Composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist, and poet JJJJJerome Ellis today shared “Stepney,” a new track and video from his forthcoming 2xLP and book The Clearing—a conceptual and musical tour de force that explores how stuttering, blackness, and music can be practices of refusal against hegemonic governance of time, speech, and encounter.
“Stepney” was “written as an offering to the ancestors,” says Ellis. The track begins with him vocalizing over a hip-hop beat with rumbling 808s and swirling processed saxophones. Then, Ellis sings the names of African-descended, fugitive enslaved persons (e.g. Stepney) who spoke with stutters or other speech impediments. Ellis encountered these names in newspaper archives of so-called “fugitive slave advertisements” from the 18th and 19th century. After this ceremonial invocation of ancestors, Ellis’ mentor and friend Milta Vega-Cardona reads an email she wrote to him in 2019: “I am moved to believe that your so-called stutter is a space where you transcend the limitations of lineal white-time. And how in the space of that holdtime you create a non-lineal time continuum, and access to the ancestors, both for you and the listener.” The track builds to a climax with arpeggiated synths, galloping hi-hats, and Ellis’ saxophone overdubbed in rising swells.
Find more information, read the full bio and preorder The Clearing here.
[Photo Credit: Marc J. Franklin]