#ACCESS901: Music of ‘The Midnight Hour’ rocks any time of day

#ACCESS901 columnist Joy Doss

I am a HUGE A Tribe Called Quest fan. HUGE. So when an opportunity came across my desk to interview Ali Shaeed Muhammad of Tribe and Lucy Pearl fame and Adrian Younge, well-known for his work with Souls of Mischief, I fully geeked out.

The duo dazzles under the moniker of The Midnight Hour. On Saturday (Oct. 19), The Midnight Hour will make Memphis its first tour stop with a Crosstown Theater performance that will be a blend of their first album, personal catalogs and new music.

It all began with the Souls of Mischief project when composer Adrian Younge asked Ali Shaheed Muhammad to join him.

Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad bring The Midnight Hour Tour to Memphis Saturday.

“As soon as we started working together it was just instant chemistry and we realized we needed to be doing more music,” Adrian says. “That’s when the Midnight Hour was essentially born.”

This is music for the more sophisticated palate; hip hop all “growed up” nice. It is a wonderful melodic journey from Africa to Cuba to Watts to Brooklyn, seamlessly fusing  sounds that feel both familiar and new.

Moreover, it’s a nod to the spirit and essence of the Harlem Renaissance, to our generation’s deeply rooted love for hip hop. The ancestors — and Gen Xers — will be pleased. FYI: The pair also scored much of the “Luke Cage” soundtrack.

“The vibe is a sophisticated take on hip hop,” Adrian says. “Instead of sampling…we’re making something brand new. … We’re continuing the conversation that these jazz legends, soul legends, rock legends started back in the day.”

There are features from some long-running favorites such as CeeLo Green, Marsha Ambrosius and Rafael Saadiq and need-to-know folks such as 16-year old Angela Munoz, Karolina and Loren Oden.

I wanted to know about the swerve into a different lane (from Tribe and Lucy Pearl). Ali, who is fluent in multiple instruments, including the turntables, says, “It’s just another side of my musicianship, another reveal. I’m a musician. I love music.”

Ali was responsible for the beloved beats of the ATCQ sound, which has always flirted with and flipped jazz influences.

“It’s the source material of what much of hip hop was based on.”

So, perhaps it’s not a full swerve.

I also wondered about how East Coast-West Coast origins factor into the sound. Ali gently corrected me: “It’s not a sound or region that inspires us as much as it is about the feeling and textures of the sound.”

Adrian has done a bit of a swerve in a sense as well — though also not a full swerve. He was trained as a lawyer and taught law school before becoming a music devotee. Coming up he was music and sports. I would say he is operating at 100 percent with both sides of the brain, which is outstanding.

He makes the connection this way: “Law school teaches you to analyze.” It translates to the music side as it is “easier to provide structure and analyze what I’m doing (musically).”

As for the tour show, Adrian says, “You’re coming to an experience, like an old school revue; not the typical stop-start pattern. It’s an experience as opposed to just playing music. We’re just being ourselves. Nothing’s contrived. We’re literally just being ourselves.

“As artists every single time we’re doing something, we’re trying to murder what we did before. That’s always the goal. We’re OK with people feeling us, seeing us and watching us grow. We’re just regular people.”

Hear me when I tell you: “This album is AWESOME.”

It’s an experience just listening to it on Spotify and I cannot wait to be drawn in live and direct.

Don’t believe me? Just watch. Check out the Tiny Desk performance above for a taste of what you can get live on Saturday!

You don’t want to miss this. Trust me. Get tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-midnight-hour-at-crosstown-theater-tickets-68536826493