A neighborhood isn’t just a place where people live, it’s also where they interact, bond, and dream. At its best, it is a microcosm of the wider society and that, perhaps, helps explain why it’s often both nurturing ground and subject matter for rappers on the rise. It was the case for Krondon, an albino hip-hop artist from South Central Los Angeles who debuted in the early 2000s as part of Strong Arm Steady, a group positioned as an alternative to the city’s dominant gangsta aesthetic. Krondon’s ‘hood was the nucleus, a place where he did “all the good, bad, and ugly things.” When he decided to pick up a mic in his late teens, he looked to another ‘hood-grounded lyricist for inspiration, Ice Cube. “He was a reporter for the hood and to the hood, an antenna of what was really going on,” Krondon remembers.
After more than a decade, Krondon is returning to the idea of neighborhood reportage for a new project, White Boiz, alongside producer Shafiq Husayn—a Cleveland native who calls L.A. home and emerged from the city as part of the cosmic trio Sa-Ra, whose woozy, soulful productions have impacted musicians as diverse as Kode9 and Kanye West. White Boiz's debut album, Neighborhood Wonderful, brings the different facets of what a neighborhood is, and can be, to life. It does so by anchoring the songs’ various narratives in duality as opposed to linear thinking—White Boiz brings together the real and the abstract, the funny and the sad, the good and the bad. Or as Krondon’s puts it, Me and Shafiq like Farrakhan meets Flying Lotus. “The duality in things, that’s the idea we are trying to get people to really open their minds to with the album,” Husayn explains. White Boiz is about acknowledging the inherent duality in everything in order to find balance.
Talking to Husayn and Krondon can sometimes feel like mental sparring. In fact, it's this type of practice that birthed White Boiz. Following years of mutual appreciation, the pair began to bond over extensive conversations that spanned the mundane, the divine, and the metaphysical. From there, sketches of songs emerged that then coalesced into the body of work that is Neighborhood Wonderful. “It's how we create everything we do,” Krondon says of their conversations. “Putting both perspectives in and not being linear,” adds Husayn.
The intellectual discourse the pair bonded over was, for Husayn, key to unlocking the music's potential. “You have to able to sit there, get out of your skin and have a real conversation about some stuff,” he explains. “We did that before we made music. We had to come into each other’s neighborhoods.” This metaphor of personal and mental ‘hoods continues in how the album was created. Krondon came to Husayn's neighborhood to hear the music and choose what to work on. In turn, Husayn travelled to Krondon's to record. “[Krondon] literally had the neighborhood in his studio making this album,” he admits with a laugh.
“That’s our point in stepping out together: to jolt and change the perspective overall.”—Krondon, White Boiz
The pair strike a refreshing balance between sonics and lyrics. Husayn's production is colorful and varied: head nodding grooves ("Learn Tho"); lovelorn ballads ("Heartbreak"); nostalgic missives ("Hear Say"). Against the backdrop of this commanding and timely music, Krondon paints vivid pictures of local life that draw from their conversations about “life, economics, race, social injustice, god.” Collaborators from L.A.’s many musical enclaves—among them Brainfeeder’s Thundercat, singers Anderson Paak and Jimetta Rose, rappers Chace Infinite and Blu—appear throughout for added vibrancy.
In coming together, Krondon and Husayn also united lifelong studies of a variety of beliefs—including Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, and Moor Science—that have fed into their personal life philosophies. In the duo’s photos and videos, that philosophy is represented through white clothing, fez hats, and studious poses, a look that imparts a daunting yet fascinating sense of gravity. The pair’s appearance specifically evokes the Moorish Science Temple of America, a religious organization dating back to 1913 that sought to give African Americans a sense of identity by claiming they were descended from the Moors of North Africa.
The literature that the Moor Science organization uses to impart lessons to children includes a set of 101 questions. Question 93 asks them to define the word white. “The answer is ‘white means purity, purity means god and god means the ruler of the land,’” Husayn tells me. The answer is designed to break assumptions about race, in particular the binary of black and white, thus promoting an understanding that isn’t linear. Husayn continues, “Being that white is purity, we’re saying White Boiz is a state of mind.”
With that in mind, I ask if part of the intention of coming together on this project was to unpack the racism inherent in society. The answer is, of course, not straightforward. “To a degree,” Husayn replies. “This conversation is not just for one thing. The concept of white is a primer, a blank canvas. You can take this conversation and apply it to everything. Take that mentality into anything you do, be pure-hearted—just don’t be linear.”
White Boiz see their craft as a service to others as much as to themselves. Krondon and Husayn have found kinship in each other's quest for a deeper understanding and strength in their common desire to enact change. “That’s our purpose coming together,” Krondon concludes. “Whether it be music and the changing of the sound, or the change in conversation, in understanding. That’s our point in stepping out together: to jolt and change the perspective overall.”