What’s the thing nowadays? Oh, I remember – it’s making tame pop music but dressing your videos and promo images up to make you look hip, rebellious, intense and sensual. Watch a new pop music video with the sound off – now unmute it. There’s frequently a massive discontinuity between the sound and the visuals.
Not so with Alloysious Massaquoi, one third of the musical team Young Fathers. Young Fathers are punk and afro-futurism and hip-hop and ambient-electro and dub and post-rock all at the same time. Their musical and visual landscape is tender, melancholic, explosive, angry, dissonant, brooding, passionate and creepy.
Alloysious Massaquoi’s lyrics match that landscape perfectly. He interweaves his laments, confessions, chants, battle cries, exorcisms and praises with those of Kayus Bankole and ‘G’ Hastings and the effect is beguiling. Exhibit A: ‘Come to Life’
Alloysious Massaquoi was born in Liberia. His family moved to Scotland when he was four. Alloysious, Kayus and G connected at an under-16s hip-hop night in Edinburgh. “We’d go to open-mics where people would battle and rap for ages, but we’d do three-minute structured songs with our own beats. The ‘real hip hop’ guys didn’t get it. We loved that,” explains G.
They formed Young Fathers in 2008, and recorded the album ‘Inconceivable Child… Conceived’. They’ve been signed to indie-prog-rap label Anticon since 2012, which is opening them up to a much bigger audience, an audience they’re ready to entertain, woo and confront with willful dissonance and wily charisma.
In this Kaltbult magazine interview Alloysious enthuses: “We take it serious. We’re not here to have a laugh, to mess around. We’re doing something that we love, and it means something to us, if we’re on stage and we’re not smiling it’s because we don’t feel like smiling…you can’t tell me when to smile or not, to make you feel more at ease.”
At a recent festival Young Fathers received homophobic heckles when they showed affection for one another on stage. Unsurprisingly this doesn’t faze them one bit. “With us being really close, rapping to each other close as hell, I enjoy that because it’s more about us, the brotherhood, the brotherly love, the family fuel.”
Alloysious’ more personal lyrics hang like a broken violin on the wall, beautiful yet damaged. ‘Sister’ flashbacks to a tender memory of his sibling.
Whoever ends up the target of his serenade might feel both an empathy and an antipathy well up within him or her.
There’s a raw ‘I think you just read my diary’ vibe in a number of Young Fathers songs. Though Young Fathers embrace the surreal and the experimental, more than anything else you feel like you’re getting a slice of reality on every record.
This track ‘Effigy’ is killer.
Alloysious has a catchphrase or mantra of sorts: “Learn to keep learning.” Most rap acts don’t share this philosophy and consequently rappers are in danger.