With the upcoming release of Crank LuKongo’s “Born Again” music video comes an opportunity for the Afro go-go roots group to remind the world, and District residents, too, what’s truly at stake amid a pandemic that has pushed legions of young people further into the margins.
In this five-minute production, Black women, men, children, and families are smiling, dancing, and basking in the sun with some of the District’s most culturally significant landmarks as their backdrop. All the while, Crank LuKongo’s lead songstress I’la Vibez coolly walks through various D.C. neighborhoods belting lyrics about the rise of the youth and how they’re bringing the nation’s capital back to its roots.
It’s what Crank LuKongo founder and percussionist/producer Matt “Swamp Guinee” Miller says is the ideal metaphor for evolution of the town once known as Chocolate City that, despite gentrification and displacement of its residents still contains the elements of a unique culture and sound deserving of global recognition.
“Given all the obstacles we have been facing in the D.C. metro area, we have been resilient to overcome them,” Swamp Guinee told The Informer.
A few years ago, the idea for “Born Again” came to fruition during a rehearsal in what’s now a shuttered music venue standing along H Street in Northeast. I’la Vibez played a rough draft of a song she recorded.
Seconds into her showcase, Swamp Guinee placed a go-go beat over it which sparked laughter and discussion about including the song on Crank LuKongo’s debut album.
For Swamp Guinee, a teacher, community activator and father of two, I’la Vibez’s lyrics inspired deep thought about what’s possible when children and families are held in high regard.
It also compelled him to also name the entire album “Born Again,” in recognition of the fighting spirit of African people, and especially African youth.
“We have important people in the community who are out there on the frontlines being part of the evolution of our youth,” Swamp Guinee told The Informer.
“I couldn’t have picked a better song and title track. Everything else follows that, and the video shows the global community who and what we are and what we strive to be.”
On the evening of April 4, the “Born Again” video will premiere during a showcase and discussion that will livestream on Crank Lukongo’s online platform, along with that of the D.C. chapter of the Pan-African Federalist Movement, a global effort to unite the African diaspora within a decade.
Crank LuKongo, composed of I’la Vibez, Dave Blackwell, Keith “Lazy K” Lofton, Warren Pedersen II, Izaballa Sparrow, and Junior Marvin of Bob Marley & The Wailers, among others, represents Swamp Guinee’s latest effort to bring the go-go sound closer to its African roots.
Crank LuKongo’s debut LP, released in 2019, featured songs celebrating the late D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, the indigenous tribe for which the Anacostia neighborhood is named and themes of love and family.
The “Born Again” video, produced by I’la Vibez son’s Jalaw Benjamin, includes cameos from Swamp Guinee, members of I’la Vibez’s family, Regg’go pioneer Ras Lidj, Monica Utsey of the Sankofa Homeschool Collective and her sons, along with some other familiar faces in D.C.’s African-centered community.
The visual production takes viewers through some of the District’s hidden treasures, including several murals along Martin Luther King Avenue in Southeast and Blue Nile Botanicals in Northwest.
“We’re highlighting foundational Black art and spaces. We’re talking about Black family, Black joy, Black excellence, and Black sustainability,” said I’la Vibez.
“We’re honoring those who came before us [like] Chuck Brown and Petey Greene. We have our elders and our babies,” she continued.
“We’re trying to show them something to feel good. A lot of people [outside of this area] don’t know that there’s Black and indigenous history and culture. The song and video makes you feel good about being from here.”
For more information about Crank Lukongo and the April 4 livestream, visit cranklukongo.com or @cranklukongo on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.