My introduction to McKinley Dixon was a little over 4 years ago in September of 2019 via the dual single Anansi, Anansi b/w Wit These. On my very first listen of Anansi, Anansi I knew that McKinley was a special artist, and him finding a home as an artist in my state (VA) also help put him on my radar after that.
McKinley released his newest (4th) studio album "Beloved! Paradise! Jazz!?" back on the 2nd of June and we here at OK-Tho just couldn't let this release not get covered. With that said, let's jump right into the review.
The album has it's tone set not in how cinematic the sound and aura is on the opener "Hanif Reads Toni" but in the overall picture being painted by poet Hanif Abdurraqib's reading of an excerpt from Toni Morrison's novel Jazz. Personal as well as post-war triumph and hopeful future societal triumphs are highlighted in the reading that we won't spoil any further for you.
The first traditional song "Sun, I Rise" features the soulful Angelica Garcia. We find McKinley is in disbelief of how he could mistake the many layers of warmth that the sun offers. The power from the source is what gives him the energy to explore for the other suns to be found above. It isn't all sunshine though as McKinley speaks of a contrasting disbelief, that being in what he's become.
The fourth track and McKinley's most popular song to date "Run, Run, Run" details what lives are like running and ducking from literal guns and metaphorical shooters, some being your own kin at times. The up-tempo beat adds to the rushing energy relayed to you.
McKinley comes at us "Live! from the Kitchen Table" featuring Ghais Guevara on the following song. Both emcees emphasize that holding no cold, hard feelings helps keep the home warm and always beating, as well speaking on feeling guilt for not always keeping the warmth.
"Tyler, Forever" serves as the albums lone "banger" at least halfway through until it transitions into a jazzy yet still celebratory beat. The celebration is a dedication to the life of McKinley's passed friend, Tyler and all those gone too soon.
McKinley feels the weight of his crown on "Dedicated to Tar Feather" featuring Anjimile. McKinley finds himself feeling numb and hoping that dedicating his life thus far to the microphone wasn't in vain.
It's straight jazz for just over one minute on "The Story so Far - Interlude" which is transitional as it leads us into "The Story so Far" featuring Seline Haze. McKinley gets a little more vulnerable as he touches on the lack of communication with and amongst his family. He also touches on the trauma his homie faces weighing on his homies mother as well as McKinley, never seeing the sky so differently until the day that he could no longer speak to passed loved ones, and his cousin's children asking their mother if their father is going to heaven even though he stole to feed them. Seline then comes in at the end expressing that it's mind over matter that helps her breathe through the stress.
(Still photo from Beloved! Paradise! Jazz!? music video)
The album is sent off by the title-track, "Beloved! Paradise! Jazz!?" featuring Jaylin Brown. Surrounded by his people, McKinley feels restored. He once held the appearance of being defeated but even in the face of feeling his loved one slowly leave in his arms, it's the home found in his title track that helps him remain in tact.
Stream "Beloved! Paradise! Jazz!?" if you haven't already heard this excellent work.