White Boiz formed initially out of mutual admiration, when MC Krondon would show up to performances by producer Shafiq Husayn’s Sa-Ra collective on the humble—unannounced, with “something good to puff on and good conversation and good vibrations,” Shafiq recalls with a laugh. The seed for collaboration was Krondon’s birthday in 2011, when the two chopped it up at Shafiq’s home and began a year and a half of conversing before any music was recorded. Deep talks on race and the state of blackness in white America placed them on the same page mentally, which allowed the musical connection to fall into place with early recordings and appearances on separate solo projects in 2013.

Neighborhood Wonderful sets those talks to music—a 14-track conversation between the two, and also among master teacher Moors and every day hustlers and ghetto fighters. At times Afrocentric and Blaxploitation, and occasionally simultaneously so, the album is an exploration of lives and neighborhoods that are known to be dark, yet possessing brilliant dualities that make us who—and why—we are. When Krondon raps “Me and Shafiq like Farrakhan meets Flying Lotus,” it’s in the midst of lines centering on both the streets and the spiritual. The overall approach is an all-inclusive “one nation under a groove,” but the street knowledge in the music and the recorded conversational interludes go beyond just the funk. “At the same time, everything in the neighborhood—as bad as it is, and as fucked up as it is—we’re taking responsibility for that and we’re learning it’s just as wonderful as it is wicked,”

Krondon says. “We’re telling stories and presenting concepts based off of that, such as single motherhood to drug addiction to wrongful conviction to ignorance…ignorance on all levels.” The soundscapes in Grammy Award-winning producer Shafiq’s production are multifaceted, and even at their most melancholy, undeniably funky. As an MC, Strong Arm Steady crew member Krondon is relatable from the street corner to the temple. Their “White Boiz” alias “is a perspective thing,” Shafiq says. “White” means different things to different people—from their record label to the Los Angeles Police Department to the Nation of Islam. In the 1700s, “white” did not represent race, but a state of freedom versus servitude. Today, however, white can be powder in the trap or a party in the Hamptons, which are seemingly worlds apart. Or are they?

“It’s all open to interpretation,” says Shafiq, who credits the neighborhood itself—“from the gooniest to the most benevolent”—with providing creative inspiration for the album. Throughout Neighborhood Wonderful, White Boiz deliver a message of pride, reflection and self-awareness, like the phantom punch you didn’t see coming that catches you right on the chin-nonambiguous, brutally honest and unapologetically black. — Ronnie Reese

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