Review Summary: An excellent neo-soul collaboration with MadlibSans-hyperbole, Georgia Anne Muldrow is one of the most talented hip-hop artists today - voice, production, lyricism, entrepreneurship, she is the complete package. And yet, the closest she's come to a memorable performance is 2009's Umsindo, a record that far overstayed its welcome with too many interludes and a questionable amount of filler. Seeds is Muldrow's 6th try since then, begging for an answer as to how such a talent can fill 5 lesser releases within a two year span - seemingly without quality control of any sort.
On Seeds, Georgia Muldrow takes a step back and leaves the beatmaking to Otis Jackson Jr., aka Madlib. As producers, Muldrow and Jackson are not worlds apart, so the switch requires no adjustment on the part of the listener. That said, this is one dense and tight set, barely over half-an-hour in length, and it's definitely in contention for Muldrow's most focused, funkiest, and (somewhat ironically) personal release to date.
A silky sample from Where's The Concern For My People, by Philly soul group Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, immediately sets a conscious tone on the latest album from free-form singer Georgia Anne Muldrow. Produced entirely by avant hip-hop producer Madlib, Seeds is her first album as a vocalist on another producer's music. (Usually she self-produces.) It's a natural pairing; both artists grapple with the weight of history, Muldrow bluntly articulating the socio-political elements in Madlib's source material.
If you're given the task of trying to parse all the guises, collaborations, phases, and detours of Georgia Anne Muldrow's relatively young, relentless career as a singer and composer, well, good luck. This is an artist whose spirit of independence has scattered her presence over as many contexts as her psychedelic, jazz-inflected neo-soul sensibility can carry her-- an R&B auteur with a 24/7 omnipresence. You might've heard her on a Stones Throw compilation, or building the lush melodic backbone of Mos Def's The Ecstatic track "Roses", or forming a mutual-muse partnership with the off-kilter but sincere g-funk crooner Dudley Perkins, or sweetening up albums by Oddisee or Shawn Lee or Oh No.
A Madlib co-sign generally spells success. The famed multitasker, hip-hop maven and noted abuser of psychotropics works within a spacious wheelhouse, composing trippy futurist manifestos for everyone from MF Doom to Freddie Gibbs, De La Soul to Ghostface Killah. While Madlib’s solo work (2000’s The Unseen, 2003’s Shades of Blue) tends to be unwieldy, his newest pet project is wholly functional.
With her large afro, retro styling, and old-fashioned album covers, it’s easy to tag Georgia Anne Muldrow as a ‘70s soul diva who seemingly dropped through a crack in time, landing straight into the 21st century. There is indeed a touch of the Betty Davis about the funky California native, but labeling her as a straight retro revivalist would be a falsehood. For six prolific years now, Muldrow has forged one of the most singular careers in modern soul music, building an unusual discography of avant-garde jazz, scratchy record sampling, Swahili crooning, and eclectic collaborations—over a series of albums that often stretch to the near 30-track mark.
A refined musical palette assumes the need for a balance between mindless entertainment and artists whose output runs counter to mainstream influences. As fly by night profiteers frequently enter and leave our consciousness, it is the vanguard who employ a brave and nearly haphazard unwillingness to compromise their creative visions that are remembered through time’s annals. Production impresarios Madlib and Georgia Anne Muldrow (most recognized for appearances on Mos Def’s The Ecstatic and both parts of Erykah Badu’s New Amerykah series) are two such evolved figures beloved for disciplined approaches placing the root of their craft at a much greater premium than a quick payday.
By way of working with everyone from MF DOOM to Freddie Gibbs and Talib Kweli to De La Soul, Madlib has been the most prominent and versatile underground-rap producer since the death of J. Dilla. Georgia Anne Muldrow, meanwhile, is primarily a preternaturally talented L.A. singer whose career, between its neo-soul peaks (Early) and all-instrumental valleys (VWETO), has so many contours that she’s something of a musical nomad.
Mary Stallings A lot of artists are unsettled on principle; they are driven by the unreasonable idea that there’s something they ought to do or can’t do. The jazz singer Mary Stallings, a San Francisco Bay Area native, is in her early 70s and undiminished; she sounds like someone who knows and likes the precise dimension of her talent. She sang with Count Basie 40 years ago, before withdrawing from music for decades and coming back to it on her own terms, and since then her records have been worth seeking out.
The latest offering from the ultra-prolific Georgia Anne Muldrow marks the first time that the singer/multi-instrumentalist/producer/MC has been featured as a vocalist on another producer's music, as underground hip-hop uber-producer Madlib handles the production reins on Seeds. The titular opener samples Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes' Philly soul chestnut "Where's the Concern For My People?" a call to environmental consciousness, as well as a diss against controversial agricultural conglomerate Monsanto, setting the conscious vibe right away. As brilliant as Muldrow can be, compositions on previous efforts, like 2006 debut Olesi: Fragments of the Earth, had the frustrating tendency to end prematurely, while parts of 2010's King's Ballad meandered.