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“I am not beautiful to you/ You do not see me when you show off your glamour/ I am just a color to you/ You do not make room for my advantage.” So begins Not Just A Body, the debut EP from Afrovelvet & Nate G. (ski), self-released this week, featuring production by FYXSB£ATS. It’s a stunning and engrossing work, showcasing the duo’s confident voice, firm message and effective psychedelia. In an era of legal weed but illegal travel, Not Just A Body encapsulates our national and local cognitive dissonance.
Not Just A Body is first a collaboration, bringing together the creative presentation of Afrovelvet—an ongoing multimedia project lead by Malissa Wilkins—and the street-smart non-sequiturs of D.C. emcee Nate G. (ski). And while the overall theme of the piece is black empowerment (and lack thereof), Not Just A Body is more contemplative than aggressive, and provides an accurate picture of what activism looks like today. It’s a conversation: Wilkins opts for a more metaphysical narrative, focusing on poetic expositions and esoteric descriptions; while G. (ski) is more direct, grounding the project in day-to-day reality.
On “Future Babies,” the EP’s second track, Nate expounds: “We need less rappers and more scholars/ Less ballers and more farmers/ Less credit and more dollars/ Less sex without condoms/ and no debt for fucking college.” These words read like a lucid commencement speech, but in his cadence, drenched in delay and reverb, have a trippy, dreamlike quality, which leads into Wilkins’ closing lines. “Unravel what’s disguised as a gift,” she repeats, leaving listeners to discern what that gift is, and on what thread to pull to uncover it.
Together, Afrovelvet and G. (ski) make a potent mix, urging for a better future while recognizing our current limitations. The EP’s closer—“Black Twitter”—discusses the importance of self-sustained communities within the Black empowerment movement, comparing the insularity of Black Twitter (the name given to Black culture on the popular social media network) to pre-segregation towns in the South. Without giving too much away, “Black Twitter” finds strength in the past, and provides a framework for how Black Americans can overcome in the future.
Not Just A Body is an assured debut from two rising stars in the D.C. music scene. While these three tracks will remain in rotation in the weeks and months to come, hopefully they have more tracks up their sleeve. Lord knows we need it.