In a career spanning 20 plus years, Robert OʻBryantʻs “the glass is gonna stay full” ideology toward making soul music continues to emanate from a place of truth. Last year’s From The Dirt, his first solo album in a storied career that’s included working alongside J Dilla and Theo Parrish, directly repped Detroit, celebrating that city’s spirit across the landscape of hip-hop, soul, techno and house. Ten Toes Down, his self-proclaimed mantra to stay true to himself, refuses to waste a damn second getting to its point. The five-track EP is all about survival.
These songs move with immediate rhythmic expression, executing the initiative of withstanding the moment. Jeedo, who has called himself the “ultimate lemonade maker,” remains deft at unclogging our state of continuous partial attention (shout out to Kara Swisher), makes the track “Heavy,” featuring Candi Lindsey aka former Wu Tang Clan vocalist Blue Raspberry, into a soulful House statement of salvation, 120 seconds in, breaking our addiction to whichever screen we choose to imbibe from. Itʻs a call and response to the political climate we are forced to take space in.
This spiritual corner, is a safe one for US to breathe, weep and reflect over the very recent passing of Black educators Ras G and Toni Morrison. Recorded way before both losses, “Heavy” carries that weight. On “Deeper in Blue,” we get a slippery thonk trajectory pitching up the blues. Lindsey speaks “cooking for one, thinking for one” and then unfurls a devastating scatting, singing vocalization, while only the TV watches her. “Too Black,” which closes out the EP, combines tribal heat with affectionate synths that radiate hope. Ten Toes Down is a quick, grounding listen that speaks like gospel.
John-Paul Shiver has been contributing to Treble since 2018. His work as an experienced music journalist and pop culture commentator has appeared in The Wire, 48 Hills, Resident Advisor, SF Weekly, Bandcamp Daily, PulpLab, AFROPUNK and Drowned In Sound.