bLAck pARty understands the pleasant escapism of summertime. With the release of Endless Summer, his debut album on RCA Records, the self-educated singer-songwriter and producer from Little Rock, Arkansas, delivers 10, sun-soaked songs to extend the favorable season inevitably.
A warm and dreamy calm spreads through every second of Endless Summer. The album wraps you in the breezy warmth of a Los Angeles sunset. There are no overly aggressive percussion movements or whiplash rhythms; every sound is designed to flow with fluid vibrancy like the beating wings of butterflies. The soul is groovy, and the funk is infectious. This album is a soundscape we are meant to sink into.
Vocally, bLAck pARty, born Malik Flint, compliments the gentle production with singing that soothes. He controls his tone and register; there is thoughtfulness behind every note, careful not to disturb the ambient atmosphere. Think of raindrops pattering upon the waves of an ocean or a gust of wind gracefully rustling leaves. bLAck pARty’s voice has a weightless presence, a necessary touch.
As a writer, there’s a tender romanticism to his words. The stories painted are pure, eloquent scenarios that examine moments in life that aren’t grand and sensational, but honest and simplistic. It’s the realism of an artist who only cares to show and tell experience at its most genuine. The songs begin to feel familiar, even nostalgic, at times.
Over the phone, bLAck pARty and I discussed the making of Endless Summer, how every feature on the album is a friend or family member, making music for cars, the influence of Stevie Wonder and other songwriters, and more.
Our conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: When did you begin working on Endless Summer?
bLAck pARty: I started Endless Summer in June 2017. I flew out of L.A. to New York for Governor’s Ball. When I returned, I immediately started recording. That’s when I made “Smoke Broke” and “July,” the album’s first joints. “Dancing” is a song I had since 2015, but I revamped it in the summer of 2017.
I started at my parent’s house—kind of demoing ideas. I ended up getting in the studio at Donald’s [Childish Gambino] space and camped out there for two months. I was in the studio from like four to four and had different musicians and artists I was close to come through and add to whatever I was working on. From that point on, it was mixing the album, and making it sound exactly how it does in my head.
Did you mix and produce the entire album?
Yeah, I mixed every song except for “Spell,” which was done by Russell Elevado. He has mixed albums by Erykah Badu and D'Angelo, etc. As for production, [I handled every track] except “No Complaints,” [Editor’s Note: Chris Hartz and Sam Sugarman handled the instrumentation, and bLAck pARty handled arrangement, drum programming, and mixing.] “Spell” and “Gold Coast” with black Samurai, and Anajah’s vocals on “4 am in NY” were taken from her song.
The credits for Endless Summer are public, but who are these artists and how did you place them on the album?
So, my brothers rap. My older brother, Beedy, he raps, is a songwriter, and is also a painter and general visual artist. He’s featured on the song “Purple Hearts.” My little brother, Jefe, he raps under DMP Jefe, and is featured on “No Complaints.” Y. Michelle and Zoe are my mom and little sister; they’re featured on “Home.” Maya Smith, who is on “Spell,” that’s my cousin. I kept it family and friends.
Endless Summer sounds like music in motion. There’s a rhythmic vibe that feels like rollerskating or driving. Is that an atmosphere you naturally create?
Yeah, I would say so. Being in a car, for me, is the most universal thing. My friends and I had a whole conversation about it, how the car is where you hear music the most. If you’re in the car with friends, someone is going to want to play something. It’s a place where people pick up new music all the time. Who you ride with can shape your music taste.
I made car music because I’m always in the car or driving, but I always have car issues. I lose cars all the time. It’s the worst shit. Before going to New York, I lost a car; my 2008 Scion tC. It had engine issues.
Your music often feels comfortable; a coziness that feels like home. Is comfort a focus when you’re making songs?
Yes and no. It’s more so subconscious than anything. I like to live a comfortable life. I feel like everybody deserves a comfortable life. So that’s more of the thing. It’s music to relax to.
Did the move from Little Rock, Arkansas to Los Angeles, California affect the way you make music? Was it hard adjusting?
Once I moved to L.A., it was like coming into the big leagues. I’ve been out here for four or five years now, but when I first moved, I had to learn a lot. Certain things like sampling, that shit gets expensive after a while. I had to learn how to make my own samples.
Since the day I landed in L.A., I’ve dedicated all my time and energy into learning how to make music. That’s where all my energy went into. As far as instruments, I learned to play guitar, bass, and drums. I ended up getting a Mac computer and had to teach myself music programs like Logic. Before Logic, I was using FL Studio. FL Studio is great; I still use the program for drums because they have the best drum shit. I don’t think about it as hard or easy; it was just a worthwhile experience.
Who are some songwriters who inspired your style of writing?
I learned a lot from my dad. He’s a genius. He’ll write the most amazing lyrics, and I’m like, “Yo, you made this today? It’s just crazy.” So, him. I also learned from paying attention to other writers I admire, like Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Paul McCarthy, and India.Arie. Stevie is probably the most talented musician ever. Sly Stone almost had a rapper’s approach to singing, the way he does his vocal inflections. If you threw some Auto-Tune on that shit, it would sound like a rap song. Gil Scott Heron is also another dope artist that I paid attention to his songwriting. “Home Is Where The Hatred Is,” that’s the record. “We Almost Lost Detroit” is another record.
There’s a lot of different writers from different genres that have cold pens. The best writers have a way of conveying a message and painting a picture so that you get attached to the song. Songs can live for hundreds of years, based on how they resonate.
As a songwriter, my approach is usually to make things basic. I don’t like to over-complicate a message. The whole world doesn't speak English. What I'm saying is important, but it’s not as crucial as how I’m getting my message across.
What does nostalgia mean to you?
It’s funny; I don’t care about nostalgia. I understand its importance. People tend to hold nostalgia so tightly because they love things that make them feel good. So, I get it. I could get rid of the past. I’m always looking forward. I’m aware of the past, I’m huge into history and love to dig into the deepest parts of the past, but I’m always thinking ahead.
I know you can’t control this, but what do you want people to get from Endless Summer?
I want people to listen to [the album] and have a moment of escape. Whatever that may be.
By Yoh, aka Yohvie Wonder, aka @Yoh31