Angel Kyodo Williams crafted a contemporary, holistic paean to modern blackness with "Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living With Fearlessness and "Grace"," a book that offered Zen principles as a possible remedy to the personal struggles African-Americans face on a daily basis. Intensely spiritual (Williams is a Zen priest), the book has, in the two years since it was published, resonated deeply within "alternative" black circles. On this CD, some of the brightest, most forward-thinking personalities in underground hip-hop pay "tribute" to the book by offering both previously released and brand-new tracks that reflect Williams' vision. Though it might be unsettling to hear the brainy, profane rage of Mystic's feminist power-rap reconstructed into a nearly gracious flow, her contribution is a perfect fit among tracks with Jurassic 5's rap revisionism, Dilated People's groupthink and other stellar songs from Rob Swift, Bahamadia, King Britt, DJ Spooky and others. The primary presence on "Being Black" though is the recently recognized (and perpetually amazing) poet Ursula Rucker. Featured on six of the 17 cuts, Rucker not only helps stylistically coalesce what could be a quite disparate album, but also provides a very real lyrical window into Williams' original work.
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