A Q&A with Chicago Hip-Hop’s Newest Savant

Photo by Lauren Washington

July 2020. The backdrop is pretty nondescript. Just a freshly-painted gray wall and a window in sight. But the woman in the foreground is about to explode and elicit a slew of fire emojis, for good measure, once more.

No microphone check necessary. She’s ready.

Just hit “REC.”

I never been the type to tell you that I got the answers.
I seen what they did to Malcolm, what they did to Panthers.

These are the rhythms of Chicago indie rapper and composer Brittney Carter, 29. She’ll continue flowing like that, over a…

Cover of “Spill Ink On It” | Photograph: Curtis Stephen

A racial reckoning. That too is what has been happening in 2020. And, for proof, we need only consult the ultimate arbiter of all things up-to-the-minute with — yes, you guessed it — Google. At last count, there’s been some four million references to a “racial reckoning” by news outlets and blogs for this year alone.

But that sentiment is hardly new. Back in 1924, the Jamaican-born Pan African leader Marcus Garvey raised the prospect of a “final reckoning” in an essay for his weekly newspaper, The Negro World. …

Diana Ross. Stevie Wonder. Jay-Z and Diddy. How This Photographer Captured What You Didn’t See

Wall from a 2012 exhibit of Alix Dejean’s work in Brooklyn, New York. On the left, musicians Stevie Wonder and Bob Marley share a laugh. And (right) the Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti. | Photo: Curtis Stephen

The man glancing off to the distance is truly distinct. He’s got Jheri curls and is decked out in a black open collared shirt and a slim white blazer. Topping off the ensemble is white and grey beaded necklace that is glistening just below his chest.

Even more striking, though, is the expression on his face. He’s smiling broadly. In fact, it looks as if he’s about to erupt in deep belly laughter. This is Miles Davis like we’ve never, ever seen him before.

And it’s a picture of him that has long been a prized possession of the person…

Curtis Stephen

A NY-based journalist, Stephen is currently writing a biography on the legendary radio DJ Frankie Crocker, CHIEF ROCKER. His Twitter handle is @curtisstephen23.

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