The FADER’s “Songs You Need” are the tracks we can’t stop playing. Check back every day for new music and follow along on our Spotify playlist.
As Contour, Khari Lucas makes music that moves through time and space with open ears and hungry mind. On the South Carolina musician’s new album Onwards!, samples of poetry, dialogue, and interviews are found in conversation with his pensive songwriting. The words of Black theorists and writers are used as guidance for Lucas, who investigates the intentions and meanings of our actions. Take “Nigga Won't Reach Mars,” where he resists the urgings of interstellar escapism, exhaling, “Laws don't serve me here, so/What is gonna change in another light system?” Tapping into a range of musical styles — soul, jazz, and slinky beat scene-reminiscent hip-hop production — Onwards! feels like a living scrapbook, piecing together past and present with a wandering sense of curiosity.
“At All,” the album’s smoky closer, is an unyielding mission statement. It opens with a soundbite about the power of poets before Lucas emerges from behind the nocturnal bassline and ticking ride-cymbal. His plain-spoken delivery creates a comforting atmosphere, but his writing on this song is so confessional that listening almost feels invasive. Hushed and impassioned, Lucas' vocals swell to fill in the spacious track. He’s not content with simply being observed or breaking through glass ceilings — coursing through the beginning lines of this song is a desire for more than small victories. “Try as I might it’s never fulfilling to make it plain,” he sighs. “Losing my breath just tryna connect I call that a waste, no more.” It sounds like a Herculean weight has just been lifted from his shoulders.