As a musical nomad and off-the-wall creator Pink Siifu thrives on coast-to-coast interactions through his web of homies, childhood influences, and like-minded creators. “I like collabs that’s a lifestyle type shit,” he tells The Fader, “like, you gon’ always see them together because they fuck with each other.” So when the Alabama-raised vocalist met Long Beach, CA producer Ahwlee at record producer Mndsgn’s birthday party in 2015, he embraced their instant connection. By 2016’s summer release “Dear Summer” the duo was casually pushing sonic bounds as B. Cool-Aid.
Their freshman LP Brwn kicked off a series of projects that encapsulated B. Cool-Aid’s view of the Black aura. Despite their casual approach to producing and songwriting, Brwn, Syrup and their latest project Leather Blvd., are intentional bodies of work that ooze melanin representation, straight down to the titles and brown/burnt orange cover arts.
Like most Siifu and Ahwlee projects, there’s not much overthought on Leather Blvd. “If you really get in that thinking mode, it get out of control. You got to go on first instinct to move right,” the beatmaker confesses to The Fader. On Leather Blvd., Pink Siifu and Ahwlee curate a warm and hospitable atmosphere, taking listeners down the block and saying hey to mom, pop, and the cousins along the way. “Hope your momma good. Tell your pops take care,” Siifu whispers as he waves to the neighbors on soulful single “soundgood” featuring Liv.e, Jimetta Rose, & V.C.R.
An ensemble cast of characters join the duo to create an entrancing, handcrafted soundscape. Devin Morrison delivers a mellow chorus and MoRuf pleads with a past lover on the conversational ballad “Wassup,” a single that keeps the listener intrigued with radio chatter of the week’s outdoor summer events in the city. Juicy salon parlor gossip lays over Ahwlee’s trance-like loops on “So Soft Salon” while a live band—courtesy of multi-instrumentalist DJ Harrison and bandleader Butcher Brown—scats across a comedic soundbite of the late comedian Teddy Ray on “ChalkRoundIt (Talk abt it).”
“If u can See Me (4U)” further showcases comedic elements with an erotic, viral Vine confession preceded by Liv.e’s hushed vocal loops of “I think you’re something boy.” Closer “We Good at Leather Tht Leather This,” featuring Fousheé, Butcher Brown, Nita Darling, and the Legendary Ladybug Mecca sports crooked word plays that interchange between Ahwlee’s lush cymbal taps. “Leather that, leather this. Leather hats, leather fits,” Nita’s warm laughter and buttery voice transports the listener to a hazy jazz bar on the corner.
Like “ChalkRoundIt (Talk abt it)”, heavy rap number “Brandy, Aaliyah”, featuring Quelle Chris, creates a pocket of high energy amongst the sluggish serenades and revolutionary spoken word. In fact, most tracks on Leather Blvd., like the Mndsgn-assisted “Neem,” feature some form of contemplative monologue (kudos to The Dungeon Family’s Big Rube) that ironically compliments Ahwlee’s laidback beat-making style. Laidback doesn’t equate to boring, but it can be perceived that way to those who hate excessive dialogue, despite how integral it is to this project.
These layered, unpretentious elements add character to the long southern drawl of a project that could easily get long-winded like a hot summer day if it weren’t for amusing flows and sultry acoustic chords like on star track “fools _ LSA” or the waning synths and encouraging affirmations on “Diamonds.” “So much pressure babe, but imma make diamonds.” Like most balmy days, the time passes and the tunes start to blend so it helps to have your special circle of friends with you to enjoy the eccentric tracks like “CRAXY’’’!” or the stacked claps and Siifu’s clouded vocals on “Streets Got Pages.”
Leather Blvd. gives a new-age take on the old Low End Theory parties in LA, embracing the underground, instinctual themes of that time. Like on Brwn and Syrup, B. Cool-Aid continues to mesh dissimilar pieces of cultural soundbites, beat shifts, murky Siifu riffs, and immersive lofi instrumentals to make a cohesive piece. The duo’s third project is a sophisticated soundtrack of the block, the smoky piano lounge, or the school playground where if you don’t fit in it’s pretty much not for you. Whatever setting, wherever the listener is, on Leather Blvd., expect street wisdom, elegance, and transcending sounds of summertime on the boulevard.