Rising Baltimore soul singer Joy Postell's debut album opens with a clip of a smooth jazz-type commercial praising the miracle effects of a new hair product called Diaspora. According to the ad, the product consists of "5 grams of freedom, a dash of liberation, and to top it off, some knowledge of self, moisturizing your roots so deep that you tap into the motherland." This ingredient list — funny, cheesy, and simultaneously insightful — can be more or less considered a preview to the contents inside Postell's at-times meditative, at-times politically scathing new project, aptly named Diaspora. The FADER is premiering the project today along with a short Q&A with Postell about the inspiration behind the work, which you can read below.
The 10-track-record artfully blends jazz, soul, and R&B, into an intoxicating, freeform swirl of sounds and instrumentation. Postell's rich and earthy vocals serve as the connecting thread throughout, whether she's rapping, doing spoken word, singing, or earnestly telling someone to "shut the fuck up." In "Consciousness" she employs all of the above, and it feels to me the most experimental, and stand-out tracks on the project. A listen through the album seems less like listening to a collection of songs, but rather experiencing a moving, shifting thesis of sorts, one that feels spontaneous, lively, and always digging deeper to find the crux of everything. I guess in this case, the crux of diaspora.
What prompted you to create and center your album around the history and sounds of Black America and Black consciousness?
Well, I’m a Black American, born and raised, and everyday society reminds me of that — I’m very proud to be black and I was raised to be proud to be black. The first song I made on this record was "HYD," which is kinda like a 90’s love song, and then I found myself writing about my friend who was addicted to heroin on "Seattle." From there the record made itself. Over the past four years, we have seen a spike in awareness of the many innocent Black lives taken and little-to-no repercussions for those at fault and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt my feelings in the deepest of ways. When I wrote "Consciousness" it was right after Freddie Gray died and I was really fucking angry. This record was a way for me to channel all of these emotions into a productive and progressive fashion.
This record is heavily influenced by Baltimore's music and culture. What were some direct influences that you tried to channel when you were creating?
Baltimore’s culture is the largest influence for this record - I don’t really try to emulate anyone when I make my own music, if anything it’s already imbedded in me. "Free Black" has hints of Baltimore Club influences, "Seattle" pays homage to the city’s rich jazz history, "Water" feels like you’re walking past all the junkies on North Ave. Baltimore is a very DIY city and that is exactly what this record stemmed from — no labels, no cosigns, just culture and passion.
What was the meaning behind the intro and interlude selling "diaspora" as a miracle hair product?
Hair is such a staple part of Black culture - I feel like I’ve spent half of my life getting my hair done lol. Whether it’s braids, weaves, perms, twists, there’s no way you’re leaving the house without your hair looking good. I also wanted to pay homage to vintage black hair ads, I grew up seeing them and it’s very nostalgic for me, personally.
What do you hope people will get from the record?
I hope that people will feel all the emotions I felt while making this record, and that’s everything from sadness, to anger, to confusion, to acceptance, and love. I truly want people to take the journey into consciousness with me. I hope that black people will hear this record and feel proud to be black and know we are truly great and will continue to be regardless of what the mass media chooses to portray.