Wednesday, January 27, 2021
Arts + Culture Music 3 for Free: Some recommended entertainment this week

3 for Free: Some recommended entertainment this week

Two great music collections and an Afrofuturist film series on offer to help you glide through the speedy season


As much as we all love the holiday season, it’s dang expensive. So if you are a little light in the pockets after all the gift-giving—we are including paying bills just to keep the lights on this year in that equation, if ya get me—we have a couple things here to do. Just For You. We call it 3 For Free…. and it’s self-explanatory.

Treat Yo’ Self!


The widespread critical acclaim for releases from Yazmin Lacey, Kaidi Tatham, and Children of Zeus made underground and mainstream heads around the world acknowledge First Word Records in 2018. For 16 years this London-based imprint has steadily provided an IRL version of where urban music is at. If that means bass-heavy beats meet jazz, soul, and hip-hop in the most austere British club culture way, then that’s what’s up. Talent changes trends. Ask First Word. That’s how they became named Label of the Year by the highly influential Gilles Peterson Worldwide Awards in 2019.

Two Syllables Volume Seventeen, a free download of indelible First Word songs for 2020, is a proper recap to what the label did and is about to do going forward. Selections feature Takuya Kuroda, Werkha, Allysha Joy, and Olivier St. Louis. There’s a couple of exclusives from their extended artist base family Mo Fingaz and Jake Milliner, a festive favorite from Tawiah and a sneak peek at the next record from the one and only Kaidi Tatham. They’ve tossed in some tracks that reflect this year in a very specific way: Essa’s “Justice” is a stark reminder of how far we still have to go in finding justice and peace for people of color.

Take this free download and revel in the deep vibes. Thanks First Word!


John Sayles’ 1984 lo-fi/sci-fi film, The Brother From Another Planet was an Afrofuturist template in vision, 10 years previous to critic Mark Dery coining the term. Fusing elements of space odyssey with tales of immigration and class positioning in a pre-gentrified Harlem, New York City, the film remains a vivid snapshot of how America treats the various races of people who physically built this country into a superpower.

Joe Morton takes the title role—an alien who never speaks but makes his presence felt for good—and we see the world through his eyes… and most times it’s cold and at odds. Sayles, a steadfast teller of tales from outlier communities along with his lifetime work partner Maggie Renzi, creates a narrative, with a brown-skinned space alien as the protagonist, that exposes the many hypocrisies humans stay attached to. It’s currently playing along with 27 other films—including Space Is The Place (spotlighting Sun Ra)—as part of The Criterion Channel’s “Afrofuturism” series programmed by Ashley Clark, Director of Film Programming at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). Sign up for the free 14-day trial membership here and take off.


So I can’t front. ATO Records (According To Our Records) did not even peak on my radar until I started digging on Alabama Shakes and more recently Brittany Howard. Founded in 2000 by Dave Mathews and manager Coran Capshaw, the label comes stacked with new music from various strains unlike many American labels these days. Chicano Batman, Black Pumas, Nick Hakim, Bay Area vets Primus along with aforementioned BH & AS and King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, My Morning Jacket, plus a host others pushing the needle into all types of red. 

Back in April, when the country was baking sourdough bread en masse and starting a vegetable garden, and children were Googling “how to change the world” along with “pranks on parents,” ATO put together a sexy little sampler that audibly laid out their cards.The pay-what-you want download is still in effect and can give you some new audible destinations to chase down. Enjoy!

John-Paul Shiver
John-Paul Shiver has been contributing to 48 Hills since 2019. His work as an experienced music journalist and pop culture commentator has appeared in the Wire, Resident Advisor, SF Weekly, Bandcamp Daily, PulpLab, AFROPUNK, and Drowned In Sound.

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