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Sunny Levine Grabs Shabazz Palaces for the Politically Charged "Crime Lords"

The second single from his new record 'Notions' blends post-apocalyptic rhythm and blues with existential nostalgia.

by Noisey China
07 June 2018, 8:31am

Photo by Abby Ross

This article originally appeared on Noisey China.

Artists whose families have a long musical heritage might not like people bringing up their artistic forebears all the time, but it’s hard to talk about Sunny Levine without mentioning that he comes from one of the most legendary musical bloodlines on the planet. His grandfather, Quincy Jones, made music with icons like Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson, and Stewart Levine (who plays horns on this album), his father, has worked with B. B. King, Lionel Richie, and Jamie Cullum. Sunny’s uncle QD3 also produced records for Tupac and Ice Cube. Sunny clearly inherited the familial talent for producing, having worked with names like Pete Yorn, Lenka, and Scarlett Johansson – but as a singer and creator, he introduces us to the entirely new world that he builds in his upcoming album, Notions.

Though he’s done various studio sessions and knows genres well, Sunny accomplishes something brand new on Notions. He abandons the boundaries of genre entirely, incorporating and layering different sound elements, contrasting the intimate and familiar against an unknown world.

Today, Noisey is premiering “Crime Lords,” Sunny’s second single from Notions. According to Sunny, the track addresses the current state of the world. “The real criminals of the world are our inept power-crazed politicians, and the big businesses that rule them,” he says. “The Al Capones, the Krays, the Cosa Nostras, the Myer Lanskys of the world would have never let something as far-fetched as Russia meddling with the American elections go down. So we find ourselves in a predicament where only the ‘Crime Lords’ can save us.”

“Crime Lords” also features the hip-hop duo Shabazz Palaces. When Sunny first started working on his record, he’d just finished working closely with Ish, a member of Shabazz Palaces, on their album Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines. He acknowledges that Notions was influenced by his experience with Quazarz in many ways: “I considered the character of my record to be a close comrade of Quazarz’s [Ish’s persona from the Shabazz Palaces album]. [From] the early stages of making Notions, I was designing a nice scenario for Ish to come and be a part of the Notions world, and "Crime Lords" seemed like the perfect place for him to show up. When we recorded "Crime Lords," it was ultra nice to be rockin' again. When you make records together – especially very conceptualised ones – you align and develop a common language and parameters that are sometimes hard to explain,” he says, adding, “I had spent such deep time working hard and far out to help him bring his visions to light on the Quazarz album, so it was dope in that moment to see him doing the same with my project with such nuance and dimensionality.”

You can listen to “Crime Lords” below:

This article originally appeared on Noisey US.