Roy Kinsey's Return To Satisfaction
Translating What Music Really Means To Him
Roy Kinsey recalls sitting with his grandmother, drinking beers and listening to soul music. His love for her is evident, his live performance including an altar to her with Old Milwaukee, a pack of smokes, and a copy of A Love Supreme. Blackie: A Story By Roy Kinsey, his latest release, is dedicated to her, and meditates on on how environment and history affect himself and those around him. “I wanted to tell a specific story. I wanted to honor my grandmother. I wanted to talk about my time on earth and environments affecting me. Space makes people who and how they are.”
His grandmother’s passing inspired his return to music, a chance to tell his own story through the prism of Chicago and his grandmother’s move during The Great Migration. Dissecting both his current experiences as a queer black man in Chicago and the history of his family and people is a large undertaking, but Roy gave himself a lot of space to get it right.
"The more that I make music I’m realizing it’s very very personal and sacred for me."
— Roy Kinsey
Blackie arrives after a five year hiatus from music. Roy gives the impression that it was personal dissatisfaction and circumstance that led him to step away. His work before Blackie was hard training in how to be a great technical rapper, but ultimately lacking in personal meaning. He shifted his thinking after the passing of his grandmother, wanting to honor her in an album as well as make something truly authentic. “The more that I make music I’m realizing it’s very very personal and sacred for me. So much so that it really does have to feel right, it has to feel right.”
That adherence to his gut feeling reflects the uncompromising nature of Roy. While that may have held him back from releasing music over the years, it’s ultimately his greatest strength. His self-imposed standards coat his art with that elusive sense of authenticity artists constantly strive for. Roy is open with his own faults and opinions, willing to take criticism and discuss ideas while standing firmly in his positions. He is a warm person, but he commands respect when he talks to you.
Roy created Blackie with an inquisitive mind. He loves literature and works as a librarian with CPL, books and libraries are ingrained in him. “I was just in libraries from the time I was born, practically. My parents met at a library. My mom still works for Chicago public libraries.” He used the library as a way to explore himself and learn the history relevant to the environment he is in. He takes a lot in about any issue he’s exploring, and gives himself a lot of time and solitude to ingest it.
The album’s heavy samples give it a warm and familiar feeling. Executive produced by his de-facto manager Mike Jones, it sits well for Roy’s style and adds to the themes of the album. “I’ve always liked soul music, and I think I’ve always wanted to make that, but I don’t think I always had the outlet. Then Mike provided a soundtrack where it was easier for those ideas to roam.” The production is generally subtle and gives room for his Pusha-T like flow to sit nicely and for his words to shine through clearly. It’s a pleasant listen that gives complex and hard-hitting lines a chance at being digested.
"I wanted to talk about my time on earth and environments affecting me. Space makes people who and how they are."
— Roy Kinsey
Roy wants to connect with people and express himself fully, and he felt fully satisfied with how the album turned out. “Blackie is a book for me. So, to be able to be long winded or have deeper thoughts and not feel like you’re stressing the listeners ear or anything like that, this was the first time that that’s ever really happened for me.” The music feels right to him, and the project received nods from notable publications like Billboard, NPR, and The Chicago Tribune. Despite these accolades, he remains most proud of the project itself. “The release of Blackie was Billboard for me. Just actually finishing it and putting it out to people. I was that proud that day.”
5 years away from music means starting from the ground up, and Chicago is starting to listen. And while Roy deserves to be noticed, it isn’t what drives him or his art. His time away allowed him to reconcile with music, himself, and his connections and return to a place of satisfaction for having accomplished what he wanted to with Blackie. It’s something he would be proud of if no one ever heard it, something as close to him as those long nights drinking beer with his grandmother.