Detroit jazz duo Anti-Philosophy make music for these tumultuous times

Dec 4, 2020 at 5:00 pm

The concept of jazz duo Anti-Philosophy all started with a conversation about protest and art back in 2019. Saxophonist De'Sean Jones and guitarist Sasha Kashperko were on a midwest tour with Jones's group Knomadik, and during one of their friendly "arguments" the question came up of how musicians incorporate protest into their art. If one is not on the front lines at the marches, then the best way to showcase "your resistance is to let it come out in your music and let the music and art do the talking for you," says Jones.

Little did they know that their conversation would spark an 11-volume set of recordings that would specifically deal with the pandemic, as well as the political and social unrest of 2020. The first volume, titled Viral, which dropped on Nov. 6, is a combination of genres from jazz to hip-hop and rock, complete with heavy drum and bass elements all meant to illustrate the turbulent state of the world.

Jones leads the fusion ensemble De’Sean Jones & Knomadik, and he has a stress-tested reputation in Detroit with his artful blending of jazz, heavy metal, hip-hop, and techno music. He's worked with big-league acts such as Karen Clark Sheard and Kierra "KiKi" Sheard, Christian McBride, and Rick Ross.

Kashperko's resume is fat too. He’s built an international reputation, having run the streets with the likes of Common, Robert Glasper, Karriem Riggins, Black Milk, and Robert Hurst. Jones and Kashperko clicked musically around 2015 and Kashperko joined Knomadik in 2018.

Jones feels their collaboration has been the perfect marriage. He’s drawn to Kashperko’s composing and is in awe of his production acumen. Over the years, Kashperko has quietly regarded Jones as sort of a musical big bro. "I'm very fortunate to be a part of the group, they have been heroes of mine for a while," Kashperko says.

Anti-Philosophy is both the name of the album series and the group which Jones and Kashperko started this year. Their name is a play on the Associated Press, as they see their music as a news outlet for current events.

"It's definitely a sonic representation of these events and this past year. Our song titles are sort of like conversation starters” says Kashperko. "I would say we're trying to be somewhat unbiased, but definitely pointing to these topics that are conversations that are brewing in our community. And the sound, you can see how we feel by just listening to it. And the chaotic state of the music kind of matches the chaotic state of the uprising."

With songs such as "Lament for George Floyd" and "Arrest the Cops who Murdered Breonna Taylor," Jones and Kashperko did not mince words when it came to voicing their thoughts on the racial injustice that stemmed from those two incidents. The piercing notes and virtuosic timbres let you know where they stand and that they are serious about seeking justice.

There are also quite a few songs that reference the COVID-19 pandemic ("Social Distancing," "Safer @ Home Orders"...). Jones and Kashperko are just two of the many people who have been affected both professionally and mentally by the pandemic. During the shutdown, both musicians were unable to perform and bring in the income that normally comes from live performances. Jones and Kashperko were both going through a deep depression and found the recording sessions for the album to be cathartic because it provided a creative outlet for the group to express themselves. The music, Jones says, "saved me from my own insanity."

"The sound, you can see how we feel by just listening to it. ... the chaotic state of the music kind of matches the chaotic state of the uprising."

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"We were both in search of a sound that could really encapsulate how we felt and what we were going through creatively. At this point we were not obligated to make any specific type of music, we were free to do anything we want. We are not musicians for hire, so we were liberated to let our imagination run wild."

Over the course of a two week period, Anti-Philosophy went into the studio and came out with several albums worth of material. Their political discourses are what triggered the innovative sound they developed. They stumbled upon a unique formula of creating a simple melody line and then just going crazy with it.

The first LP, Viral, serves as more of an experiment of what the group could accomplish creatively in terms of forming a new genre.

While the sound is very much influenced by protest music and jazz, the group says the music is "unapologetically Black," and it is music for the future.

"The message that you are making today is not going to be interpreted until tomorrow. We are making this music as a protest, but this is also a warning of like, in the future please don't let this happen again," says Jones.

"Don't let our climate get so bad that an entire continent is on fire. Try not to poison Black cities' water like they did in Flint. Lets not have Black bodies shown on social media as being killed like its daily news. It's a protest but it's not singularly a protest."

Throughout the volumes, there will be an evolution of sounds that sonically represents opposition but also a call to action as solutions are starting to take place.

The next volume, titled, Snakes, will be more politically charged and focus on the stimulus and the election. Look for it to be released before the end of the year.

Even though it's only been a few weeks since Viral dropped, the group says they have been getting positive responses from musicians and the public, who felt the album hit close to home and they were able to identify with the abrasive sound.

Over the course of the next few months, Anti-Philosophy plans to push a wave of songs into the universe.

They are not looking for accolades, but if anything they want their music to make people think and to generate heavy discussions about how messed up this world is.

"We are literally making this music because we love art, not because we are trying to win a Grammy or trying to make money," says Jones. "It was this genuine passion for the creative process and out of that genuine effort something really beautiful emerged that we can proudly say came out of Detroit and it comes from what we experienced as Detroiters."

You can find Anti-Philosophy's music on Bandcamp.

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