Theo Croker

Blk2Life/A Future Past

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Blk2Life/A Future Past Review

by Matt Collar

Having embraced an ever-more contemporary space-funk vibe, trumpeter Theo Croker offers his most languid, R&B-infused production to date with 2021's BLK2LIFE || A FUTURE PAST. The album picks up on the Afro-futurist grooves of 2019's Star People Nation as Croker crafts a loosely conceptual atmosphere centered on themes of Black identity, reclamation of culture and ancestry, and pushing ever higher toward an enlightened future. It's a sound that's admittedly far afield of the acoustic post-bop that marked much of 2014's Afro Physicist, but one which feels like a natural extension of the '70s-inspired funk, fusion, and hip-hop that he's explored since. While hypnotic jazz-fusion and R&B are at the core of Croker's sound here, this is also one of his most pop-oriented albums, and cuts like the title track and "Happy Feet (For Dancers)," featuring singer Malaya, marry his warm trumpet lines with an infectious blend of electronic and analog rhythms. Helping Croker elevate his cross-pollinated sound are a handful of special guests, including Wyclef Jean, who outlines Croker's worldview on "State of the Union 444 || Blk2thefuture," rapping, "If you really wanna help build generational wealth, the best help is to help the people help themselves." Equally potent sentiments arrive via vocalist Ari Lennox on the effervescent ballad "Every Part of Me" and vocalist Iman Omari on the lucid, tropical dreamscape "No More Maybe." We also get vibrant contributions from saxophonist Gary Bartz, drummer/vocalist Kassa Overall, and singer Charlotte Dos Santos. With BLK2LIFE || A FUTURE PAST, Croker underlines his reputation as a jazz world builder, bridging new age space-jazz and hooky, contemporary R&B.

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