History is scarred and scored by moments that define entire eras, moments that command generations and bring out the virtuous and vicious in anybody. Every day, the minutes and seconds we, as a society, all live through together have the potential to delineate our future, as well as our past. Most of the scars are formed and most of the score is written in instances that can almost be unrecognizable to most. Certain events happen and, for some, they just let them pass by without ever truly understanding or even caring about the longterm ramifications of whatever it was that just occurred. They never grasp the gravity of the situation until years later, often after it’s too late. However, for some events, for a select number of individuals, that gravity is grasped in full. They entirely recognize the seed being planted is for a tree that will provide shade they will never enjoy.
Our country seems to be at a crossroads — honestly, when is it not — between those two sides.
Those who are ignorant and apathetic to the lives and values of those they share a country with, juxtaposed against those who are eager and willing to continue to plant more trees, while enjoying the shade of those planted before them. We appear to be at a time where, once again, revolution feels imminent. There is every indication that the last five to 10 years has kickstarted a turning point in history. However, it’s up to us to decide if that change is going to be for the worse or for the better. Revolutions don’t happen on a whim and they certainly don’t happen without hurting a few people’s feelings.
As Gloria Steinem put it, “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” Nothing scores the pages of the history books or captures that vibrant revolutionary spirit quite like White Power Outage, Vol. 2, the new 25-track project from the east Texas-based collective known as the Free Radicals: a congregation of musicians and vocalists who comprise a beautiful mix of all genres, cultures and backgrounds, including Black, LatinX, White, Asian, Mixed and Indigenous communities. And together they all represent the diverse, beleaguered and self-empowered city of Houston.
Released in April of ‘22, White Power Outage, Vol. 2 brilliantly questions the contemporary political system, alongside the discriminatory practices and racism that seems to be systematically placed throughout society, while simultaneously uplifting and praising the Black Lives Matter and BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People Of Color) movements. The new album integrates a solid mix of hip hop (think Low End Theory from A Tribe Called Quest), Latin music, freeform jazz and groovy funk, all stacked on top of piles of Afro-centric beats. Following up the critically-acclaimed White Power Outage, Vol. 1, which the Houston Chronicle dubbed “Local Album of the Year” in 2020, Vol. 2 is more reminiscent of Round Two in a boxing match that you know is going to go the full 15.
The Free Radicals are just getting warmed up.
Continuing their push to end white supremacy everywhere, in addition to creating revolutionary music, the Free Radicals have been working on this new White Power Outage series since long before the pandemic even began and were well into production on Vol. 2 before its predecessor was named “Local Album of the Year”. Sticking true to their particular style, all of the Free Radicals albums — including this new one — feature a prosperous mix of real acoustic instruments, containing sax, trumpet, trombone, bass, guitar, percussion and even tuba. Every note, beat, riff and chord of which was recorded without ever touching the interface known as MIDI, used to create those instruments digitally on a computer. What really seems to be the driving force, though, is this desire to create thought-provoking music that challenges and questions authority. It seems to be working.
This multi-genre-warped compilation of over two dozen tracks is packed full of highlights, including the single “Bipartisan Baby Jail” which features Michele Thibeaux, Henry Alvarez and Karina Nistal. The song also includes a hook from a group of 4-year-olds representing Peace Camp Houston, discouraging wrongful deportations and encouraging liberation. “Bipartisan Baby Jail” lays down singing, rap and spoken poetry over a seriously funky beat. “Mutiny On The Bayou”, the album’s opening track, graces listeners with one of H-Town’s longest standing and most liked rappers, D-Ology, who skillfully tears open the sealed pages of the suppressed history surrounding Houston’s 1917 massacre of Black soldiers.
Karega Ani’s utterly mind-blowing poem “Crystal Stare” splendidly and radiantly describes Black culture and how it fits inside the patchwork quilt.
If you close your eyes, it takes you deep down into the basements of some trendy Tribeca building in N.Y. on an open-mic night or walking down the streets of some diverse Adams Morgan neighborhood in D.C., overhearing a busker speak truths in ways you’ve only heard stories about. Other highlights include the Karina Nistal-led “El Ritmo Contra Gitmo”, “Checkpoint / Dompass / Hajiz” by Lindi Yeni (who enlists Jitsvinger, EQuality and Prince Alfarra to express personal experiences in South African apartheid) and, of course, there is the instrumental track “Manifestación En El Centro Hoy”, which puts me instantly at a backyard BBQ, roasting like dinner in the Texas sun.
Those highlights represent simply a fraction of this massive and wide-ranging, thought-challenging and mind-provoking album. With 25 unique and politically-charged songs, the Free Radicals seem to be sending out an open invitation to anyone willing to jump in the ring and finish this 15-round slugfest. They know what they stand for and are willing to go the distance when it comes to voicing it and defending it. And, let’s be honest, there is a lot that needs defending these days. White Power Outage, Vol. 2 is available for streaming now.
Purchase or stream ‘White Power Outage, Vol. 2’ album:
- Mutiny on the Bayou, feat. D-Ology
- El Ritmo Contra Gitmo, feat. Karina Nistal
- Checkpoint / Dompass / Hajiz, feat. eQuality, Jitsvinger, Prince Alfarra & Lindi Yeni
- Killer Bee Honey, The Next Generation, feat. Cherria Rattler & Marium Rattler
- Bipartisan Baby Jail, feat. Michele Thibeaux, Hennessy & Karina Nistal
- Manifestación En El Centro Hoy
- Pokke Koebes, feat. Jitsvinger
- Frozen Power Outage
- Crystal Share, feat. Karega Ani
- If You Don’t Vote for Me, You’re Not White, feat. Can’t Tell Us Nothing
- Ghosts of Montrose
- America’s Blues, feat. eQuality
- The Sugar Land 95, feat. D-Ology
- Máquina Del Tiempo, feat. Krudas Cubensi
- There Are No Lines, feat. Lupe Mendez
- Supreme Beings, feat. eQuality
- Connecting Dots, feat. Deniz “dee!colonize” Lopez
- Jabuaianan, feat. Versopesado & Karina Nistal
- Who Gets to Draw the Map, feat. Beesh Besaiso & Muhammed Jafari
- Pushing Increments, feat. Brian Is Ze & Muhammed Jafari
- Suits and Ties, feat. Marlon “Marley” Lizama
- Other Holocausts
- Proud Boys & the KKK, feat. Henry “Hennessy” Alvarez
- Over, feat. Michele Thibeaux
- The Border Crossed Me, feat. Free Rads Chamber Ensemble
Free Radicals – “Bipartisan Baby Jail”, feat. Michele Thibeaux, Hennessy & Karina Nistal
Disclaimer: All views presented in this album review are those of the reviewer and not necessarily those of Top Shelf Music.