On my first impression, Young Fathers‘ Cocoa Sugar is both a perplexing and compelling listen. Billed as a rap group, the Edinburgh, Scotland trio of Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole, and Graham ‘G’ Hastings really don’t quite fall into that category. Sure, there’s a few raps scattered throughout the record, but the their sound is hard to classify, with elements of gospel, pop, R&B, and many more influences to be heard. Their message is just as challenging, prominently featuring themes of religion, relations, and race (Massaquoi and Bankole both hail from Western Africa, and settled in the UK). I came across the group a little while back, from their phenomenal collaboration with Massive Attack, and was curious to hear more. Cocoa Sugar, their latest release, is one album which has caught my ear from the jump. Where do I even start with this record? It’s punchy, ambitious, and a bit enigmatic, flowing from one topic and vibe to the next with ease. Cocoa Sugar is forward, complex, and consistently engaging. It’s experimental, but also fairly approachable, with some great grooves and a few hooks to be found here and there. There are moments of fun, moments of elation, moments of darkness, and moments of deep contemplation to be found here as well. It’s a fascinating trip.
“Turn” is one of my favorites from the record so far. Delving into ideas of identity and change, this track has our protagonist resisting change and vowing to stay who he is, mentioning the struggles of being the other in a world where his identity is challenged daily. He excoriates white supremacy and white privilege, assuring the majority that they are false idols and stating that he’ll never change to be like them. It’s a burner.