Elton Aura + Made.Allayne
Evan Dale // Oct 7, 2020
At a particular intersection of the black story, comes Black Stories, a tale of truth from collaborators, Elton Aura and Made.Allayne. From Chicago and the particularly socially and lyrically intertwined mosaic crafted in the city’s always vibrant hip-hop underground, the two well-rounded artists, who both hone talent in the rapped, the sung, the song written, and the produced boast perhaps more than anything, a sharpest edge for socially motivated art. With Black Stories, at least, that’s where every heading is directed, alongside what is also for both artists, their most cunning musical displays on record.
But the music and the message cannot be removed from one another in dissection. Even hip-hop and rap music created with no conscious effort to tell the struggle of the stories from where the music is rooted sources a strong song for the black community. So, when especially conscious hip-hop is brought into the creative sphere, openly telling a story that still bleeds to be heard – often rooted, also, in Chicago’s lyrically dominant history – a listener not really listening is a disservice not only to hip-hop music, but fully to modern music at large that, too, is painted black.
The most insightful, evocative art – the most immersive, introspective poetry – often comes from spaces that one wouldn’t wish on artists whose work they so admire. Yet, in the shadow of pain and in the continued failing of America’s centuries-long struggle for civil liberties, art has endured constant both as a source for the black community, and almost always, sourced from the black community. With Black Stories, Elton Aura and Made.Allayne continue a tradition of stark storytelling from a painful place of reality, recanting the oftentimes buried truths of the world we live in, pushing them to be heard through art and hopefully taken heed of by those listening.
Black Stories is only 20 minutes, but bears generations of wisdom.
Poetically entrenched, sampling protest leadership and sidewalk conversation on race and injustice in America, the project opens with a powerful sample from author and activist Kimberly Jones:
‘Do you understand that? That’s what we came to do. We came to do the agricultural work in the South and the textile work I the North. If I right now.… If I right now decided that I wanted to play Monopoly with you, and for 400 rounds of playing Monopoly, I didn’t allow you to have any money… Why the fuck do I give a shit about burning the football Hall of Fame? About burning a fucking Target? You broke the contract when you killed us in the streets and didn’t give a fuck. You broke the contract when for 400 years we played your game and built your wealth. You broke the contract when we built our wealth up again, on our own, by our bootstraps in Tulsa, and you dropped a bomb on us.… As far as I’m concerned, you can burn this bitch to the ground, and it still wouldn’t be enough. And they are lucky that what black people are looking for is equality and not revenge.’
It would be a stretch to say that anyone could take what Kimberly Jones says and utilize the same eloquence, poeticism, power, and truth through music. But, rooted in the emotion of her speech, Elton Aura and Mayde.Allayne preach verses on Birds and Riots worthy of her address, and continue with the same ferocity and focused pen through the project’s length.
Melodically evocative, soulfully enforcing emotion through chorus, the project is likewise an adept study of vocal transcendence from soul’s interwoven, permanent history with hip-hop. As the second chapter of the project begins, MugShot does so with a silky, effortless hook belaying the kind of lyrical prowess attached to the entirety of the project, while also putting on display the wide-ranging aesthetics of Elton Aura and Made.Allayne. That range allows more vibrant expression to paint black landscapes. Together, poetry, rap, and sampled speech blend into one, reaffirmed by soul and classic low-fidelity rhythms that speak to the past letter of conscious hip-hop’s history. For that, Black Stories is a classic of the conscious cloth. But that wasn’t its intention, nor could it have been to earn its pedigree.
Instead, it’s exactly what it claims to be: Black Stories told by black men; told by black women at a time when the black story has grown ever more prevalent in the public eye, if only in the wake of tragedy.
‘None of my feelings are singular. Many feel the way I feel. I can’t articulate the way I’m feeling about anything. What I find myself doing is lashing out, being angry, because I am at everything. There are times where I feel like many in my life don’t understand how I feel, so I don’t express it. Sometimes I’m afraid my feelings aren’t valid, or am I afraid of saying what I want to say? I think that’s what it is a lot of the time. None of my feelings are singular…. I wake up to another black man dead; another white woman talking out the side of her fucking mouth. Feed after feed after feed, I can’t unsee it…. I should be grateful. I’m blessed. But I’m pissed off. Anxiety pumping my heart so hard. I lay down in bed feeling the tears burn my eyes, and what do I do? I breathe heavy, grunting to myself, heartbeat on full blast. Not to release, but to hold them in: the tears. Well, fuck that, and fuck this. Release.’
The spoken word, stream of consciousness, Singular Interlude again drives emotion, introspection, and thoughtful insight into the black story, tapping rap’s very roots to shine a light on one of the most triumphant creative evolutions in all of modern art. And again, at the hands of another powerful black female, the embedding of social statement and poetry into the surrounding dialects of music, highlights the Black Stories being told with nothing if not well-roundedness and honesty.
Heading into the EP’s second half, the same sentiments unearthed, sampled, rapped, and sung, continue to paint a vivid picture of modern blackness in Chicago, in America, in the world. And doing so through black art only makes the color of it all more vivacious and immersive for a listener.
‘The news ain’t the news no more. Barely got a choice to choose no more. I don’t wanna watch the news no more. I don’t wanna get confused no more…. You don’t gotta bling my noose no more. Please, let him breathe.’ (News?)
‘Blood, sweat, and tears, baby, 400 years. No cap, put that on my kids. Pay me my dues, give me my ends. Lucky I ain’t checking for revenge, mothafucka.’ (Blood Sweat Tears)
Alongside the classic feel of such powerful words coming from the muddled hook of a megaphone, Blood Sweat Tears also carries with it one of this year’s most keynote music videos. Emblazoned in black & white with only the colors of the American flag shining through into livelihood, Elton Aura, backed by live musicians, enacting brash moments of black pain and triumph, brings to visual life the bold directionalism of Black Stories at large.
And in that video – throughout Black Stories – a moment bleeds black, not only capturing the renaissance of socially motivated art in the wake of such widespread, global racial reckoning, but also capturing the pain endured by the black community through myriad past efforts of a similar cut, begging for this to be the moment – this to be the art – that finally ends the need for its existence as a message of what is, and rather as a reminder of what was.