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Chart-topper L.A. Buckner: "I make Black music"

L.A. Buckner
L.A. BucknerPress photo
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by Jackie Renzetti

February 23, 2021

During The Current's spring member drive, we're highlighting eight Minnesota artists – from newcomers to veterans – with new music you need to know. We asked each artist to talk about their history in music, their new songs, and their hopes for the future.

My name is Arthur L.A. Buckner. I'm a teaching artist. I'm a musician. And I make Black music. It's a combination of hip-hop, jazz, gospel, R&B, rock and roll. All things Black American music, that's what I make.

I got started through the Black gospel church. The first word I use to describe my sound is "churchy." People are like, well what does that mean? When you hear it, you know exactly what it means. It's heavy. It's Black. It's loud. It's sensitive. It's full of energy. That's my sound.

I dropped an album in August called "Big Homie." Within 24 hours of its release, it reached the number one spot on the iTunes jazz charts. So that was a huge surprise, a huge blessing. It put a lot of different eyeballs on it that I wouldn't have had without that, so I'm super excited about that.

There's one song I'm especially proud of – a standout song on the album. It's called "Ooowee." One day I was hearing this tune – usually when this happens, I'll hear a tune and it's five in the morning. I'm almost awake, but I'm still trying to get my last little glimpses of sleep in. But like, the song is waking me up. The song is there, so I have to get up and I have to open my voice memos and just record whatever I'm hearing. I don't play every instrument, so I have to be able to sing the sound and make it realistic to my friends. "Ooowee" is a song that happened just like that. And a lot of people dig it. So I'm happy for that tune. I think The Current, y'all are hip to "Ooowee" as well, because y'all been playing it quite a bit.

A few years ago, I was playing in a bunch of different bands. And we'd be all over the Midwest, and oftentimes, I was the only Black dude in the room. I wouldn't even invite my family and friends to come see me play, because I just didn't want them in this environment. It's like, who knows what they're going to be subjected to. So I ended up quitting. I was saying no to a lot of gigs, because it wasn't the music that I wanted to be playing. But when I broke away from it, and I worked with people who knew my sound – that's when songs started coming to me. Those challenges really prepared me and inspired me to create for the "Big Homie" album, and the music I'm creating now. I want to keep it as authentic as I possibly can. I want to keep it as Black as I possibly can.

There's a song I wrote recently called "Not Today, Karen, Not Today." I think I'll put it out as a single. It's really my sound. I laid probably about 25 layers of percussion on it right here in my basement. I have a ton of my buddies playing all over it: keyboardists, guitarists, bass players. I feel like being a Black man in Minnesota is a very peculiar experience. You have to have your senses turned up. That's just the reality that we live in, not only just in Minnesota, but in America in general. It's like there's a target on our backs. And it's not just the police who are carrying out those transgressions, it's everyday people who are scared of Black people. I'd be so in my feelings to try not to be extra hypersensitive about stuff. The way I release is through my music and this song.

I just want to keep expressing myself and releasing music. I want to keep creating music – that's a simple hope. I just want to keep being able to create and grow as a creator, musician and teaching artist.

As told to Jackie Renzetti and edited by Cecilia Johnson.

L.A. Buckner drums for Thomas Abban in The Current's studio
L.A. Buckner drums for Thomas Abban in The Current's studio
Nate Ryan | MPR