Southern soul is some funny stuff.
Hell 2 Da Naw Naw
Artist: Bishop Bullwinkle
"Some Preachers" (music videos)
Southern soul is some funny stuff. The genre applies primarily newfangled electronic instrumentation to old fashioned R&B melodic and lyrics tropes (imagine a scenario where Afrimerican popular music kept mining the veins last plumbed for crossover chart hits by Johnnie Taylor, Tyrone Davis, Clarence Carter, Betty Wright and Millie Jackson) and can be the frankest of forums for sexual politics and practice, all while sounding deceptively wholesome.
Maybe it's because it's made and consumed mostly by people of an age where child-bearing is almost impossible and conceiving them would be a distraction at a time when one's earning power is ebbing or ending? Possessing far from the melanin level to relate to the genre at its most direct level, I'm nonetheless intrigued to listen every Saturday to the Southern soul that makes it to my nearest AM black talk and music show.
Not all music in the genre is the aural festival of fornication described above, but neither does there seem to really be any kind of gospel counterpart to Southern soul. The sometimes chintzy keyboard-and other synth-driven production values that defined certain indie label sectors of commercial Afrimerican sacred music until at least the mid-'90s are now the sort Southern soul embraces. If anything, the soul gospel that makes it to Bobby Jones' radio and TV properties and other high-profile venues is a far sight slicker - perhaps in keeping with the word faith heterodoxies surrounding so much of Afrimerican church culture? - than that secular style doubtless favored by many black churchgoers when they aren't under a chapel roof on a Sunday morning.
Then there's Bishop Bullwinkle.
Let's assume that the man in the black cowboy hat and dark sunglasses in the compellingly low-tech, single-shot videos for "Hell 2 Da Naw Naw" and "Some Preachers" really does share a name with Jay Ward's cartoon moose. "Naw" has been circulating on various radio stations' rotations since last December, only recently making it to my upper Midwestern environs from Bullwinkle's West Central Florida digs. There are still numerous questions about him and his hits. "Preachers" will require some editing before it's ready for daylight hours' airplay (we'll get into why such is the case soon enough).
The video for "Naw" opens with the bishop outdoors behind a pulpit on which rest an empty fire extinguisher and a do-no-evil monkey statue. Over a chugging, loping track that sounds to sample the opening wah-wah guitar motif from Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" (sex isn't far away even from this sorta' sacred setting?) Bullwinkle introduces himself and his affiliation with The First Church of Nothin' But Da Truth. The sermon title for the day is that of his song. He speaks to the issues of his flock and society, from describing the deacons who let in the congregation and prep his truck to split the scene after services to the sisters who fix him a huge soul food lunch when his preaching for the morning is history.
Among those falling under Bullwinkle's rhetorical gaze include hypocrites, hemp-toking gang bangers, heterosexual and homosexual sinners (referenced in the most impolitic manners) who feign repentance but return to their evil ways that Monday. Every few lines, he emphasizes with the ear worm of a titular chorus: "Hell to naw naw, to da naw naw naw."
Toward the tune's conclusion, our faux (?) clergyman bends down to pet his dog that walks behind the lectern. Depending upon how the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) calculates these things nowadays, Bullwinkle may have a platinum single certification on his hands, with YouTube plays nearing the 2,000,000 mark.
"Some Preachers," released earlier in 2015, makes up for in strength what it may lack in its predecessor's melodic immediacy, with a chorus bluntly stating, "Some preachers ain't shit/some preachers need to quit." That's far from the only couplet that makes this among the strangest of adult party ditty, much less gospel tune.
And who would have thought that the two would ever meet? In an ironic lyrical twist, Bullwinkle admits the need to clean up his own sinful act, but his calling out of homosexuals continues through from his previous hit; videographically, cars passing by what appears to be a city park pavilion under which he lip-syncs sans pulpit take the place of his pooch as the clip's visual non sequitur. RIAA-wise, over 400,000 Youtube views positions this over 80% of the way to a gold record, or whatever they give out now.
For the sake of full disclosure, I should reveal that I engaged in conversation with Bishop Bullwinkle before writing this. Both his manager's and his client's telephone numbers are flashed at the beginning and end of each vid', so I gave the former a call in hopes of scoring a review copy of his latest album. I'm led to speaking with the Bullwinkle directly, without quite knowing that would be the case.
He was quick to start singing the chorus of his breakthrough biggie once I discerned I was speaking with him. His distinctively bluesy, preacherly voice makes him a tough dude to mistake for anyone else, really. From that introduction ensued a discussion of over 20 minutes, encompassing everything from his innovative D.I.Y. video-making technique (record onto VHS, dub to DVD) and whether Job remarried after his many woes to his adoption of a bishop persona and his justification for profanity to draw people's attention to his points. His use of an expletive best abbreviated as "J.G.d.C." when someone from his end attempted to interrupt our repartee revealed that, if he is truly Christian, sanctification hasn't quite caught up to his use of blasphemy. Though that interjection of his dampened my mood some, Bullwinkle is otherwise an engaging conversationalist who has carved himself a unique musical niche.
Combined rating for both songs: 1/4