Modern Classics: Yola on Childish Gambino’s “Redbone” and the Longevity of Soul


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In this installment of Modern Classics we speak to the amazing four-time Grammy Nominee musician, singer and songwriter Yola about her new record, Stand For Myself, and how hearing Childish Gambino’s “Redbone” and all its references to 1970s funk encouraged Yola to unlock her own unprecedented mix of symphonic soul and classic pop.

As Yola tells it, it’s not just a sound from the past that she’s conjuring, it’s a sense of possibility. The way that progenitors like Funkadelic, Minnie Ripperton, and the O'Jays combined political protest with deep grooves, what Yola calls “the Mary Poppins philosophy of music” (the groove being the spoonful of sugar to help the socially-conscious medicine go down).

With this marriage of sound and statement, Yola makes retro sounds relevant again, as on the title track “Stand For Myself,” where she uses throwback slap bass, fuzz guitar, and orchestral strings to craft a distinctly modern messages about her identity as a Black woman, cultural allyship, and UK politics. Also, why she likes mixes that sound like they have a “big old booty.”

Songs Discussed

Yola - Stand For Myself, Diamond Studded Shoes, Starlight, Barely Alive, Be My Friend, If I Had to Do it All Again

Childish Gambino - Redbone, Riot

Bootsy Collins - I’d Rather Be With You

Funkadelic - Can You Get to That

The O’Jays - Back Stabbers

Queen Latifah - U.N.I.T.Y.

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261 episodes