Pink Siifu’s GUMBO! Is Good for the Soul
The latest genre-defying project from the rapper-producer is an impressive, feature-laden collage of his creative influences
Pink Siifu’s latest release, GUMBO!, is another sprawling Afrocentric vision from one of the boldest voices in contemporary rap. Following up on 2020’s NEGRO, a genre-bending exploration of Black rage in the face of racist oppression, the album’s songs are as rich and varied as its titular stew. Siifu’s boundless style makes for an unpredictable but rewarding ride across the album’s 18 tracks, as he explores the diverse sounds of his influences and breaks new ground with a unique class of co-stars.
Siifu, born Livingston Matthews and raised between Alabama and Cincinnati, has already notched a conspicuous list of collaborations in his burgeoning career, from legendary producer the Alchemist to Australian electronic group the Avalanches. These collabs reflect the ravenous appetite which informs his various musical approaches and lines his projects with homages to other artists.
Accompanying NEGRO was the website negro.life, featuring a manifesto for the album with flowers to rap/punk rock duo Ho9909 and Black Arts Movement vanguard Amiri Baraka. A month after the release of the 40-track NEGRO DELUXE, Siifu released a short film with nods to Afrofutrists Outkast and Sun Ra.
Siifu also embodies these various inspirations through a range of alter-egos, often producing under the moniker “iiye,” or as half of the duo B. Cool-Aid with Ahwlee, both of which appear on GUMBO!. Their appearance on the production credits only highlights the load of features — both on vocal and production — that make up the album.
“Voicemails Uptown” (produced by Soulection’s Monte Booker) is the second of two back-to-back posse cuts, sporting 5+ vocalists each. While the track opens on a sunny blend of electronic whines, it cuts halfway through into a greasy-snared funk with a grooving chorus to match.
“Lng hair dnt care,” the album’s first single, was produced by Ted Kamal, who first garnered attention for his outside-the-box edits of contemporary rap staples. The song’s instrumental beat-switches into a watery, distorted version of itself, reminiscent of both Kamal’s famous edits as well as the lo-fi beats on Siifu’s breakout, ensley.
The variety of guest features and production on GUMBO! only elevates Siifu’s ability to push the boundaries of genre and song structure. While several of the album’s tracks are well within his bag — the jazzy, drumless loop on “Fk U Mean/Hold Me Dwn” could’ve been a cut off of his collab album with Virginia rapper Fly Anakin, FlySiifu’s, and “Roscoe’!” has all the punk fervor that defined NEGRO — he also draws from his collaborators. The sinister trilling on “Big Ole” sticks out until a slick, Satanic verse from Bbymutha makes it click.
Though rife with standout tracks, GUMBO! is greater than the sum of its parts. Siifu’s ambitious range and impressive pool of features create an otherworldly listening experience, only bolstered by accessories like the poetry of Dungeon Family’s Big Rube. Overall, it reflects an intense desire for self-expression and creative growth, one which he shares with many of his influences. Like Outkast, Sun Ra, Baraka, or Bad Brains, his unique soundscapes re-imagine a genre without restrictions, breaking new ground in search of artistic and personal freedom.