TVD Recommends: The White Mandingos at U Street Music Hall, 6/15

The White Mandingos are, no shit, the most exciting “progressive punk”-hardcore-hip hop hybrid to come our way since The Beastie Boys. LA emcee Murs, Bad Brains guitar legend Darryl Jenifer, and ego trip co-founder, editor, and artist Sacha Jenkins are set to release their debut album, The Ghetto Is Tryna Kill Me, which they aptly describe in the title track as “Hard core hip hop with some punk in it.”

A concept album about one Tyrone White, a black punk trying to simultaneously negotiate the white and black worlds, The Ghetto Is Tryna Kill Me is simultaneously musically hard-edged, touching, courageous, occasionally obscene (“Sarah Silverman is a fucking cunt”), and chockfull of deep insights about contemporary black-white relations in the Land of the so-called Free.

With such kicking punk/hardcore numbers as the title track, “Warn a Brotha,” “Mandingo Rally,” and “Rubbertracks Meltdown,” not to mention a surprising cover of Minor Threat’s “Guilty of Being White,” The Ghetto Is Tryna Kill Me is one of the most bad-ass guitar albums I’ve heard in eons. The axes aren’t just loud, they’re monstrous.

While Jenifer provides the sonic boom, Murs comes through with some of the sweetest rhymes to ever address black and white differences, especially in “My First White Girl.” Then again, he performs some real love-hate tunes too, like “I Don’t Understand” with its razor-blade guitars and chorus “I can’t stand this bitch.” But his finest lines attempt to transcend the color barrier through music, as in this rhyme from “Black N White Revised”: “Does this shit sound black?/Does this shit sound white?/Can it just be sound?/Can that be all right?/You should listen with your heart/You shouldn’t listen with your eyes/Never listen with your ears/Because the heart never lies.”

The White Mandingos are playing June 15 at U Street Music Hall, and I recently had the opportunity to speak to Darryl Jenifer by phone and gain some insights on The White Mandingos and their concept album.

Before we begin, Jenifer feels me out on my interview style. “I did a phone interview and the dude used every word I said. I called my dogs and it was in the interview. I was like ‘Here Rover’ and sure enough, ‘Here Rover,’ was in the interview. Every ‘er’ and ‘um’ was in the interview.” I solemnly promise not to include him calling his dogs in this interview, or any ‘woofs’ from the dogs in response in the interview, and he seems reassured.

Asked how the threesome came together, Jenifer answers, “Me and Sacha have been friends for the last 16, 17 years—just buddies playing guitars. Murs just seemed like a good fit. Nowadays they call the way we came together as organic. No pesticides in our music. [Laughs.] The chemistry between me and Sacha was really important. I believe that’s what set us apart from punk rock and that’s why I use the words progressive punk.”

“Me and Sacha wrote the music,” says Jenifer. “Some of the riffs are his; some of the riffs are mine. Different songs mean something different to the life of Tyrone White.” As for who came up with the idea of a concept album, Jenifer says, “We do a lot of stuff that is collaborative. I thought it was a cool idea. It speaks on cats that came up at a different time. It reminds me of back in DC, when I was into skateboarding and punk rock, metal.”

When I ask him if he feels the concept album is in a sense about him, he says, “It’s about me in my time. But there’s a black man in every time. There’s always somebody, we want to jump out of the box. Can I be a reggae guy and a punk rock guy at the same time? I knew some dudes down in DC who were blessed with the talent to be all kinds of things. But not everything is for everybody. Like playing guitar. I’m not trained. But I guess it’s special for me. I didn’t have the patience to look at the guitar in the conventional way. I had to get it going quick. As a kid I would learn parts of songs to impress the girls. The beginning of “Stairway to Heaven.” I was the guy who was impatient.”

“What we’re doing,” says Jenifer of the band, “is a pogo-like situation. We’re bringing back pogo. I’m going to make a t-shirt of a silhouette of guys pogoing.” Not that it has anything to do with pogoing, but who, I ask him, came up with the idea of playing Minor Threat’s “Guilty of Being White?”  I tell him I detect some real anger in there. “Ian’s anger or Murs’ anger?” asks Jenifer. “This is a concept album. Tyrone White is guilty of being white. I’m guilty of being white. This is like watching TV. There’s a story behind this album, Murs is saying he’s ‘The King of New York.’ But the real Murs isn’t saying that. He’s playing a character. We want to get a comic book going with it.”

The White Mandingos haven’t played live yet, but, says Jenifer, “We’re going to spend the time rehearsing with Murs.” (And Chuck Treece, of skate punks McRad and Bad Brains’ touring band, who will be playing drums.) I ask him, do the three of you plan to collaborate again? “Absolutely,” says Jenifer, “but no one can ever predict. Who knows? Those are my brothers. We are truly an organic band. We are a beauty.”

The White Mandingos play U Street Music Hall on Saturday, 6/15. Tickets are available here.

This entry was posted in TVD Washington, DC. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.

  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text
  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text