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The Cornel West Theory

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the Cornel West theory is a Washington, D.C.-based ensemble, proudly born from the hip-hop aesthetic, but not bound by limitations of any genre. It’s an eclectic amalgam of spoken word, lyricism, instruments, electronics and vocals, which draw from genres ranging from home-grown go-go to jazz to rock to hip-hop. This “musical theory” is best understood as an artistic wavelength that hits you aesthetically, emotionally and intellectually.

With the blessing of Dr. Cornel West, the Princeton University professor and renowned author, the band takes its name from his prolific writings and philosophies, which have shaped contemporary thought throughout the world.

Inspired by D.C.’s rich musical history and the struggles of poor people worldwide, the ensemble formed in 2004 in response to social oppression everywhere. Winners of the 2008 Washington Area Music Association’s Wammie for Best Hip-Hop Duo or Group, the Cornel West theory released its debut album “Second Rome” in 2009. They are set to release their next full-length project in the summer of 2011.

They are here to deliver music that holds a mirror to the world, with a core focus on political, cultural and spiritual commentary. They combine the essence of hip-hop with the original purpose of its movement: to speak truth to the masses.
The ultimate griot, Dr. Cornel West, has recorded and appeared live with the band, sharing his unifying philosophy and highlighting the talents of this extraordinary ensemble.

When a listener gets the chance to hear the Cornel West theory, they are immediately lifted to a different state of consciousness by the band’s “tYPE 1” identity. Not many musical acts can take an audience that only desires to be entertained and truly enlighten them while rocking them. Their current release, “Second Rome,” is a cause/effect analytical journey through the different issues that America has been facing from its inception to present day �" from imperialism, economic instability, war, fascism, etc. With musical production that demands respect from the most critical of audiences, the presentation can stand on its own, leaving listeners craving more of the discussion and eager to be a part of the solution. Listeners are sympathetically invited to explore a range of emotions from anger and fear to hope and faith.

The album’s introduction “Second Rome” sets the stage for the album’s socially conscious content with the sounds and ambience of a futuristic dystopia. Midway through the journey is “Second Rome Revisited,” to remind the listener once again of the past, present and future.

“Oil as Slick,” “Durito’s Revenge,” and “Gentrified Chicken” take a look into the global position that America now holds. With variations on tempo and rhythm they once again seamlessly challenge conventional wisdom. They stake their claim as true proprietor’s of hip-hop with several bonafide anthems including “Paper Tigers, “Patriotic Me,” and “G.R.E.E.D.” The titles let you know what these songs are about, and their lyrical prowess is asserted firmly as they explore the facts.

With all of the cuts on the album, they challenge any specific classification. Incorporating the different evolutions of the blues (into jazz, R&B, rock, and hip-hop) along with spoken word and the diverse instrumentation they implement, the Cornel West theory embodies the “tYPE I” philosophy that refuses to be limited to one genre. While some might label them a “niche” group, they create music beyond a momentary fad or phase based on what is or isn’t popular. On “Jungle Hymn” the music meets the message of total insubordination to an ideology that does not work the way it should.

Bearing the name of the Cornel West theory, they demonstrate why pragmatism is essential to practicality �" something is only true if it can be proven. Dr. West has four solo pieces on the album where he tackles several issues. “A New Day in Hip Hop,” “ An Analysis on Language,” “Omega Cross,” and “Proverbs 31” question how hip-hop, language, religion and women are used as tools to perpetuate the ignorance that prevails over the quest for truth and knowledge. With Dr. West collaborating in the studio, his lyrics add another element of consciousness to the cypher.

They also show musical diversity through two additional female voices on the album. Songstress Deborah Bonds shares her vocal skills on “Angel for You,” a soothing ballad that immediately catches the ear and encourages listeners to sing along. Tim Hicks’ daughter on “Hannah’s Song” closes the album on a hopeful note. Her bright tone screams that there can be a better future.

In all, the Cornel West Theory delivers a chance to re-learn history and take action.