Meshell Ndegecello’s Red Hot & Ra: The Magic City Album Stream

Red Hot + Ra The Magic City cover art by Cécile McLorin Salvant

Meshell Ndegeocello’s curated Red, Hot & Ra: The Magic City is a tribute to the work of the late Afro-jazz futurist Sun Ra. The album is the latest in the Red Hot Organization’s series of projects started three decades ago to raise awareness and money for A.I.D.S. Ndegeocello uses Sun Ra as a muse to produce abstract sketches of his work instead of cover songs. Every composition is original and reflects Sun Ra’s visionary status by tapping the creativity of contemporary voices. In some places, Sun Ra actually appears when he is sampled recanting the band’s travels and his philosophy on “Solipsistic Panacea (Black Antique)” and “Departure Of The Seven Sisters.” Ndegecello delves into the spirit of Sun Ra’s expression with a variety of collaborators including Marshall Allen who is the leader of the late musician’s Arkestra. Hip-Hop/punk rocker Pink Siifu provides ethereal poetry and scraggly-whispered rap on “El-soul The Companion, Traveler” and “Yet Differently Not- Mars Hall (in).” 

“#9 Venus The Living Myth” pays homage to Sun Ra’s respect for other planets and his avant-garde jazz with a cacophony of saxophones, percussion eruptions, choral-like chants, and quotes from the master himself. The Justin Hicks-penned “Reproductive Manatees” has Sun Ra’s early proto-funk keyboard experimentation and parts that sound like sung prayers. Ndegeocello’s creative decisions encapsulate Sun Ra’s sonic and philosophical creed of jazz-based musical freedom and respect for other life forms and planets.The Magic City presents all the spookiness, improvisation, mystery, and elusiveness of Sun Ra and his Arkestra who were waiting on aliens decades before George Clinton’s mothership landed in D.C.