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The Magic of Possibilities
Sankofa and 100 Magnets
By John Hubner
Fort Wayne Reader
Last we heard of Stephen Bryden, aka Sankofa, he was releasing onto the world an excellent LP called Ink From Rust. When Bryden does something, musical or otherwise, he puts 110% in. There's no half-assing it. I came to Sankofa kind of late, but when I did I was in. I'm pretty much a novice when it comes to hip hop, but I feel that I know great art when I see/hear it. Ink From Rust is damn great art, created at a very grounded level where even a novice like myself could appreciate the work put into it. From the album art, to videos, to the media roll out Bryden brought together a masterful crew of truly creative Fort Wayne folks(as well as the support from home) to make Ink From Rust's release not just an album release, but a real happening.
With that album's release just a few months behind us I wasn't expecting to hear from Bryden for a while longer, but after a run-in with a school toolbox inspiration hit and Sankofa was back at it and we now have 100 Magnets. 100 Magnets is a breezy and loose 6-track album that feels like an afternoon walk thru downtown in your favorite sneakers, or an after work game of basketball with some friends. It's a quick fix to a lousy day. Something to get you out of the everyday doldrums, even if it's just for the album's quick run time.
I caught up with Bryden and we talked about the new record, its inspiration, and maybe even the possibility of a new Silversmiths album.
J. Hubner: You dropped the excellent 'Ink From Rust' back in March of this year, and now you've released another gem onto the world with the 6 song '100 Magnets'. How did this mini-album come together? What was the concept behind it? What's the story behind the title?
Stephen Bryden: 100 Magnets was one of two projects I had in the conceptual works when all the pieces to make Ink From Rust synced up, landed in my lap, and demanded my complete attention, thus putting 100 Magnets and the next Silversmiths album (entitled Amplifier Skull) on the backburner. I started writing an explanation rap which I ended up not recording, but it was focused on the blending of the grateful, fortunate, content, and inquisitive. There are 6 songs because the producer (J Dankworth out of LA) liked that number. As a nod to the past, it's getting a 25 (orange) tape release. In recognition of the present, it's also available on digital platform mainstays. 100 Magnets is named/designed after a little box I found in an abandoned old school toolbox. To me, the box called forth the magic of possibilities, as though it were the beginning of an adventurous children's book.
J. Hubner: It's got a very old school feel to it. Very upbeat songs and simple beats that just stay in your head long after the album is over.
Stephen Bryden: This is my "inspired by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince" project, with nods to the way groups like The Nonce made me feel. This is a project where the focus is fun.
J. Hubner: The first video is for the great "Dad of the Year.” That video gets me every time, man. It's just so earnest and heartfelt. Was the video your concept? Who helped bring it to life?
Stephen Bryden: As is most often the case, there were lots of ideas, some of which may well appear in future efforts. Bambi (longtime family portrait shooter/rap video everything collaborator) shot/edited/everythinged the video. I wanted to include dads I knew and Bambi's odometer tells the tale as to the precise count. I sent the lyrics to a bunch of dad's I knew, told them the general idea, and asked if they'd like to participate. "Dad of the Year" is about the fallacy of perfection, especially as it relates to the incredible challenge of parenthood. Love is bonds infinity to the impossible, a glue which holds fast when times turn the the grim.
J. Hubner: Are you playing any shows to promote '100 Magnets'?
Stephen Bryden: No. I'm playing a Kickstarter backer party to celebrate the community achievement of Matthew Plett and Lissa Brown's WunderKammer murals in addition to a WELT fundraiser in November, but it's refreshing to just chill. The event was the video launch.
J. Hubner: I wanted to ask you about the show you did in Illinois back in August with Fort Wayne native and Big Jaw mastermind Clint Roth. How did that show come together? A Sankofa/Big Jaw joint show seems like the perfect match, actually.
Stephen Bryden: Joel Frieders, a larger than life whirlwind of enthusiasm. I love Big Jaw's music and he was in Chicago with work. He asked if I'd be interested in playing a show and if I knew anyone. I contacted Joel who set up the show at the Law Office Music Hall he helped open via his Ellemy development company. The show fell on the same night as the big hype money pay per view and was dead, but I had a blast.
J. Hubner: It seemed like 'Ink From Rust' was an album where you had a lot to say about what's going on in the world, good and bad. But '100 Magnets' seems very personal in a different way.
Stephen Bryden: IFR was navel gazing, 100 Magnets is life. The older I get, the simpler my approach becomes. I try to stretch from the aspect of working on my craft, but I continue to seek to evolve to simplicity. Amplifier Skull is an entirely different tack.
J. Hubner: Amplifier Skull? Can you tell me more?
Stephen Bryden: I could tell you where the title comes from, but it's a lot iller sans context. Our previous endeavors have included The Algol Paradox (prod. by ognihs) and A Tandem of Giants (prod. by Agent Orange).
J. Hubner: How does your work differ in the Silversmiths, as opposed to Sankofa?
Stephen Bryden: The Silversmiths is the rapper half (JON?DOE and myself) of a one time team up of two producers (ognihs and Manic Depressive then operating under the moniker Suspended Animators) and said rapper guys. White Collar Criminals' "Invest-Mentality" was the result of J?D and myself living for a week with ognihs and frequently visited by Manic Depressive. Lots of Dreamcast Soul Calibre was played and lasting friendships were made. JON?DOE and I still had the itch to make songs together, but didn't want to do that whole "act with only half the original members" thing and thus was born the Silversmiths. We recorded an album entitled Ragnarock back in 2001 which didn't see the light of day until muuuuch later. JON?DOE is one of my best friends and an amazing rapper, so our working together provides a boost to step up my craft that sometimes proves daunting. Said focus is why I've yet to record my share of our album-I want to make sure I am properly prepared and truly inspired when I record my mostly-written component.
JON?DOE and I are remarkably similar in the way our minds work, to the point he's one of the few guys who has understood what I'm talking about, more from perspective than a vocabulary-based standpoint. J?D brings a level of musicality and elasticity to his rhyming which I can only dream of nearing. Sometimes I've been asked who I could make songs with and honestly, it's my friends, friends like JON?DOE who is a master of his craft between juggling the rest of his life. I love that dude.
To simply answer your question: Silversmiths work differs in that it is-at any given moment-much more focused, silly, conceptual, and bizarre than my solo endeavors.
If you haven't yet downloaded 100 Magnets, head to sankofa.bandcamp.com and put it in your ears. For you tape aficionados, there will be a 25 orange cassette release as well. Follow Sankofa on Facebook at facebook.com/sankofafw so you can grab a cassette (when they're available) and to keep up with this prolific dude.