Veteran MC Raw Poetic takes us track-by-track through ‘Away Back In,’ a soulful and smoldering collaboration with guitarist P-Fritz and producer Damu The Fudgemunk that marries hip-hop, jazz, and alternative rock, while aching with the warm weight of life itself.
Stream: “Ease Side” – Raw Poetic
From the moment a smoky drumbeat and jazzy guitar licks come into view, Raw Poetic’s new album consumes our hearts, our ears, and our souls. “Chill starry night on the east side, lookin’ at your girl, knowin’ we right,” the Philadelphia-born, DC-based MC raps, his flow smooth as he leans into a moment of tranquility, intimacy, and unencumbered human connection. “Been through the storm, now we see skies, less than our limits, so we ride.” So begins Away Back In, a soulful and smoldering collaboration with guitarist P-Fritz and producer Damu The Fudgemunk that aches with the warm weight of life itself.
Released August 25, 2023 via Def Pressé, Away Back In is an utterly intoxicating, strikingly progressive old-school-meets-new-school reverie. Bridging the worlds of hip-hop, jazz, alternative rock, garage, and more, Raw Poetic’s latest studio album finds the veteran indie MC and lyricist working together with guitarist P-Fritz (aka Patrick Fritz) and his longtime producer Damu the Fudgemunk to create a world – or rather, eleven worlds – the likes of which we haven’t heard in a long, long time.
It’s been nearly two full decades since Raw Poetic – née Jason Moore – began his career in hip-hop, first through his band Restoring Poetry in Music and the duo Panacea (with producer K-Murdock) and over the past ten years, through his solo and collaborative material under his own name. Away Back In arrives less than a year after 2022’s acclaimed album releases Laminated Skies (March 2022) and the ambitious, grandiose triple-album, two-hour affair, Space Beyond The Solar System (December 2022). Both of these albums treat listeners to sweeping sonics and play host to an expansive, dynamic array of instruments – and are well worth the listen for all fans of hip-hop – but one Away Back In, one gets the sense that Raw Poetic and his friends decided to pull back and focus on the basics: “Guitars, beats, rhymes,” as P-Fritz says.
“I think with every album, you start off in a new place,” Raw Poetic tells Atwood Magazine. “On Space Beyond, we were deep in brooding jazz landscapes. The rhymes were painting abstract pictures very geared towards black life. Laminated Skies was otherworldly and connected to the ancestors through love and light. Away Back In kinda went into this garage rock/ hip-hop jazz feel. I wanted Pat to just have a playground of beats from Damu and go at it. And he did, which gave us a new world to play with. The original idea was let’s get in and out. Finished the lyrics in like a week, and I was ready to move on. But once we started really producing it, I think the dynamic grew. It was very tricky to navigate through and get it just right. It almost feels like a launching pad for me. Pat and I have made music together for a long time. But this is the deepest our collaborative minds have gone together. So it keeps me excited for what we do next.”
“I’ve always wanted to be part of a guitar-forward hip-hop album that sounded like something I never heard before,” P-Fritz adds. “J and Damu are the kinds of cats with big enough ears and imaginations to get on board with that. Damu’s drums sparked the ideas and then we went to work. After J and I got the songs about where we wanted them, Damu closed the loop by reconfiguring the drums and mastering the record.”
“We’re at a point in our lives where we’ve been through a lot personally, and as a group. After all this time, we are very comfortable working with each other and despite some tough conversations, still remain close at the end of the day. We also know ourselves better than we ever have. With all that comes the confidence to make the music that we want to hear. It’s not trendy, but it captures our voice and our development at this point in time, and it has substance on every level. The depth with which some fans have chosen to connect with this music is really special to us.”
Hip-hop and jazz have forever had a special relationship, and Raw Poetic’s music shows that spirit to be alive and well.
As both he and P-Fritz attest, their sound is years in the making, and is constantly growing and changing.
“There’s a quote from Bill Evans circulating that I really resonate with,” the guitarist says. “‘Jazz is not a what, it’s a how.’” A big part of our “how” is rooted in the spirit of improvisation and using our collective voice to communicate intensity and feeling to each other and to our audience. We were a live band for so many years and that’s in our DNA. Because of that, the songs are written, perhaps unconsciously, as platforms for exploration both lyrically and musically. This is especially true on stage. We’re the type of group that isn’t married to the version on the record. If you come and see us live, you might hear a completely different version of the songs depending on who’s playing with us that night, and the mood of the audience. It’s important to us that we generate excitement to share with our audience, and spontaneity in the moment is a great way to get there.”
Raw Poetic adds, “Where we’re from, there weren’t a lot of DJs. Pat and I started playing hip hop with live bands. It’s all we knew for a long time; performance wise. So I feel like we have taken many years to develop our sound. Which is still evolving.”
The album’s title stems from the song “A Way Back In,” an enchanting, heated eruption that sits at the tail end of the album, right next to the acoustic guitar-driven “Human Kindness.”
“We had the song ‘A Way Back In’ first. Pat suggested calling the album that because it kind of described us returning to form and really investing into our music as brothers again,” Raw Poetic recalls. “Damu brought the “Away” into the title because we do things our own way… very distant from the rest.”
He smiles in describing the album as Beastie, Tribe, and Enemy. “I think Beastie Boys, A Tribe Called Quest, and Public Enemy are big influences on this album.”
There is quite a lot to love on the journey from “Ease Side” to “Human Kindness,” with highlights ranging from the grunge-y “Sometime After Midnight” to the spellbinding “Dank Ish” and the cerebral, white-hot “Numb.”
“I like ‘Bird’s Eye’ and ‘Human Kindness (Acoustic),’” Raw Poetic says. “Polar opposites, but they really show who we are in different ways. Pat and I do so much acoustic stuff we’ve never released. I think it’s a new genre. I like a lot of the lyrics on this one – but on ‘Sometime After Midnight,’ I like, “I think I heard it all/ I heard the murder call/ I heard the word racism has gotta still evolve/ I heard human say they never saw a race at all/ Then shot a —- in the back for taking off.” I think that line kind of defines a large proportion of America.”
“I like ‘A Way Back In’ quite a bit,” P-Fritz says of his own favorites. “It sounds like an updated version of the sounds we were working toward many years ago. And I think the lyrics sum that up perfectly. I like the acoustic version of ‘Human Kindness’ for a different reason: It makes me a bit nervous. It’s very exposed. I don’t really have a frame of reference for anything else quite like it in this genre. But that’s also what makes it exciting.”
2023 finds us celebrating the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, and as such Raw Poetic and P-Fritz are keen to share their inspirations and discuss what hip-hop means to them.
“Hip-hop is my musical language,” Raw Poetic says. “It’s in my soul. My favorite groups are as named above. A Tribe Called Quest, Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, and De La Soul. I feel like hiphop can be the ultimate form of poetry, as long as we keep our minds open and not short sighted. Happy 50th.”
P-Fritz echoes the love his artistic partner share. “My earliest influences were Public Enemy, the Roots, and Digital Underground. Hip hop was educational for me. Unpacking lyrics from the likes of Chuck D or KRS-One informed my view of American culture, history, and society at a profound level. The samples used by Digital Underground and Tribe were some of the first times I ever heard the great icons of jazz. I think there’s a place for our voice in this music. The genre is wide open and continues to evolve. I’m stunned by some of the contributions from younger artists. But I’m also heartened by the vitality, urgency, and wisdom that the old guard continue to contribute. Some of these cats are truly in their prime now and we need to hear from them. From what I can tell, there are no rules anymore. I think that as the genre continues to evolve, especially in our little corner, it’s becoming more of a ‘how’ instead of a ‘what.’”
Made for sunny and rainy days alike, Away Back In is enchanting, impassioned, and all-consuming.
Raw Poetic, P-Fritz, and Damu the Fudgemunk have stumbled upon a secret sauce of sound, and they know it.
“I hope [people are] excited and open to hearing something different,” Raw Poetic shares. “What I took away from it was I really like making music with my friends. I hope to keep doing it and performing a lot more in the coming years.”
“I think that for listeners of a certain age (cough, cough) this record combines some great influences from our formative days,” P-Fritz adds. “If we were to stir our musical passions together in one pot, I think this is the result.”
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Raw Poetic’s Away Back In with Atwood Magazine as he takes us track-by-track through the music and lyrics of this stunning release!
Stream: ‘Away Back In’ – Raw Poetic ft. Damu the Fudgemunk
:: Inside Away Back In ::
This song is kind of about a perfect day in a relationship, that branches off into an existential experience of love. The journey is complicated but beautiful.
Hittem with yo! Back to basics song. It’s rapping to have fun and just flowing with your life experience.
This is really about dealing with the chaos of the world. It’s not an end of the world song, though it may feel like it. It’s just a reflection of what is.
Sometime After Midnight
This is literally about being black in America and feeling like a second class citizen. It is in no way a preachy song. Just a first hand account for those who don’t understand.
Yes, the song starts off with drinking. But then it moves into its true purpose, which takes us back home to Mother Africa and how we can improve ourselves. A drink isn’t healing without introspection, I guess.
Two totally different topics slapped together here, that somehow work together. First, it’s about taking off the makeup we all wear to hide what’s really beneath. The next is about breaking the barriers we put up to protect ourselves in relationships.
The Speed of Power
I wanted to hypnotize you.
Stop, check your surroundings. Are you good? Proceed! This was meant to hit you fast like a dmt trip. When life is over, they say it will look like a moment in time. I wanted to capture that.
When The Mind Goes
I was taking the original gems of life and regurgitating them. The beat was so epic that it allowed me to weave in certain stones from my Islamic upbringing without ever blinking an eye.
A Way Back In
This was a celebration of the journey in music I have had with my friends Pat and Damu. We rarely get to do that. But that’s why I love this track.
I feel like this song is about doing what you can do to make life better for everyone. There’s not just one simple answer. Just small steps we all can take. This was mine.
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© Raw Poetic
:: Stream Raw Poetic ::