Feeling understood is great. Songs with lyrics that make it seem like someone out in the world really gets you are worth their weight in gold. So how about music that can make you feel understood even though the lyrics are written in a language you don’t speak? That’s a serious accomplishment, and it’s how the Very Best has made me feel over and over again.
So how do they do it? What’s their secret for breaking down the language barrier? Four words: cultural points of reference.
It all started (for me, at least) with “Warm Heart of Africa,” the title track from their last sampling of original tunes, which featured a collaboration with Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend. They turned around and did it again via the artists they chose to remix on their Super Mom mixtape. In both cases, the artists they chose to work with and remix acted as fantastic reference points — like firing up flares from different locales within the pop music landscape. It didn’t matter that the lyrical aspect of Esau Mwamwaya’s contributions fell on un-understanding ears; I still felt a meaningful connection.
Finding out the duo was into the same artists that I enjoy (Kanye West, LCD Soundsystem), as well as music I don’t know but am interested in exploring (Baaba Maal, Kate Bush), was a bit like finding out that someone you’re getting to know likes all the TV shows or restaurants that you do. These types of connections are essential to forming new relationships; they’re an essential step toward letting down your guard and really feeling at ease around someone (I sound like a total introvert right now, don’t I? Ugh. I knew it as soon as I typed it…). And nothing I REPEAT NOTHING makes you feel easy… wait for it… like Weezy.
In late April, the Very Best shot up another exceptional reference flair when they released the video for the first single off the duo’s upcoming album, MTMTMK (due out July 17). The soaring single, entitled “Yoshua Alikuti,” is draped across a spectacular remake of Lil Wayne’s “A Milli” video — ya know, the one-take clip that rivals Orson Welles’ seamless opening tracking shot from Touch of Evil in terms of directorial brilliance, while also demonstrating just how important it is for a famous person to have each component of their outfit handed to them individually by different members of their entourage. Though the continuous-shot format is absent from the remake, the strange title font… the red pants… the sloppily censored beverages… they’re all there, as is Mwamwaya stunning voice. It’s definitely worth watching both, but you don’t even need to have seen the original to appreciate the unbridled badassery of the Very Best’s take. I mean the dude walks a goat like it’s a golden retriever. What more do you want?!?
Watch the video for “Yoshua Alikuti” above, peep Weezy’s “A Milli” clip here for comparison (or because it just tends to brighten one’s day), listen below to one of my favorite tracks off the Super Mom mixtape, “Ndekha,” and join me in getting all jazzed up for MTMTMK.