Revolutionary Radio Throwback
Aja Monet’s – scared to make love/ scared not to
Written by Brandon Lamarr Basile
Aja Monet is an internationally known poet, performer, and educator. Hailing from Brooklyn, NY, she was the youngest winner of the legendary Nuyorican Poet’s Café Grand Slam title. The Scared to Make Love/ Scared Not to EP was her first EP released in 2010. This EP features 9 tracks, including 7 fully produced heavily lyrical Spoken Word tracks and 2 interludes. The EP discusses much on topics of love and the black revolutionary struggle. One might say that it shows the softer side of the revolution, but it’s not really soft. The passion of the poetics and production ignite a fire to fight and a passion to love after the fighting is done each day, a fire to fight as hard as you love and love as hard as you fight. Since the 2010 release of Scared to make love she has released another 5 track EP entitled Courage released in late 2014 that features more live production. Courage is a great release, and Monet has done many collaborations that can be found on her Soundcloud since Scared to make love ‘s 2010, but this one has been calling me as of late. This is honestly one of my favorite albums that I have ever listened to, but I will analyze this without bias. Well, as much as possible, because the awesomeness here cannot be ignored nor denied. So without further ado, let’s dive into fear and the release into love.
“I’m not yesterday” opens with smooth electric guitar sweeping flutters. This track, produced by Rob Sizwe as much of the release is, features heavy drum punches over pressing organs. Monet begins the song chanting “I’m not yesterday, I’m not yesterday, No more, No more” before breaking into a smoothly delivered spoken word first verse. A nozzled trumpet soloing throughout the track gives good emotional tension creating an electric jazz track with deep poetics and hip-hop flow. The track exemplifies the temporal paradox of focus that Monet’s work and this EP embodies as it closes with Monet chanting “Don’t forget tomorrow, Don’t forget tomorrow, Don’t forget tomorrow today”.
“Us” is one of the tracks from the EP that are available for free instant download, and for good reason. This song is one of the most necessary songs of the EP. This is not meant to slight the rest of the dopeness of the EP at all, but this track can be one of the most spiritually mending in relation to relationships between men and women. “Us” opens with Monet calling off her legacy of black feminist writers and artists. The production beings with those effective organs with an Aretha Franklin sample. This track features an accurately placed recording of a man supporting the necessity for strong black women stating in heavy masculine baritone “I get most of my wisdom from women. I practice it on my brothers.” Drums meter out hits of soft piano keys creating a heavily persistent groove, but never distracting from Aja’s words. This entire track is deep with smooth flow and excellent lyricism. Monet talks on power, struggle, and love following the last verse with what feels like an ad-lib as she ask “We’re together. When was it ever ‘you’ and ‘me’? When was it only ‘I’?” “Us is one of the most necessary songs of the EP, but with this being just the second track it only gets better from here.
“Lady Orpheus” is electric funky, electric sexy, everything electric, but no sliding involved. This features artistic sexuality and aggression, but still gentle. Monet croons, “There is beauty in the dark, when we grow apart.” Okay like seriously other rappers talk about luxury and illustrious rap. They don’t know what they’re talking about unless they’ve heard Monet’s lyricism here. “I sit with the silence of your passing, learned the swag of a storm in your passing…bullets to the heart, we’re assassins, slaves to lust, it’s the middle passage, Lady Orpheus”. And that’s just some of the first verse. Monet lays down smooth rhymes will the mult-layered guitar production creates an intricately laden electric mesh. The build and guitar solo near the end of the track tenses aggression and then releases in a descent that gives a full experience of love that is “Lady Orpheus”.
“Sex cymbal” opens with a male voice saying “Shhh that’s love, you hear that, that’s love” followed by Aja expressing “we’re made to love/ don’t be afraid of love/ we’re made to love/ let’s play with love”. She moves from simply expressing to sexpressing with great lyrics and vivid sexual imagery. At times her vocals can be a little unclear amongst the other melodies of the song. They could be accented more with backing vocals and effects just because they are so awesome and with such eloquent lyrics you want to make sure you catch it all. Like great sex this one leave you wanting more.
“These hips” is an interlude featuring an a capella performance of“Homage to my Hips” by legendary black feminist poet Lucille Clifton by the poet herself. This is perfectly placed relief to follow so much sexual energy, but is followed by a more relaxing encounter of gentle playful energy with “Recess”.
“Recess” is probably my personal favorite of the EP and I have used it on many playlists and mix CDs. The song commences with Aja vocalizing “laugh more, uh, giggle more, uh” like a sexual invitation to play. “You’re a jungle gym in my chest, a playground in my soul.” The initial verse is riddled with many quotables, but her somewhat ad-libbing and laughter at the end shows a great but light tenderness. It builds and overlays with her laughter and humor. The her final words to capture the essence of this song, love, and the softer part of the entire EP experience as she says “Our love is the favorite song at the best music festival in some heaven that awaits us. Word.”
“American Fruit” takes the energy back to the blackness. The beat consists of a female singer singing about the slave ships and the black enslavement. The singer’s voice feels like African-American gospel soul, but it echoes throughout the beat like hearing the echoes of the deaths of the middle passage with each croon. Monet speaks on many issues of the black experience and life as she speaks on concepts of the African-American drama, but also idea that revolve around the experience of all enslaved peoples of the African diaspora. She closes the track with a call to empower people past the pain and fear of love embracing and cherishing our freedom to love now as she flows, “Loving you makes slavery sane. Loving you makes slavery sane”.
“Interlude” is a smooth groove with conga drums as Monet sings “Scared to make love/ Scared not to”
“Dance with Love” is all about loving yourself. The energy here is sexy, sensual, and actually more aggressive than the rest of the sexy EP. This song features many empowering affirmations and mantra’s “I want to dance with the love of me”, “Let me glow!” and “Explore!” The song starts with aa house bass electric bounce. As the chants builds it feels like it’s going to go into an EDM overload build, which would have been welcome and fitting, but instead it goes into an afro-latin jazz groove as Monet continues to chant about the love of her body and diving into the freedom of self-love. This is a grand close to such an aurally and lyrically pleasing experience. The song is followed by a voicemail of a friend of her’s calling her to tell her how the work is “SO DOPE! SO DOPE!” and it is. Really, the euphoria of this track and the entire work is just as intoxicating as a drug trip. Scared to make love is a drug trip through the past into the present and cherishing the freedom love found with others and most importantly within one’s self. If more artists made music like this the entire world would be changed. Feel the love. Feel the drug. Get high on self.
-Brandon Lamarr Basile
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