In its own singular way, Private Stock, the third album by Cavalier, sounds like the past and future meeting right now—a fever dream with a political seam. Soulful blunted out hip-hop that engages the senses, hangs deep in the pocket, and swings for the fences. What Robert Glasper hopes Black Radio 3 will sound like—on point and also mind-expanding.
“It’s the room I’m always trying to build wherever I go,” explained Cav. “The way it comes to me is visual, and then I’m trying to capture those moments and boil them down. The room has a hodge-podge of things that make sense to my Brooklyn upbringing.”
Acclaimed singer Georgia Anne Muldrow plays a part, and the production is a unique blend of old head Pete Rock/9th Wonder with world-of-sound Flying Lotus/Madlib. How did this collaboration happen?
“I first came to New Orleans off of Iman Omari’s invitation. He did ninety percent of this record. He put together Vibe Music Collective. My first show in New Orleans was with Iman, Christian Scott, and Mykia Jovan. A lot of times I’m the only rapper. That’s translating into where I’m heading in the production. People don’t realize Iman’s background in vocal jazz. That’s important too.”
Cav came up on the New York touchstones of Jay-Z, Nas, and more, as well as old-time calypso music. He made sure to note the Caribbean link to hip-hop, including architects Grandmaster Flash and Kool Herc, before returning to Omari.
“We were trying to explore that marriage of East Coast lyricism and West Coast production. The beauty in hip-hop is marrying elements that don’t seem to go together. We’re trying to resurrect the whole DJ/MC thing. Not purist. To evoke feeling,” he said.
Cav’s Brooklyn was one where he could smell food in the air. A place, despite a cold reputation, where people would say “Good morning” and “Good evening” on the street. He’s saddened, though, that the strange eclectic characters have disappeared. And he’s been in New Orleans for three years.
He admits, “I wouldn’t have made my last two projects if I hadn’t come to New Orleans. It’s continually informing my music. Input and output. It’s intense when it’s good and when it’s bad. No matter what your medium is, there’s a rhythm of life here that’ll seep into what you create.”
Vibe Music Collective is exactly what it sounds like: a diverse group of creators with a commonality of sound but a loose aesthetic. “In some ways we focus as a boutique label. The vibe is felt more than it is discernible,” he stressed.
In 2016, controversy entered the picture when Cav found Lemonade, the title to his second release, along with some of its visual elements, also appeared in Beyoncé’s Lemonade and “Formation” video. And he spoke out about it.
“What was misinterpreted as commenting on the biggest artist of our time was really my commentary on what happens when artists source their work to corporate-size entities. When you’re at a certain level of fame, you’re not really creating all the components anymore. My inspiration in making my statement was because I’m critical when people’s images do not match their messages, and when certain messages are popular at a moment in time to capitalize on it. A lot of women worked with me to create the visuals, and I didn’t want their work to be overshadowed.”
The image matching the message is key to him. Cav even references photographer Chester Higgins in a lyric. And women play a large role.
“You notice in the last three music videos, I’m not performing in any of them. The collaborators are usually women. There are certain nuances I don’t even know how to articulate. The balance opens the portal artistically. We’re all in that vulnerable space, but that’s what it’s about,” he stressed.
“Open Season,” the first music video from Private Stock, features New Orleanians in New Orleans. The hypnotic blend of the Cavalier aesthetic is expertly shown by director Vashni Korin. The commonplace is woven with an evocative sense of secret knowledge, while the mantra-like “Yo they huntin’ out in the open” and his riffing on those final four words is the sobering verbal gravity that holds it all to earth.
Korin pointed out, “The visuals speak to Cavalier’s strong creative intuition and allude to the veterans of the civil rights movement who would meet in secret at Dooky Chase restaurant. There they would strategize during the revolution just as Cavalier creates a world where community members organize to discuss our modern day revolution—it’s so timely.”
Cav claims he makes escape music but also admits he wants to move and inspire. “I’m at that stage where I’m revisiting my childhood. I see value in moments.”
Lastly, there is thought in everything he does artistically, so what does the name Cavalier mean?
“It was a nickname before it was a stage name. It has a repurposed meaning—the Cavalier poets. The code of the cavalier too. Integrity is synonymous with code. I want to be a knight,” he said.