It's a point I've brought up before in this space but bears repeating: A lot of mainstream (read: white) perspectives on black art focus on trauma and struggle. Sure, it's often necessary to focus on such a perspective, especially when thinking about the historical abuse and marginalization of black folk in America. But sometimes it seems as though we're being fed a narrative where eloquently living in the mouth of hell is all our art is good for. We don't spend every minute of every day reckoning with the injustices levied upon us, the saddening things we might have seen. There are points in our lives where we lavish in the warm embrace of a lover, where we dance the night into the small hours of the morning, where we enjoy a bottle of soda or an ice cream cone so divine we feel it in our loins. If this seems like common knowledge to you, then the fact that sometimes we make art that reflects our everyday lives shouldn't be overruled by a perceived cultural lust for the adversity narratives of black people.
This is the basis for Black Girl Unbothered, the recent EP from Tacoma native LIV†. In her own words, the brisk, twenty-minute release is "seven tracks dedicated to the free spirit of a young black girl living her life." Musically, Black Girl Unbothered is reminiscent of walking around the busy streets of Seattle's most bustling neighborhoods during the hottest weeks of the year, an unvarnished blue sky pointed at by trees and skyscrapers in the distance, while laughing or clutching hands or starting impromptu foot races with someone you love spending time with. The beats and instrumentalism which provides the foundation for LIV†'s songs are just on the other side of dreamlike, very much grounded and terrestrial, but sounding like it could float into outer space at any moment.
Opener "Unbothered" is a declarative statement of self-acceptance, colored by LIV†'s perspective and shaded in by what she sees in the people surrounding her. Over the Shayhan-produced clicking drums and upright bass, she keeps her eye on her friends who can only party when they're on drugs and the women kissing women purely for social media engagement. She sees the depreciating value in chasing props and rebukes the people who have had nothing to do with her personal development commenting on her lifestyle. She's weary of straining herself for the approval of strangers. She prides authenticity over having a famous name, strolling and scrolling past the basic template naysayers crowding streets and Twitter feeds.
"Social Nomad (The LIV† Intro)" finds the artist spitting bars about how her writing heals her spiritually, men trying to get her to conform, stealing your girl and your man, and trying to keep herself unchained from apathy. Over Soultanz's hard hitting but ethereal beat, LIV† offers an acronym for her name, a few of her character attributes carved into her spirit while she collects back-pay from would-be bosses. She quips, "All these big words just to say I got a lotta me."
Love and sexuality is the current flowing throughout Black Girl Unbothered, as its thesis heavily relies on LIV† writing from a state of bliss and naturality. The first verse of "Date Night" starts with two naked bodies, which bring the best-case scenario of any date up about two or three extra levels. The slow jam bounce of "43VR" gives way to images of brown skin and silk sheets, two passengers riding down a long road with music blaring, and the pledge of getting drunk and making love. Summer dreams, tight embraces, and statements of devotion.
The parallel energies of "November 24 (Interlude)" and "Want You Bad Part 1 & 2" convey a sense of longing; one solitary and yearning, the other confident and measured. In the former, she sings softly of dreamlike getaways and healing balms before belting out her desire. The latter, over a modern jazz influenced beat sounding like Thundercat as the house musician of a Tinder meetup spot, finds LIV† spitting game to prospective lover, finding the balance between showing them she could be the one and not overdoing it. She recognizes there is a fine line she's treading, but manages the tightrope with ease and grace.
Black Girl Unbothered is breezy, quietly confident, and romantic by immaculate design. It's an EP as surehanded with shit talk as it is come-ons, a release that celebrates the individuality of one very talented black woman. As the 808s bump and LIV† asserts her self-love and tries to find the love from another person most of us dream about, the singer/rapper/songwriter ascends to the next level of her craft with this gorgeous collection of songs.
LIV† will be playing Black Girl Unbothered: The LIVe Show with Campana, Alla, and DJ Kween Kay$h at Clock-Out Lounge on Friday, November 15th. Tickets are still available and you can buy them here!
Seattle songwriter sings and raps about the multitudes of her identity on the first single from her upcoming She's A Social Nomad EP
Seattle songwriter Olivia Thomas, who performs under the name LIV†, shares the importance of taking pride in the accomplishments of black people, encouraging black female artists, and feeling represented by artists like Alicia Keys and Lauryn Hill.