Negro Galacticus’s eponymous debut album is probably one of the funnest albums no one has ever heard. Boasting a truly original combination of garage rock, funk, reggae, afropunk and hip hop, the album’s smooth guitar work, laid-back grooves and dense yet nimble rapping made it one of my personal favorite releases of 2015.
Now, 3 years later (to the day!), Negro G has finally dropped their sophomore record, Negroes With Telepathy, or N.W.T. for short. Though the opening chords of first track “Funky Hydraulic Monster” may bear a suspicious resemblance to those of Negro Galacticus opener “Getting Ready”, N.W.T. soon reveals itself to be a different beast entirely. The most notable change here is the addition of keyboardist Peter Godart- his playful, jazzy style exerts a huge influence over the record’s sound. Thanks to Godart, Negro G is even more chilled-out this time around, yet somehow just as energetic and funky as ever.
The tracks helmed by guitarist/singer Steve Francell are certainly no slouch (Closer “Vato Mamba” has an intriguing Latin flair to it, plus a killer guitar solo), but the true standouts are the tracks featuring emcee extraordinaire Roddre Spears. His flow is pretty much unimpeachable throughout, and his bars are so packed with pop-culture references, clever braggadocio, and off-kilter one-liners that mentally unpacking the whole thing on first listen is nearly impossible. Spears shows off his full powers on the 6-minute “Lioness”, a paean to a (potential?) significant other that makes hairpin turns from hilariously raunchy to genuinely sweet with effortless ease (come on, ladies- tell me “I’m more than just in love with you/I’m in 90-second hugs with you/I’m in cancel classes, ’cause for you there is no substitute” doesn’t just melt your heart).
One unfortunate holdover from the last album is the rather weak production. To be fair, the truly abysmal drum sound of the first album has been remedied somewhat, and the raw sound gives it a certain charm, but N.W.T. is still far from being ear candy. It’s a shame, because while the writing and performances are strong enough to carry the record, some extra polish could have elevated it from “great” to truly “excellent”. This is a minor complaint, however, especially considering drummer Walty Kibby produced the album himself, likely on a somewhat limited budget.
All in all, N.W.T. is at least as good as, if not slightly better than, its predecessor, featuring both more nuanced instrumental performances and some of Spears’ best rapping to date. N.W.T. expands on Negro G’s strengths in unexpected and fruitful ways, and really, what more can you ask for from a second album?
(N.W.T. can be purchased for a MEAGER SEVEN DOLLARS here!: https://negrogalacticus.bandcamp.com/album/n-w-t)