A mythology surrounds Moodymann – one that has been knowingly cultivated over the years through rare interviews, aphoristic pronouncements, performing with his face concealed or behind a sheet, and so on.
Whatever the motivation behind his thinly veiled anonymity, this release – an open book invitation to his influences, a fleeting glimpse into his world – feels somewhat significant.
The first few tracks on his DJ-Kicks present a melancholic aspect to his ‘environment’ (his word), and it’s probably the best section of the mix. The opener of Chicago artist Yaw’s Where Will You Be is a beauty: see-sawing violins and soulful trumpets melt into a softly swung rhythm, while Yaw’s voice questions his lover’s affections. KDJ’s fellow Detroiter DopeHead appears later, his lyrics on relatives in jail or the cemetery a sobering snapshot of life in Detroit. The pace and vibe meander gently upwards, until Jai Paul’s BTSTU. This song no longer has the effect it once did, and the selections feel a bit over-familiar until the jagged synths of Julien Dyne’s Stained Glass Fresh Frozen.
The pace picks up a little with Andrés’ excellent El Ritmo De Mi Gente. The gloopy soul of My Funny Valentine doesn’t quite fit though, and we have to wait until Disco Maniac by Tirogo for the mood to lift. Anne Clark is a smart and unexpected inclusion, allowing KDJ to reset the vibe while maintaining tempo. The later Noir & Haze track is best skipped for Marcellus Pittman’s (yep, Detroit too), a contemplative boogie that winds down to another strong section of the mix, the final three tracks.
On this mix, the risky selections pay off and the safer ones don’t. It’s a hearteningly diverse tracklist, and there are passages of greatness. More than any other Moodymann release, it feels like Kenny Dixon Jr. is allowing us a glimpse of himself beyond the Moody ‘persona’ – if that’s even what it is.
Stream Moodymann’s DJ-Kicks here.