Congo Sanchez, seeing 20/20 on the new Dealin’ With This

Percussionist. Producer. Humanist. Congo Sanchez has many issues on the dome. He uses his musical talent as an unapologetic way to speak to the social maladies of recent times. And the facts will inevitably outweigh the opinion. Listen to his latest effort, Dealin’ With This, in its entirety. It’s a very introspective album that challenges ideas of social exclusion, isolation, and marginalization.

Dealin’ is the first full album released under Sanchez’s label Herb Records. On it he assembles a crew of talent that represents the signature diversity of the District.

Sanchez oversaw the production of Dealin’ under the spiritual influence of talents such as Beck and Pink Floyd. Further, he says he views Miles Davis as an inspiration. About Miles, “his licks on the trumpet were the same, but he surrounded himself with musicians with different styles.”

On the subject of varying styles, the album features the vocal talents of band members Flex Mathews and Haile Supreme. Sanchez maintains a solid, fraternal relationship with the two vocalists. He says of the two, “We respect our musical intuitions very much, and there is no beating around the bush.” Mathews and Supreme’s mix of respective hip-hop and ethereal vocals are the center of the album’s narrative. In the track “Stand Beside Yourself,” Supreme’s meditative voice encourages the listener to look at DC from the outside-in.

Another notable track includes “Gentrified Children” a blend of acid jazz and downtempo future-go-go, with the somber vocals of the band members’ young nieces and nephews. Sanchez lends vocals to the track himself.

Dealin’ With This can certainly be classified as revolutionary music. When Congo speaks of the feedback he receives, “My message is pretty clear on what I stand on. I would personally not like to be associated with the two party system that our county uses to divide and rule. I view people based on their action and their words. I feel there is a way to take a stance without jumping on board this bipolar political atmosphere. People that are looking for the message find it.”

Sanchez hopes the message of Dealin’ With This penetrates his audience. “I hope someone looks at me on the street and recognizes me for calling out the government, and calling out our music industry, and the gentrification of places where certain people can no longer afford to live.”

The theme of isolation is frequent. It’s best expressed in the song “Love Lost.” The track is a master fusion of Southern California G-funk and mystical, ethnic pop. And there is some allegorical love-hate going on in it.

But for those who may not get it, Sanchez seems alright with that, too. “I hope people who are blind to the message go bopping their heads and don’t realize it’s them I’m calling out. You know… that gotcha moment.”

One of the greater experiences of this album is a 12-plus minute long drum solo called “Release.” The production value of the track is operatic and might recall Ginger Baker’s psychoactive masterpiece Stratavarious. But “Release” is actually Sanchez chiding musicians who solely use laptops to make music.There’s a revelation that comes with ability to develop chord progressions and harmonies, at first, with acoustic instruments.

Sanchez might relate this skill to someone like Stevie Wonder (whom he also admires). Musical direction and composition “doesn’t require the ability to see when your vision is 20/20.”

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