“Gotta be yourself / Can’t be nobody else.”
That’s BLAX—a.k.a. Adebisi Agoro—in “Acknowledgement,” the opening track of his new latest LP, Angeline. It’s a fitting sentiment for the longtime Milwaukee emcee. Since co-founding and eventually leaving Fresh Cut Collective more than a decade ago, Agoro has moved to New York City, moved back to Milwaukee, and released numerous records under his BLAX and Armstrong Ransome monikers. But no matter the moniker, Agoro’s music belongs to him, and nobody else.
Take the ebullient “A Roller Skating Jam Called Liberation.” It borrows its title and vibe from De La Soul, but its truth-seeking, praise-filled mission statement is BLAX’s own. Elsewhere, the jittery “Technical” manages to get in shout-outs to The Wiz, Ludacris, and Julius Caesar and Brutus in its short runtime. “Shine” samples the hazy Curtis Mayfield song “The Makings Of You,” and the lovely “Does She Know” showers even more praise on an unnamed woman.
A certain woman is named on the record, however: BLAX’s grandmother Angeline, who passed away in 2013. Closing track “A Vibe Called Blessed” reveals that “the name Angeline means a messenger from God.” BLAX goes on to explain that his Angeline album is “an album that was manufactured out of grief, love, pain, and a sense of victory. A cathartic artistic process of the growth and evolution of man in a philosophical sense. A livid testimony from the one and only true and living Asiatic Black man from the original continent of Asia, more commonly referred to as Africa.
“I am him,” concludes BLAX, “he is I , he is GOD, we are ONE.”