Location: The Theater
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Ready to Ball Album Release
“One of modern jazz music’s most audacious futurists” –Pitchfork
Seattle-based drummer, producer and emcee Kassa Overall premieres his new single “Ready To Ball,” the first release with his new label, Warp Records. Kassa joins a fresh generation of talent evolving the British label’s legacy of producing groundbreaking adventures in sound and vision. His limitless talents for rhythmic exploration, both as a virtuosic jazz drummer and as a visionary producer, make him a kindred spirit for the pioneering label.
Kassa’s solo work melds avant-garde experimentation with hip-hop production techniques to tilt the nexus of jazz and rap in unmapped directions. His message is equally as visionary, often speaking on his own mental health struggles and the turmoil within the collective consciousness.
Continuing in this vein, “Ready to Ball” is a meticulous collage that blends electronic and live, acoustic elements. The song is both infectious and internally conflicted, reflecting the two-sided coin of hustle culture. Written after Kassa returned to Seattle in 2020 after living in New York City for many years, the track follows a period of reckoning, with shadows lurking beneath the song’s anthemic, money-chasing hook. Kassa explains,
“On an emotional level, the song is really dealing with feelings of jealousy. It’s also an affirmation, to not get lost in the hustle of upward mobility. How bad do we want the shiny things? How much will we bend ourselves to get them? At times I feel like, damn bro, it’s so much of a struggle and a hustle to just keep it going that I don’t have time to make sure my mental health and my soul is cool. That’s basically the polarity right there.”
Prior to signing with Warp, Kassa released two studio albums, Go Get Ice Cream and Listen to Jazz (2019) and I Think I’m Good (2020). The two projects fused his various influences and musical lives into one groundbreaking sound that layered the virtuosic drumming, polyrhythmic rapping, and meticulous production techniques that he had been honing separately. His own voice began to crystallize too, as he learned to channel his revolutionary, poetic wisdom into critiques of the carceral system and anti-Black racism, while speaking on his own struggles with mental illness.
His projects are also a masterclass in curation and arrangement, drawing on his close community of friends and fellow musicians for contributions, including many of today’s leading minds in the jazz and hip-hop space. Previous projects have included contributions from Angela Davis, Vijay Iyer, Arto Lindsay, Cecile McLorin Salvant, and many more. A protégé of jazz greats like drummer Billy Hart and pianist Geri Allen, Kassa has worked with a diverse array of vanguard artists, including Yoko Ono, Jon Batiste, Francis and the Lights, and many others. “Ready To Ball” marks an exciting new evolution in Kassa’s already storied career with more to come soon.
“Kassa is a pre-eminent style bender and blender, successfully juxtaposing genres through his production expertise and use of melodic and harmonic forms that deftly integrate the new with the old.” –Terri Lyne Carrington for The New York Times
“It’s not another jazz-meets-hip-hop scrum: It’s the sound of whole new lanes opening up.” –NPR’s All Things Considered
“[Kassa’s] artistic arc is increasingly taking him into creative spaces without easy categorization. It’s the sound of an artist raising his game. Powerful shit!” –Afropunk
This engagement of Kassa Overall is made possible through the Jazz Touring Network program of Mid Atlantic Arts with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.