The “RIP Left Rev McD” project began with sampling McDaniels’ music and writing new lyrics with similar themes to what he expressed in each song. However, the project has taken an entirely new and original shape since developing my skills with music production, electronics, and synthesis; as well as engaging other musicians, including drummer, Justin Boyd, and bassist, Aaron Shapiro. There are now ten songs; each of which was inspired by one of McDaniels’ tunes but has an entirely new arrangement and some sampling of McDaniels via electronics and turntablism.
It is with much excitement that I take this next step toward completing “RIP Left Rev McD,” an extended music work that I have been developing alongside my production and composition skills over the past three years. The songs were written in homage to late singer, writer, and producer, Eugene McDaniels, who’s 1971 album, “Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse,” was so controversial that Atlantic Records was pressured into taking it out of print by the Nixon Administration. Yet his writing and musical direction on Roberta Flack’s “Feel Like Making Love” helped produce an undeniable classic. The goal of this project is to further validate the combination of socially contemplative songwriting and rich, funky production which he mastered and which I seek to refine. This work is a representation of the urgent need for artists and thinkers who are able to articulate the connections between culture, socio-political conflicts, and complex power structures by using storytelling, wit, and rhythm to draw in and captivate listeners. Hip-hop is a culture that values political outspokenness, therefore I can apply my rap sensibilities and current social awareness to emulate Eugene McDaniels’ musical risk-taking, whimsy, and clarity, producing a sound that is both edgy and classic-feeling. Ultimately, I seek to contribute to the culture of radical black music and use the material to further dialog about topics like afro-futurism, neocolonialism, and social responsibilities of popular artists.
A skilled rapper, DJ, and electronic musician, Aquil Charlton (AyQue) leverages his creative agility to reach a wide range of audiences. He performs electronics with live PA quartet, The Present Elders, and has backed Open Mike Eagle on synthesizers. As a lead vocalist and songwriter with hip-hop and soul band, Animate Objects, AyQue has also opened for Lauryn Hill, Dilated Peoples, The Wailers, Mint Condition, Chingy, Kardinal Official, and others. Even offstage, Aquil maintains the respect of his peers for his continued dedication to teaching and community organizing work. He teaches deejay, music production, and songwriting through organizations like Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education, After School Matters, Urban Gateways, and Chicago Public Schools. He also leads public music production and instrument making workshops using recycled materials from his self-designed “Mobile Music Box,” which he moves throughout Chicago by bicycle. Since returning from a residency and four-city tour in Russia, AyQue has written an album with producer Justin Raymond and produced a tribute to radical songwriter Eugene McDaniels which he developed during a residency at the University of Chicago in 2016. Currently, he is preparing to release these projects while raising a three-year-old genius.