Up for free download today on Fact Mag’s website is “Swahili and Dough” from Old Money’s forthcoming Fire In The Dark mixtape.
The track was produced by Lamin Fofana and originally appears as “Brokedown City” on Aramac’s Sticks n’ Stones Record Label. It also marks the continued collaboration between Old Money and Lamin Fofana from their Dutty Artz release last year.
Old Money have been lurking around Dutty Artz headquarters for awhile, they had an officially released remix on Chants’ EP last year as well, but for those of you who are unfamiliar with their work, it goes much deeper in the New York underground scene. To get caught up to speed, check the bio and fascinating story behind Fire In The Dark below:
Ahmad Julian and Andre Oswald are Old Money, a New York based rap, production and DJ duo of Jamaican and Guyanese origins. Their music incorporates the sounds of contemporary Africa such as UK Funky, Dancehall, Kwaito, Kuduro and Hip-Hop while remaining rooted in traditions of pan-African philosophy. In this way, their output remains dynamic and cutting-edge, while also taking on a mystical bend – influenced by fringe spiritual orders like the Nuwaubians, the Moors, NOI, and The 5 Percenters, as well as science fiction novels by author Octavia Butler.
Their politics, which permeate their work, are molded by their experience growing up in disenfranchised communities in Brooklyn and the Bronx, while attending prestigious, predominantly white academic institutions in Manhattan and New England. Here, as well as at the highly ranked northeast schools they attended after high school graduation, they also encountered well heeled black societies, as enumerated in Lawrence Otis Graham’s Our Kind of People. Thusly, Old Money’s music is informed by their being young men of color in America experiencing various forms of privilege from multiple perspectives.
After returning to New York, Old Money started recording music and immersing themselves in downtown Manhattan’s indie/electronic and streetwear scenes – culminating in a blog and brick and mortar store with the name Attorney St. in the lower east side. While they enjoyed being a part of that world, they were growing increasingly disillusioned with the lack of substance behind the scene’s hype. As Ahmad puts it “We saw a lot of young energy and a lot of creativity, but with no direction. Muhfuckas was talking about and doing nothing, really. Just parties and dumb shit. And to an extent, we participated for a while. To an extent, we still do. But we made the decision that we’re too smart to play dumb.” Taking a break from blogging and the downtown scene, they decided to refocus their efforts on producing and releasing music.
This summer they are releasing their debut full length mixtape, Fire in the Dark, on the Brooklyn-based Dutty Artz label. The project sprung forth out of anger and desperation. When the first tracks were laid, Ahmad and Andre were a pair of twenty something black men with prestigious educational backgrounds, who were broke. They had no job prospects, no health insurance, and they were feeling lied to. In order to re-educate themselves they started watching documentaries, YouTube videos, and also reading books on ancient civilizations and mystical orders. These sources presented ideas that both Ahmad and Andre had either encountered years prior, or had known intuitively, but were seeing expressed clearly for the first time.
The name Fire in the Dark refers directly to an adlib from the song “Sex, Love, & Money” by Mos Def in which he says, “Fire in the dark…ghetto got the spark.” However, it was Dr. Ivan Van Sertima, a renowned scholar on African history, who provided the philosophical foundation for the project, and for much of Old Money’s aesthetic. Sertima asserts that given the legacy of the Moors in Europe, evidence of a pre-Colombian African presence in the Americas, as well as the strong case for the Black African origin of Greek civilization, there is more than sufficient proof to debunk the racist notion that peoples of African descent have contributed nothing to modern civilization. He concludes with the point that people of African descent “are the light of the world.”
Old Money sees Mos Def’s line “Fire in the Dark” as being inextricably connected to these ideas put forth by Dr. Sertima. The second half of the Mos Def lyric says “ghetto got the spark.” This line resonates with the project as well, as it is Old Money’s belief that the ghetto feeds the planet – cultur- ally, economically, and otherwise. The poor and disenfran- chised are the “invisible wo/men” that the whole world watches. They are simultaneously discarded and disregarded, as well as cheered, envied and revered. Their very existence in modern society is a paradox.
Fire in the Dark represents protest, anger, desperation at the current status quo intermixed with an understanding of metaphysics, esoteric knowledge and an avarice for pop culture demagogy. The project represents a capsule of new consciousness within the black experience.
Emphasizing this renewed focus on a more biting political philosophy, while reaffirming their connection to downtown street culture, Fire in the Dark is being co-presented by A.L.I.E.N. NYC – an iconic brand known as much for it’s progressive, esoteric leanings and philosophy as it is for it’s groundbreaking designs and artwork. Their oft-imitated aesthetic has garnered them recognition from taste making outlets such as Hypebeast and Complex, as well as the enduring respect of their peers as being one of the most innovative, and downright coolest brands to have emerged from the underground. Dutty Artz, Old Money and A.L.I.E.N. NYC are three distinct entities who constantly encourage their audience to dig deeper.