Fitting then the trio Sa-Ra Creative Partners fourth release Nuclear Evolution: The Age of Love, has been one of the most highly anticipated offerings for this year.
Nuclear Evolution. The Sa-Ra Creative Partners installment coming in with 23 tracks featuring many of their creative partners, most famously Erykah Badu, whom the trio offered both production and writing credits to New Amerykah. Nuclear carries their signature ebb and flow through various genres with a verve that’s pretty much on a wavelength of its own. As usual Sa-Ra does as only Sa-Ra can, donning the mask of mythological griots spinning tales that are one part intellectual, one part spiritual, one part hood – and in sum maybe all parts sexual.
Taz: Love is information, love actually is knowledge…
Clutch: So for those that don’t know, and to quote the album “Who the F*$% is Sa- Ra?”
TAZ: Sa-Ra. We are sex. Sex is creativity. It is life. Its the human story –
Om’Mas: Well I wouldn’t say that.
TAZ: Well, its how we got here.
Om’Mas: Hmm, right then.
TAZ: Wow, yea unified, ultimate unity.
With tomes of SRCP material already in existence (Second Time Around, The Niggertron Galaxy/Dark Matter & Pornography Mixtape, and The Hollywood Recordings) Nuclear Evolution, is by no means a lazy listening experience. While it doesn’t necessarily require you to “listen to it multiple times for it to grow on you”, it does require your brain to be engaged. Wordplay is sometimes tongue in cheek, other times flat-out explicit and yet never really comes off distasteful. Eroticism and sexuality have been central driving themes to Sa-Ra – for those unfamiliar with the trio, it will be a love it or hate it listening experience – and for those familiar, it will probably have you playing this album and revisiting old ones all over again.
Clutch: So about the Niggerton Mixtape a.k.a Dark Matter and Pornography…what about Pornography?
Om’Mas: Fantasy. Folly. Playfulness.
Taz: Nothing. Its an empty act – it doesn’t lead to or ultimately produce anything. Its actually vanity -which is the root word from Vain. Which means useless, without purpose.
Om’Mas: Can I add one more thing to Pornography.
Om’Mas: ..A necessary beautiful thing.
This is probably one of the more revealing things about Sa-Ra as a creative group. No, not pornography. Between Shafiq being a prodigy of Afrika Bambatta and the Zulu Nation, Om’Mas’s extensive training and upbringing around some of the greatest virtuoso’s of music, or Taz Arnold’s etymological stripe and affiliation with arguably the best known hip-hop producer of late, Kanye West…Sa-Ra could easily create theoretically sound, cerebral, self-righteous, overindulgent songs. Or go the other end of the spectrum and create music soul less and solely for mass consumption. Instead here is a sonic experience that is genre bending, sometimes serious, other times playful… and most importantly, an enjoyable listen. Production wise the entire album is solid though obvious standouts are the Bossa Nova inspired Spacefruit complete with a bouncy-rhythmic-gyrating beat and Spanish lyrics, Dirty Beauty featuring Erykah Badu, Bitch Baby, Gemini’s Rising, Cosmic Ball, and the blisteringly bluesy Just Like a Baby. Sure the method to Sa-Ra’s madness is about as esoteric as the construction of a pyramid – but that’s kinda the beautiful part of it all.
TAZ: This is like the everything 3 points coming together, this is where like if a person – the pyramid would represent your current self, your future past and present selves . . . None of us are any one thing, and without recognition of that you have an incomplete pyramid, which will crumble. Because we all have different dimensions to ourselves – the pyramid is the completion of all those things. Sa-Ra represents three individuals coming together, who are complete pyramids within themselves.
Shafiq: Thats it . . .Its the bringing together of everything, trinity – totality.
Clutch: Ok so the Niggerton mixtape –
Shafiq: – Actually its Niggertron. Do you know what that is actually?
Clutch: I came away with the idea it was like a planet, or more less really a state of mind.
Shafiq: Right, yea kinda see. It was actually a misprint, its printed in places as “Niggerton” but its really NiggerTRON. You see “tron” is like is like a program, and basically that mixtape was us saying we’re coming to deprogram you off all that thinking.
Clutch: So this in a way relates to what Taz was saying about “love” being information? Self love is being self informed, if a niggertron is self informed, he loves himself and can no longer be subscribed to “nigger” programming.
Shafiq: Basically, that mixtape is saying you have to realize a fuller mentality to escape that mindset.
Taz: But yea see the thing about the misspelling is “ton” is demeaning, like Simpleton – you were probably thinking like “what’s wrong with these dudes – why niggerton?” – but it actually was meant to be a statement about the whole mindset.
Om’Mas: Right is that whole thing about people being trained to think they can only be one thing, so much to the degree that if you do attempt to try to master more than one thing, they’ll demote you and call you a “Jack of All Trades”. We refuse to accept that.
Clutch: The album packaging is effectively in the color of Neon Bubblegum and Electric blue eels – so where did the concept for the album art sleeve come from?
Om’Mas: We actually came to the picture with those exact colors to our designer and said whatever you do, just use these. We’re not micromangers or anything, but we definitely wanted to work within the feeling those colors evoke.
Clutch: So then its safe to assume that your designer is part of your creative partnership?
Om’Mas: Oh definitely, he got his badge already. That’s the thing, we’re not just one thing. We’re a consulting firm, we’re a business, we employ people. Taz is marketing director for a fashion agency. We would be stupid to limit ourselves to one thing – we have customers in a variety of creative fields – because that’s essentially who we are a service driven partnership, and provide creative services for a myriad purposes.
Clutch: So what would you say is the progression for the previous three albums into Nuclear ?
Shafiq: This album is about the beginning of building on oneself and pulling in all of those elements to completion. This album like anything else, we just wanted to perfect everything and refine the process even better than previously.
Om’Mas: The apex is where we are or at least strive to be – every time we create something we’re aiming for the apex. People think that when you get to an apex, that the only place to go from there is down – the only thing you can do after an apex is a negative. But that’s not true, we will reach the apex, and then crown it and what we create from that point will exist in perpetuity. Like when we reach an apex in album sales, we will never go down from there because its not even that in sales, but that our sound will perpetuate beyond the sales and manifest itself in other ways.
Clutch: What’s on Sa-Ra’s production cutting floor?
Om’Mas: Yea — umm, see that’s actually something we never do. That’s a term we don’t really believe in because it has a negative connotation in our view. We NEVER – nothing is cut. I know what you mean, but we don’t work that way AT ALL.
Clutch: Hmm. So I would imagine a better term would be repurpose?
Om’Mas: That actually is the exact word we’ve been using lately. We realize that what may not be for the moment should be disregarded for all eternity – its up to us to find the correct place for that work. Actually we do cut some things like things that are counter productive – like people for instance that just want to use us or our creativity but not for our benefit, those get cut out of the process real quick. If anything that we cut out of the production process, it is obstacles or negativity.
Taz: Right, positive forward movement – if anything that’s what our music is about.
Shafiq: One example is Gemini’s Rising which actually has 2 parts, we could have easily disregarded or separated, but the truth is there is another side to that in an upcoming release.
Om’Mas: Everyone Sa-Ra considers a Creative Partner is in effect apart of this sprawling atomic “thing”. The world has yet to see an actual Sa-Ra album, everything you’ve heard is representative of some form of work with individuals we love to work with.
Obviously I couldn’t resist engaging in a round of 6 degrees of musical separation. David Bowie, Bootsy Collins, or Madonna? Each one degree away via Iggy Pop who is rumored to be a collaborator on the next release Black Fuzz. Bill Cosby, Annie Lenox, or Tina Turner…each only a degree away from Herbie Hancock who made an impromptu session dropping by their studio. The late and sorely missed King of Pop. One degree via Will.I.Am. J Dilla? – see “Thrilla”. Basically, even a cursory view of their discography illustrates if the trio is not already of ubiquitous status within the insular world of music– its clearly only a matter of time before something they’ve done reverberates in your vicinity.
Sa-Ra’s work being one big musical puzzle, the downside of course to something so evolutionary is the average listener’s tendency to pigeonhole what isn’t conventional.
Clutch: What do you think about people often describing your sound as “futuristic”?
Om’Mas: I think people come to that because they don’t know how to classify what it is you do. Like none of those things we express are new, in fact I’d say we’re reaching back in our music.
Shafiq: I think people say futuristic, because of progression. Like I think the futuristic can kinda of work, because when I say create some music, I’m creating it as me – but I’m always me, and when I listen to it in the future it will be representative of me. But then again what I created was in the past, so how much of the future is it?
TAZ: But also people will say futuristic because you’re progressing things beyond what anyone else in your era is doing – or at least you’re doing something differently than anyone else – so then obviously people are going to say you’re futuristic, because you’re moving things where they haven’t been before.
Clutch: And where should we look for this new release?
Om’Mas: Basically there shouldn’t be anywhere people are going now outside of the obvious places to get our music. There was a time when you had to go searching for our music, but truth is because of the agreements iTunes and Ubiquity are the some of the best places to get our music. Because they give us our money. We’re at the level that people who do want to work with us, know our worth and then there are those who just want to work with us and are willing to give us what we deserve.
Shafiq: Yea we’re almost at the point of consolidating where our music through one of the social networks.
Clutch: And what’s next? Any tours or stuff?
Om’Mas: Might as well put it out they’re wer’re confirmed for Sunset Junction in August, it’s a festival where about 20,000 people come out. You can go to the itenerary and see us there as well.We’re going to do a College west coast tour series, a mixture gigs and a lecture master series.
Clutch: So literally living proof of the Badu track “Master Teachers”?
Om’Mas: Only this will be Sa-Ra Academy, we in our own school of teachinig which is what we plan to do on this west coast college tour – and y’know you really with our music in general.
TAZ: The whole TI$A crew, all the people who’ve supported us worked with us.
Om’Mas: My daughter Nunet, all our creative partners, and those who have worked with us, my moms, oh Badu right? My brothers in Sa-Ra, who’ve been my kindred spirits in this process.
TAZ: Yea that’s right I definitely would like to show my appreciation to my two brothers, even though we haven’t seen each other since…like last nite [chuckles]
Shafiq: Zulu Nation, my brother’s in Sa-Ra, Badu, our Creative Partners…just the whole of humanity y’know?