Aug 14, 2023, 05:57AM

Last Friday, All of American Music Merged into a Single Style

Everyone's invited to the hoedown on O.N.E. the Duo's album Blood Harmony.

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If Americans' music is ahead of our politics, that's not surprising. Music is a place where the culture's fundamental problems and identities have been enacted and undermined and transcended for more than a century. American sub-cultures and connected musical forms are characterized by periods of purification oscillating with moments of confluence, both of which can be scenes of creative flow. We're in one of the latter right now, and maybe we're emerging more widely from the identity politics and identity aesthetics of the 2010s into something more promiscuous and pleasurable.

All possible cultural mergers are symbolized by O.N.E., the mother-daughter duo of Tekitha and Prana Supreme Diggs, whose father is RZA of Wu-Tang Clan. Their excellent new LP comes from Nashville and is categorized on iTunes as country. RZA's (ex) boo and their daughter made a country record, okay? But Blood Harmony delightfully throws together genres and instruments, from a keening harmonica to huge synthetic bass (together at last).

And also emotions: the country kind and the hip-hop kind and otherwise. Into it flows all soul, gospel, blues, hip-hop, even touches of jazz and classical, as well as big doses of Taylor and Beyoncé pure pop. I think the vocals are in a soul or r&b vein(oh man that is good, with under 1k views), but then again soul and country are very similar genres. "Listen, I stan Miranda Lambert," Tekitha told Rolling Stone last year. For that matter, Tekitha and Prana Supreme's harmonies remind me of reggae greats Althea and Donna.

The duo say O is for observant, N for noetic, and E for effervescent. I'm feeling that saying “O.N.E.” together will help us rise to a higher level of collective mindfulness, insofar as an acronym can accomplish that. Plus, it should really help us shimmy involuntarily, alone and together.

A couple of weeks ago I was writing about the wild syntheses of people such as Jelly Roll and Tanner Adell, the back road Cardi B ("rattle my cattle"). So it's not just Prana Supreme and Tekithaout on a multiple-identity limb; the culture as a whole has to be ready to make sense of a synthesis such as this. Here, it doesn't feel like various foreign elements are squeezed together in a self-conscious synthesis or parody, like it might have the first time Tim McGraw tried to rap, or when Kool Moe Dee quoted The Good, the Bad and The Ugly. It makes sense now; it requires no decoding; it has or is its own vocabulary, comprehensible to just about anyone who's been listening to music anytime in the last 10 years, or anyone who thought Old Town Road" was pretty catchy.

This new synthesis has been achieved basically under the aegis of hip-hop, which can use any element from any music anywhere to assemble a track. That's roughly the way everyone records everything now. Working, I suspect, in their basements late at night, people whip up these syncretic beats and future hits from snatches of square dance fiddle or banjo as well as from bits of "Planet Rock." Maybe that started circa 1982, when this happened and Run DMC geared up for "Walk This Way." But now it happens so easily all the time and sounds so good.

This new synthesis of all music, which hit like a mofo last Friday, has been building momentum, slightly under the pop surface, for a long time. Country hip-hop is 10 years old at least and finally hitting various strides, from hard-ass white outlaw types to cuddly young Black persons. Who even knows these people's pronouns? To take another example, which has led to some really great music: A number of Black women over the last five years and more have made outstanding Americana, folk, blues, and country albums. In reclaiming roots vocabularies, they’re also creating a new period in roots music. Rhiannon Giddens, who has a new album coming out this week, has been a spearhead.

The fierce and joyful reclaiming of displaced identities by Giddens, @folkrockdiva Lilli Lewis, or The War and Treaty might be part of the process of making new artforms. Maybe that process is now giddily (as it were) assembling everything everyone grew up with, or is growing up with right now, into a great new pop sound. When RZA's progeny stans Miranda and their sensibilities converge in the effervescent next generation, I get a glimpse of us all dancing away into the sky together.

Wait, is that good? Anyway, we might have to get through the next election before achieving our ultimate merger into a single song. But we can listen, right now, to how we might all sound as O.N.E.

—Follow Crispin Sartwell on X: @CrispinSartwell


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