As race issues take center stage in America, Bobby Sessions turned the lights up to the max and handed them a microphone. The Dallas legend signed with Def Jam Recordings hosted a listening party Thursday night at Alamo Drafthouse Cedars for his first EP with the record label, RVLTN: Chapter One: The Divided States of Amerikka.
The Divided States of Amerikkka, a collection of politically aggressive, angry and frustrated tones brings, forth what Sessions calls "the conversation from the barbershop." It's a bubbling, boiling stew of emotions that he intends to grab by both hands from the confines of secluded black culture and pour down the shirts of the majority as a wakeup call.
Each song pulls back to an energy of uprising, seeking to identify the bonds that hold black America down. With Sessions' iconic vocals that reach deep into his well of frustrated pain, he often pulls these emotions to the surface in their raw form. No one knows this disparaging state better than Sessions, and he understands the nerve that he may be drilling into with this high-energy root canal of a series he plans on dropping.
"I'm prepared for death threats, hate mail, the whole nine," Sessions says with his usual tone of calm collection.
One listen to the EP, and the message many in America fear comes into clear and gory focus. Sessions paints a picture of America that we all know too well but are often more than happy to sweep under the rug. He portrays himself with a noose around his neck chasing a police officer in his music videos accompanying the EP.
"Having a noose around your neck, it puts perspective on you real quick," he says.
The EP covers a serious topic but doesn't neglect finding home in humor. The song "Black Neighborhood," featuring tracks from rapper Killer Mike, draws its inspiration from a Dave Chappelle skit in which the the comedian recalls a time when his limo driver took an unexpected detour through a the ghetto. Sessions layers Chappelle's line from the skit "gun store, gun store, liquor store, gun store, where the fuck you takin' me!" with lines of his own, speaking about how some black neighborhoods appear to be endless rows of liquor, gun and shoe shops.
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Sessions appears to take some catharsis in writing his songs. He speaks about a group of slaves who revolt and kill their master in his polarized two-part track "Unchained." A tricky and often shied-upon subject begs the question how his record label reacted to the idea.
"People tend to soften their message [for a label]," Sessions says. "I am not going to put my message to the side. I'm going to do the opposite of that."
Sessions' in-your-face attitude earns this album a serious look through.
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"I say the things everyone is thinking," he says. "The things that are taboo. I am not concerned with the consequences, and I think a lot of consumers can live vicariously through me."
His new EP is certainly many things, but it hits hard in more ways than one.
RVLTN is set to follow with more chapters in the future, containing parallel messages to The Divided States of Amerikkka. Sessions also plans on going on tour sometime in September.
The EP is out now.