When they were first introduced to the casual Hip Hop fan, Sa-Ra Creative Partners came in with a G.O.O.D. Music EP featuring them dressed in vintage luxury gear rhyming about places as diverse as Hollywood and the fictional planet “Niggatron.” So to say the group is eclectic would be a bit of an understatement.
And since they’ve worked with artists such as Ice-T, Dr. Dre and Diddy prior to meeting each other, Shafiq Husayn, Om’Mas Keith and Taz Arnold are prone to taking breaks from their group activities to pursue solo interests. Taz is currently putting in work on both a solo album and clothing line, while Shafiq says Om’Mas is “in Puffy’s camp doing big things with MTV and ‘Making the Band’,” for Diddy’s Last Train to Paris album. In short, Sa-Ra is all over the place both musically and geographically. As such, you couldn’t exactly be blamed if you thought Shafiq’s upcoming album, Shafiq En’ A-Free-Ka, was about a trip to the motherland, which he just misspelled for the hell of it.
But, when Husayn, says, “I’ve never set foot on the African continent that we know of today,” he’s not dodging the question, waxing philosophical or trying to be deep.
“America has always been known as Northwest Africa historically,” he adds. “If you Google Northwest Amexum, it’ll tell you that Northwest Amexum is the land mass above North, Central and South America. It was known at certain times as Morroch or Morocco.”
While Fela Kuti was one of many inspirations for the sound, Husayn points out that being in “A-Free-Ka,” has a spiritual connotation which is still linked to the African continent—Ancient Egypt to be exact.
“Ka means spirit in Kimetic,” Husayn says. “It’s a spiritual system, so there are no boundaries. That free ka is just free to move, so it’s a representation of man being on the planet manifest with no boundaries.”
The lack of boundaries is apparent in the sound, which continues Sa-Ra’s practice of experimenting with different drum patters or occasionally ditching the 16-bar rapped verse and chorus format. On “No Moor,” Shafiq also revisits the concept of a “Master Teacher,” from Erykah Badu’s New Amerykah album [click to read], which he produced.
“I say ‘No Moor’ because the inhabitants of the land call themselves Negroes, blacks and Hispanics and don’t realize that their nationalities are really Moorish. That identity was stripped from them during slavery, and they were given marks like Negroes, blacks, Ethiopian, Hispanics and whatnot.”
If a lesson in anthropology doesn’t sound like your ideal weekend iPod listening, don’t worry. Shafiq says that the album can be appreciated on many levels—most notably the musicianship which incorporates a multitude of live instruments and vocals.
“The subject matter is spread out enough so that if you don’t catch it on one song, you can go back later,” he explains. “People will keep running into joints, and by default they’ll run into the message.”
Shafiq En’ A-Free-Ka is available for purchase October 6 via Plug Research. Stay tuned to the video section of HipHopDX for the upcoming release of Shafiq’s first video, “Lil Girl.”