Wynton Marsalis

From the Plantation to the Penitentiary

Set up as a suite, but placing as much emphasis on hard-hitting lyrics as on musical depth, Marsalis’ new album dissects and eviscerates the archcapitalist “pimp” mentality he cites as a core value of hip-hop. The bandleader orients us with a plangent opening lyric (From the plantation to the penitentiary/From the yassuh boss to the ghetto minstrelsy), sung with old-school panache by newbie jazz vocalist Jennifer Sanon, and ends by whacking us on the head with the rousing gospel number “Where Y’All At?” Some critics have called the closing track a “rap” song — probably in the Cornel West sense of the word — though in truth, it’s more of a sermon. Recently interviewed on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Marsalis tried to deflect all allegations that he’s just a grumbling OG who doesn’t want the young people to do their thang. In truth, he isn’t one to diss teenagers. He just thinks that any grown-ass man who still goes by a name like “P. Diddy” probably needs to check himself.


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