by Jacob Threadgill, Clarion Ledger
Richard Nixon parlayed violent social uprising into the presidency by relying on what he coined “the silent majority.”
More than four decades later, as Donald Trump once again invokes the term in the era of social movements like Black Lives Matter, Jackson emcee Pyinfamous wants the quiet constituency to release it’s struggling just as much as the underclass.
With the release of his new album,“We Struggle Too,” Pyinfamous, real name Jason Thompson, sets his sights on contextualizing political rhetoric in a way that he hopes can change the conversation.
“It’s humanizing the issues. A lot of times we think ‘Oh, I’m not the 1 percent; I’m good.’ But no, you’re really not. You can make $50,000 and make very bad economic decisions that impact everyone,” Thompson said. “People think, ‘Well, I’m just shopping or sending my kid to school,’ but the decision to live in the suburbs directly impacts the people that live in the city.”
Teaming up with producer Vic Wilson, Pyinfamous released the album just as the national political discussion ramps up ahead of the Iowa caucuses, but the record is more four years in the making. Its themes will resonate with listeners from across the country and even internationally.
Thompson will host an album release party Jan. 2 at 215 W. Capitol St. and said he heard from a fan in Canada who is planning to attend.
“(He told me that) the music keeps in front of him the realities that exist in the world. It’s easy to watch something on TV and go back to our life.”
Track “HTC (Hope Tomorrow Comes),” features an empowering call for democratic reform lifted from Charlie Chaplin’s mea culpa from the lead character in “The Dictator.”
“You the people have the power to make this life free and beautiful,” Chaplin says after Pyinafmous’ opening line, “While Peter is robbing Paul, Wall Street is robbing y’all.”
On “Cuisine for Consideration,” Thompson inserts clever food puns (“Don’t become a grouper groupie”) while keeping his lyrics on message:
“There are a whole we’re looking to blame, but the problem is they’re not cooking the same. The content of their cupboard is not for the characters blessed with brown sugar from the other America.”
Born in Clarksdale and a longtime resident of Crystal Springs, Thompson began rapping by memorizing Too $hort verses before later being inspired by the story telling of Nas, Common, MJG & 8Ball.
He won a national competition as Coors Light’s “Coldest MC” back in 2011. Although naturally gifted, Thompson’s musical career took a backseat after he got married and expanded his Fahrenheit Creative Group marketing firm into a downtown office.
Half of the tracks on “We Struggle Too” were recorded in 2011, but Thompson said he got the spark to finish the album after appearing on the Mississippi episode of Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown.”
The delay in the release has helped the overall message and production of the album, he said. Track “Fist Pump” is unlike anything he’s featured on any of his previous four albums, stepping away from soul samples and into an electronic mix worthy of a club anthem.
“It reminds me of Crime Mob’s ‘Knuck if you Buck,’ which is important. I want people to understand that PyInfamous is Jason, he is from Mississippi and lives in Jackson. … I’m from Mississippi and Southern born and bred, and hopefully that is reflected in my music.”
The song “Pocket Full” features a sample from seminal Southern rapper Pimp C.
There are also tracks “War Not Love” and “What You Hear,” which feature Thompson’s twin younger brothers, who perform under the names Ahmad Rashad and Saddi Sundiata. Along with his brothers, Skipp Coon and Coke Bumaye combine to form the group The Jackson Jackals.
“Jackson, we feel, pound for pound per capita, we have the most hip-hop talent,” Thompson said. “For a city of 180,000 folks we have some very talented emcees.”
While other artists are concerned with making their music more accessible to appeal to as many fans as possible, Thompson is uncompromising. Granted the financial freedom as a business owner, he isn’t worried about commercial success, even describing his music as “blatantly against the grain.” It’s a mindset that pays off for the listener into one of the most politically resonate records out of Mississippi in a long time.
Contact Jacob Threadgill at (601) 961-7192 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @JacoboLaSombra on Twitter.