The Legend of Mike Smith
‘The Legend of Mike Smith’ is a double album epic from Soweto Kinch that tells the story of an aspiring rapper possessed by each of the seven deadly sins. Fusing jazz, hip-hop and spoken word narrative the album explores corporate sin, the temptations of capitalism and the travails of a young artist attempting to get signed. Featuring Kinch on saxophones, rap/spoken vocals and beat production it’s certainly his most ambitious recording project to date. With the trio of Soweto, Karl Rasheed Abel (bass) and Graham Godfrey (drums) at its core, the album also features notable collaborators including vocalists Eska Mtungwazi and Cleveland Watkiss, pianist Julian Joseph, saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings and trumpeter Jay Phelps, alongside a cast of actors.
Drawing on influences as divergent as Dante, J.S. Bach, Ornette Coleman and Madlib, the album creates an alternative sonic universe to comment on this one and is a thrilling, cryptic and comedic listen from start to finish. As Soweto describes, “this concept really allowed me to push myself to stylistic extremes, light years outside of my comfort zone.”
The album concept revolves around a nine-sided wheel or nonagon. Each musical point along the wheel explores a feature of different numbers or shapes. For instance the track exploring ‘3’ uses frequencies such as 60Hz and relates it to 180Hz (the internal and total angles of an equilateral triangle). Through shifting time signatures, harmony and tonality the music explores how sound can describe incorporeal ideas of mathematics, traveling through each point along a digital system: how music gives form to ideas that can’t be seen in the natural world; or how these fundamentals are expressed in nature or sacred geometry. Taking broad inspiration from bird song and cymatic patterns, to the Egyptian Ennead and Platonic shapes this album will feel like a journey through a hidden world of abstraction.
“In an age where words, science or religion are often used to divide people, I’m largely inspired by these numerical and sonic aspects of music that transcend cultural differences. Whilst writing the Legend of Mike Smith, I had innumerable conversations about ‘dark forces’ controlling the music industry and keeping the populace as sheeple. Part of the inspiration is in injecting a musical antidote that instead inspires us to see new visions of the surrounding world”