The album Spilligion is an insightful yet soulful telling of Black culture and oppression

The album cover for Spilligion.

Fred Lozano (artist)

The album cover for Spilligion.

With doses of soul, gospel, and hip-hop, the album Spilligion perfectly encapsulates the culture of Black people in the U.S. and problems relevant to our country. 

This album was written and produced by Spillage Village—a hip-hop collective—JID, and Earthgang along with contributions from many other artists. Ever since the beginning stages of quarantine last year, I have been a dedicated common listener of both JID and Earthgang separately, and I have found that they have accelerated my understanding, respect, and appreciation for this culture.

 I have never heard of Spillage Village before, but with all artists collaborating collectively, I have noticed their highly abstract approaches and creativity in their music. Their rhythms and tones provide very meaningful songs that always pack a punch. So upon finding this album, I knew that it would be enrapturing with the flow of talents and intense purpose.

The meaning behind Spilligion incorporates multiple religious themes and alludes to the Black Lives Matter protests as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. Clearly, it is very impactful regarding the difficulty the world has faced this past year. The album tells this story—the world’s story and ours, too—throughout its twelve songs.

The album as a whole is quite literally art, but there are a few standout songs—my absolute favorites—that I feel highlight the necessary points the artists are conveying. The first highlight is the introduction titled “Spill Vill,” which is composed of argumentative banter in a satirical sense and discusses church and the motives of God, alluding to the general theme of the album. Accordingly, the comedic banter hints at Jesus’s race and concludes that that specific argument can lead to further division of groups, which has made a resurgence in the current socio-political state of America.

It is an augmented and beautiful composition of musical tracks and serves as a perfect gateway to further understanding Black culture. ”

“I can make a really convincing argument right here, right now that Jesus was as black as Shaka Zulu, but to what end? Arguin’ ’bout it would only divide us to be conquered.”

This lyric sums up the need for the cease of unnecessary arguments that will only hold this country back in terms of progress. Useless conflicts only limit growth, especially in relation to racial equality; the baseline is just to be accepting of everyone and move forward.

My next favorite song, “Ea’alah,” which translates to “Family,” is all about praying for peace and love and contrastingly touches on COVID-19 and its effect on certain communities. 

“I ain’t a doctor, I don’t know, but I know rich folks dyin’ too, and I know they gon’ get their treatment first when that s*** gets approved, and that’s some BS.”

Typically, more urban areas of the country can, unfortunately, lean more towards an impoverished way of life, therefore making the quality of living more difficult on its own. This is proven by higher rates of homicides and now far more deaths due to the virus. While the rich are able to have quick and easy access to basic health and safety, they are usurping underprivileged areas right to both internal and external protection. This song has a lighter tone to it including harmonious vocals, but it is clearly a heavy subject.

Subsequent to “Ea’alah,” my next favorite is titled “Mecca.” Former President Barack Obama has even mentioned “Mecca” in a list of his own favorite songs—that right there shows that this song has some substance. 

First off, this song leads in with a South African vernacular phrase “heita daar,” which means “hello there.” If it’s not evident, this song is strongly connected to the continent of Africa. Throughout the lyrics, sprinkles of South African words and phrases are present in the lyrics, and the overall beat of the song has a slightly more relaxed version of an Afrobeat rhythm. 

As for the name, “Mecca” is a city in Saudi Arabia, known as the holiest city in the Islamic region—this aspect ties into the religious themes of the album. This word has even become a term in the American language and can also describe densely populated areas composed of specific groups. Atlanta is known as a “Black mecca” in Georgia, and ironically enough, is home to JID, Earthgang, and Spillage Village.

The main pre-chorus of the song has an uplifting and unifying structure and is quite catchy as well.

“So come and follow me to the land, because I love you, take my hand, and from South Africa to Japan, down to Colombia to Sudan, over to you (San’bonani).”

Another highlight is the song “Judas.” I find this song to be so intricate in its lyrical implications, but what I love about this song is the shifting between points of view. It focuses on certain experiences with racial injustice currently and in the past. But the main focal point is on the biblical figure, Judas, and his betrayal of Jesus. The lyrics swap back and forth as a metaphor for being discriminated against in current times, insinuating Judas’s actions from a religious standpoint. The main chorus rehashes both angles with a beautiful, sky-scraping voice.

“We’re always fighting, you always leave, mentally drowning, eventually, her mind’s on money, my mind’s on green, yeah you’re enticing, yes indeed.”

And my top highlight of the entire album is the song “Hapi.” It is genuinely one of the most touching songs I’ve ever heard. From the very start, my mind enters a state of solemn paralysis infected by the strong breaths of a classic upright piano. The lyrics open into the singer Mereba’s raw vocals singing harmoniously.

“I met a man playin’ in the woods, his piano was off-key, he sang to me softly, I bet he wouldn’t change it if he could, gunshots ringin’ in my hood, they sound so off-beat, I’m prayin’ they don’t off me, I promise I’d change it if I could.”

In just this chorus, the entire song—as well as the album—is epitomized in its significance. Every single lyric of “Hapi” connects to previous songs and context in the album and keeps the theme steady with the entrancing melodies. There is really not one specific description of the song because the words write it all out on their own. The sounds continue to build and progress through different moods and depictions of racial integrity.

But the music video, as usual, was what did it for me. Yes, I am a highly emotional person and can cry at almost anything, but with the realness of all the events and situations implicated and portrayed in the video, all I can say is that my cheeks were stained with black streaks afterward. 

It is filmed in a woodland setting with a casual filming style. The camera circles around whoever is singing in the given moment and showcases certain scenes representing common situations and feelings that the Black community faces. Overall, the video and song thoroughly render the nature of the culture of Black people in America and their lifestyle.

The songs that I did not mention equally contribute to the premise of “Spilligion” and do not miss a beat. Every facet of every song perfectly connects to the overall theme, making for a complexly exquisite musical experience.

I personally do not know much about religion or, more importantly, what it is truly like to be a Black person in America. That is something I will never fully understand, but Spilligion brought me so much more knowledge on the subject, pushing me to come to a more profound understanding. 

Being white in this country, I have the choice to not immerse myself in any Black-American culture and can entirely ignore the situation as a whole; it would honestly not affect my life. But it is so extremely important to use the white privilege that many are given in ways that are beneficial to the understanding of the oppression of Black people. Even if it is as small as listening to Black artists and music, it is still making somewhat of a difference in the sense of hearing and acknowledging the daily hardships of Black Americans. 

All in all, Spilligion is a must-listen. The hip-hop style and deep-rooted verses compose strong crescendos of lyrical genius that are fulfilling in every way. It is an augmented and beautiful composition of musical tracks and serves as a perfect gateway to further understanding Black culture.