“How much more suffering are we going to take?,” asks rapper and singer Miss Storm in the fiery first verse of “Quicksand,” her latest single and call to action. The exasperation in her voice is evident — but so is her determination. She’s speaking for millions who are distraught about the epidemic of state violence against African Americans. Miss Storm names the names of those who have become world-famous for tragic reasons: George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor. She does it to remind us what we’ve lost and how far we still have to go.
There’s always been a powerful political dimension to Miss Storm’s writing. She leads with her intelligence and quick wit and never hesitates to tackle difficult subjects. But she’s never been quite as incisive, relentless, or essential as she is on the upcoming Black Dreams, an uncompromising concept set about the African American experience. This is Miss Storm in the raw, telling her story and the story of countless others like her, making her pain and her rage manifest, inspiring listeners, pushing for social change, and finding solidarity with others in the struggle. If you’re frustrated with the slow pace of progress in a troubled nation, you’ve found your album.
On “Quicksand,” a Black Dreams highlight, Miss Storm is joined by a collaborator who is every bit as talented and incendiary as she is — the dazzling Madam X, who burns down the back half of the song with a verse that pulsates with urgency. The styles of the two rappers are perfectly complementary: Miss Storm is relentless and emotional, Madam X darts and slashes and toys with listeners’ expectations. Together they’re an unstoppable team, natural partners and effortless consciousness-raisers, and a legitimate force for enlightenment.
In the moving clip for “Quicksand,” which Miss Storm co-directed herself, the two vocalists are a formidable force. They begin the video at a cemetery — in mourning, for reasons we all know too well. By the end, they’re together on a barren beach on Jekyl Island – said to be the exact place where the last slave ship The Wanderer brought the last known groups of enslaved Africans sold into captivity in America in the 1800s – facing the sea, wringing some hard-won optimism from their hard experience. In the video, Miss Storm and Madam X have War Paint on their faces as they perform an African water ritual; water is used as an important prayer form to summon ancestors. In between, we’re treated to footage of a spirited rally on Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles and an assembly of marchers determined to see wrongs redressed. It’s a reminder that while the wheels of justice sometimes turn slowly, turn they always do.