Imani Coppola

The Black & White Album

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Although her last easily available release came out during the height of chick rock way back in 1997, Imani Coppola still spent the next decade immersed in music, eventually starting her own label as a vehicle to release her own work when she realized the majors weren't going to have her back. However, the independently run Ipecac Records picked up the singer who brought the world the Donovan-sampling "Legend of the Cowgirl," and released The Black & White Album in 2007. Hard to categorize in one, or even two, genres, the album is a ride into hip-hop, R&B, punk, and dance-rock, all while keeping a very strong grip on straightforward radio pop (à la, perhaps, 1997). Coppola is clearly trying to challenge her listeners' ideas on race in relationship to both music and society, forcing them to look beyond predefined and preconceived ideas of how people should be acting and what they should be doing, and there's not much subtlety in it. She's direct to the point of obviousness in her message. "I woke up Caucasian/Had a realization/I should take advantage/Of this fucked-up situation" she sings on the spastic, punkish "Woke Up White," going on to scream "I know black folks real well/'Cause I watch me some Dave Chapelle/In a fancy restaurant they don't assume I want/Chicken," while she eschews self-pity for self-realization in "Black & White Jingle #1": "Sometimes life may feel like it's sucking you up/But it's not, it may just be you sucking," she coos sweetly. She's about contradictions and controversy, moving from the club-jammy "Keys 2 Your Ass" to the artsy, experimental "I Love Your Hair" to the straight from the Alice Smith sessions "Raindrops from the Sun (Hey Hey Hey)." She's definitely got a lot of ideas, and a lot of energy and creativity, and wants to use her art to both entertain her audience and make them think, but the problem is that Coppola's songs don't quite achieve the first part of that objective well enough to move successfully to the next. Her lyrics can be a little too juvenile or simple, her arrangements a little too predictable, or worse, predictably trying to be unpredictable, and it's hard to get past that to the deeper social commentary she's making. Which means that, unfortunately, The Black & White Album doesn't quite do much at all.

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