses a feeling of impending doom, with the artists offering thoughts and advice for these last days. The chorus is hauntingly relatable:
“It’s the end of days, end of times/My, oh my/Up in a blaze, you can’t hide (Can’t hide)/Why oh why? All the kids afraid, momma cries/God packed His bags and said, ”Bye-bye”/God packed Her bags and said, “Bye-bye”/Why, why, why?“Doctur Dot, JID, Mereba, Johnny Venus
One can look at the constant tragedies, all that we see on the news, the current state of the world and truly feel as though God is no longer listening. Tying back to the religious motif with doomsday/apocalypse as prophecy, I commend Spillage Village for posing difficult questions and creating work that calls for further thinking. It is natural to question faith (question life itself) when so much death and destruction unfolds before our very eyes. We are reminded that we all feel lost in this fear of the unknown, what it feels like to not have any answers or solutions for the world’s problems.
Black death at the hands of law enforcement in a country that promises liberty and justice for all is the type of cruel irony that Black Americans are used to. It looms over us—seeming so unavoidable that we have to constantly change our daily practices in hopes that it’ll somehow make a difference, or that we’ll be spared even if it’s for just another day. The murders of innocent Black men and women captured during the months we’ve all been confined to our homes this year? Far from isolated incidents. The exhaustion and hopelessness that we’ve felt is what we’ve been feeling long before the rest of this country has “woken up to social injustice.” We’ve been protesting, and will continue to protest until there is reform.
“Police, they beat me, we storm the same streets/We storm the same block, won’t stop ’til we free… Baby, I’m a king, I’m a god, a thug/My verses will live if I die from slugs.”Johnny Venus on “Baptize”
Black artists have been putting our reality on wax for decades, and it is a real shame that the same trials and tribulations for us in this country right now mirror those of the past in far too many ways.
Music— Art itself, by Black creators (and creators in other marginalized groups) is crucial. There’s a pattern that has existed with a major part of oppression being the erasure and rewriting of truth. Our art will act as primary sources for future generations, and our documented experiences hold more power than we can fathom at the moment. Projects like Spilligion tell our stories. As the world seems to end, burn, crumble all around us—there is a rebirth on the horizon, especially for the people who’ve been subject to this country’s greatest evils. The work of this collective feels familial because they recognize the importance of storytelling, it transcends rap by crossing genres, is political, and states a very clear message as we face a system. This fight—ancestrally taxing, indefinite, and undeserved. Still, we live as protest. Life, and living, as rebellion.