Kwiz, "The Black Light Chronicles" (Rhythm Lab Music)
It seems odd to describe the discussion of the black experience in America a "hot topic" — after all, the examination of the African-American experience has been explored for hundreds of years in some fashion, even before black people were considered Americans and were just considered property.
But with all the focus on the Black Lives Matter movement, the killings of black men at the hands of police, political rhetoric and the waning days of the country's first black president, it has been in the forefront more so now than perhaps a decade ago.
That's not only clear from the headlines, but in music. Performers have been channeling their emotions in songs, from Jay Z to T.I. to Kendrick Lamar to Beyoncé. And now, one of Beyonce's disciples — Kevin "Kwiz" Ryan, an audio programmer on Beyonce's "Formation World Tour" — takes things to the next level with his new album, "The Black Light Chronicles."
The producer, engineer and composer's exceptional political album tackles race, gun-control, colorism and more in an epic set of 14 songs through rap, rock, R&B and spoken word. It's a feature-heavy concept album, with artists you might have never heard of shining brightly, and speaking boldly.
On the opening track, "Back of the Bus," singer Toy !!! delivers raw lyrics over a smooth, beat-heavy track that is both irresistible and searing.
"Top of the class, you know I can pass with flying colors, and be the last in line for my chance to shine, oh is it a crime," she sings, referring to racial disparities black Americans still face today.
Other lyrics are even more blunt: On "Venom," Nyasha Nicole sounds striking, reciting lyrics such as: "It's 2016, feels like '65, nowhere to run, nowhere to hide."
The rap duo Flight School Alumni name drops Trayvon Martin, Sean Bell, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Rosa Parks on "Tired"; and on "Butta Black Girls," Andria Nacine Cole speaks about the complexity of skin complexion within the black community.
It's a brilliant, call-to-action album that perfectly captures what's going on today, through a gloomy prism.