Words by Eddie STATS Houghton
As I mentioned/tweeted/trumpeted the other day I got the opportunity to chop it up with rockstar Lenny Kravitz recently about a range of topics on the occasion of his new album Black & White America, which drops tomorrow. Although the conversation was limited by Lenny’s superman schedule–taping for the new film Hunger Games while, touring and supporting the new LP–we manage to cover a range of topics from Obama’s speech on race to his own creative process. But I couldn’t let him hang up the phone without picking his brain a little bit on his Caribbean roots–which found their way onto B&WA in the form of the song “Boongie Drop,” easily the freshest-sounding track on a very retro album. You can get the rest of the interview at our channel partners Okayplayer but read on for a brief snippet covering the inspiration for that song, his studio in the Bahamas, and his personal connection to the islands.
[When asked why he thought listeners (myself included) found Black & White America to be more intensely personal than previous LPs Lenny had this to say]:
LK: Well I secluded myself for nearly two years on and off in the Bahamas, living in my trailer and staying away from a lot of people. Really just living in the village with the locals, there’s only about 400 people there, staying on my property recording, just being alone you know. Eating out of the garden, living a very calm life, brought me to a place where I needed to be after being in the middle of…chaos, basically, the last few years. A lot of work, a lot of touring, a lot of family up and downs and so forth. I needed to slow down and I think. By doing that, the music took a turn for the better.
LU: That’s interesting because [even though the themes of the album deal a lot with the particular moment in the US–including Obama’s presidency, the backlash of fear it’s caused, the idea of post-racism, etc.] you touched on the idea of a spectrum, that Black & White America doesn’t literally mean just black and white, but the full spectrum of America. It did seem like a little bit of the Caribbean snuck in there somewhere. How does the Jay-Z track that has a very Bahamian dancehall flavor fit into the rest of the stuff that was going on?
LK: I mean it just happened, you know. It was written after a night out, observing this whole scenario of these full-figured women dancing and with this aura of pride and beauty and–you know these women do not buy into the stereotype of what the media says beauty is. It was so beautiful to watch these full-figured women dancing and exposing their bodies and not having any trip about it, and that’s really what the song is about. It sounds like its just about shaking your ass, but it’s the whole tone of the place I’m writing about. That was done at about two in the morning after hanging out, getting back to the studio and I just felt it. And afterwards I heard Jay-Z’s voice on it, and called to ask him to be on it.
LU: How deep is your connection to Caribbean culture? I think your mom [actress Roxie Roker of The Jeffersons fame] has roots in the Caribbean, is that right?
LK: Yup my mom grew up in the Bahamas. That’s why I lived there and own property there.
LU: So was that culture a big presence for you growing up?
LK: Oh yeah, I would go down every summer, spend the summer with my cousins–and we’d go to the Bahamas as a family in the winters for Christmas vacation, so yes Caribbean culture is a major part of my life.