Christian Scott grew up running around New Orleans’ venerated Preservation Hall, playing in the back room and listening to the in-house vinyl collection way before he ever got into jazz himself. “I grew up in here and I’ve been coming here since I was six, seven years old,” Scott remembered, while we sit cozy in the venue’s welcoming back house, waiting for a packed night of music to begin. “Before I played the trumpet, I used to be back here listening to these records, pulling through most of these records I’ve heard about. It’s a homecoming for me.”
Given his familiarity with the historical space, it was only fitting that he use it for a monumental collaboration of his own. Working in tandem with Billboard and 1800 Tequila’s Refined Players series, Scott enlisted a mind-blowing group of talent for his contribution to the project.
With Joe Dyson on drums, Weedie Braimah on the djembe, Joe Harley on guitar, Elena Pinderhughes on flute, Derrick Hodge on bass, and, perhaps most impressively, Vic Mensa on vocals, the music this crew came up with was sure to be mind-blowing. For his part, Mensa agreed to listen to what this ensemble created, and drop a couple searing rap verses and a chorus over the top of it. The result is the phenomenal supergroup collab, “Freedom Is A Word,” that dropped last Friday, which you can hear below.
But none of this came about without careful planning. In October, toward the end of their process, the group gathered at Preservation Hall to perform and record the song live for the first time, and I was lucky enough to be in the audience. I also got the chance to pick Vic and Christian’s brain prior to the show, to get a real sense of the thought process behind their collab. Read our conversation below, and hear the electric resulting track, “Freedom Is A Word,” above.
First off, why don’t you tell me about all the jewelry you’re wearing.
Christian: The reason that I wear all of this jewelry is for most spaces that black men have to go into, most people have concluded what they’re about before they see them, right? So for me, part of the reason that I wear this jewelry or adorn myself in this way is that when you see me, if you’re looking at things that come from cultures you don’t know much about, it creates a question. If you have questions, then it means you can’t conclude about me, right? So it’s important to me to make sure that when I’m in those moments whether I’m traveling in an airport in Dubai or when in Tokyo or any of these spaces, when people actually see me, in their appraisal of me a question pops in so they’re not just concluding as to what I’m about.