To continue on with our Week Fulla 00s R&B albums, we have Acoustic Soul (2001) by Ms. India Arie. Now, even though I had never listened to an entire India Arie project until today, India Arie is definitely one of those R&B artists who are a mainstay in Black households. I couldn’t even count on my two hands and two feet how many times “Video” or “Brown Skin” has played on the radio when I’ve been in the car with my mom in the past two decades and four years of my life lol. So even though I’m not as familiar with her solo projects, I am very much familiar with how talented of an artist she is.
Photo Credit: https://www.wbur.org/artery/2017/02/02/india-arie
2001: Acoustic Soul
I expected nothing less than amazing from Acoustic Soul, and I got just that. One of the things I love about doing Week Fullas like this, where I’m focusing on multiple different artists in the same genre instead of just one artist or one label, is that I’m able to kind of hear the similarities and differences between each artist and how they were doing music around the same time. While there were a few similarities between Acoustic Soul and Kelis’s Wanderland (2001) from yesterday’s First Listen, Acoustic Soul definitely had a different vibe and leans more into the traditional R&B/Neo-soul realm than Wanderland, which was actually really nice to hear because I don’t listen to a whole bunch of traditional R&B a lot. India Arie has an amazing voice and the sort of stripped-downness of Acoustic Soul really allowed it to shine through.
It’s a very individual and personal project. With a very small group of people who worked on it with her, we really get pretty up close and personal with Indie Arie on here. She talks a lot about love and the vulnerability that it takes to bear so much of yourself to another person, while also spending some time talking about the importance of recognizing her own individuality as a person and an artist. I didn’t realize “Video” and “Brown Skin” were on here before I listened to it, and it was a VERY nice surprise to hear some familia, especially ones as iconic as those two. The instrumentation on Acoustic Soul is absolute perfection; India Arie is such a gifted guitarist, and she strummed her way into my little heart on this one.
I think the thing that I’m pulling out of this project most prominently, though, is how much intention India put into showing thanks and appreciation for the people in her life – both musically and personally – that had the biggest impact on her. She opens up the project mentioning the names of artists like Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye, who she considers to her musical ancestors, and continues that into the “Interlude,” where she brings names like Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, and Ella Fitzgerald into the musical space of her project (she also takes some time to thank and uplift members of her family). And I thought a lot about how a lot of times people spend so much energy trying to be the first person to do X, Y, or Z that there ends up being this inability to really be intentional about recognizing the ways that other people have been inspiring to us.
I remember seeing a post on Twitter from the Da’Shaun Harrison where they mentioned – and this is very much paraphrasing because I don’t remember the exact tweet lol – that in order for an artist to be truly great at their craft, they have to be willing to study the people that came before them. Without that background knowledge, their music falls short (and it’s so clear when that’s the case); so most of the best artists are and continue to be students of their craft and predecessors. And I think India Arie is offering up that same point by literally saying the names of her music inspirations at different points in her project. It’s like she’s saying “in order to know me, have to know these people. And if you know them, you’ll have a pretty decent idea of who I am and the music I make.” It’s a really good reminder that it’s okay to seek guidance in the work of other people. If there is someone who inspires you or you find pieces of yourself in, it shouldn’t be taboo to recognize them as an important part of your life and thank them for paving the way. I’ve been trying to be more intentional about that in my own life.
Overall, I had a really good time listening to India Arie’s Acoustic Soul. I don’t feel a strong urge to add it to my daily rotation, but it will be a project that I will go back to as a reference for other stuff I listen to. Ms. India really gave us a lot on her debut project, and I’m really thankful for it.
The only thing it was missing was a couple of Musiq Soulchild features! That would have really set it OFF!
Featured Image Credit: https://www.countryfille.com/on-repeat-india-arie-just-let-it-go/
(listen to Acoustic Soul on spotify by clicking the image below)
here’s something else you might like…
Surprise! It’s time for a new Week Fulla! And this time it’s an extended, special two-week version, where I’m doing 10 First Listens – in total – on R&B albums by ~Black~ women from the 90s and early 2000s. I was listening to a lot of Pharrell and N.E.R.D. last week, and while scrolling through … Continue reading Week Fulla Women in 90s & 00s R&B – First Listen #33: Kelis’s ‘Wanderland’