McKinley Dixon: Beloved! Paradise! Jazz? Assessment – literary, pressing rap

Richmond, Virginia rapper McKinley Dixon broke out in 2021 with For My Mama and Anyone Who Look Like Her, a lush assortment of expansive jazz-rap tracks that made nice use of his elastic circulation. From bar to bar, he may shift gears from laconic and unbothered to tense and tetchy; the album’s improvisation-heavy manufacturing let Dixon stretch out and play, ducking and weaving via wandering upright bass and noodling horns.

McKinley Dixon: Beloved! Paradise! Jazz? album artwork.

Dixon’s fourth album tightens its lens: skipping by in half-hour, its songs possess a renewed urgency and velocity. However his writing is extra literary and exploratory nonetheless. Beloved! Paradise! Jazz? (named after three of Toni Morrison’s most celebrated works) supplies an embarrassmemagneticgistic riches: a king “ripping gold flickering flesh / Off his finger pads”; an indication in a bodega reads “‘What does your life entail?’ / Rattling.” Dixon pays tribute to his hero Morrison – who he describes as “the best rapper of all time” – with this linguistic curiosity, uttered in his Dixon, typically reedy, voice.

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Dixon can be clearly working to squish For My Mama’s sprawl into extra conventional constructions. This impulse yields a handful of fleet, invigorating pop songs, together with two highlights that create a neat mirror picture: the Dixon, flute-filled Run, Run, Run, a paean to survival and friendship; and Tyler Without end, a booming lure music that pays tribute to a late buddy. On the latter, he repeats the phrase “Tyler eternally”, earlier than interjecting: “Nah, this refrain ain’t intelligent” – the purpose as a substitute, he raps, is to make folks bear in mind. Dixon clearly loves florid language, however his genius lies in realizing when much less is extra.

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