Golden Globe, GRAMMY, Academy Award winning activist, actor and artist Common, four-time GRAMMY Award winning pianist/producer Robert Glasper, and drummer/producer extraordinaire Karriem Riggins release the video for “Optimistic (ft. Brandy)” from their new group August Greene. The band’s self-titled debut album will be released as an Amazon Original on March 9th.
Last month, “Optimistic” was praised by NY Times, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, XXL, Stereogum, and NPR Music, who said of the Sounds of Blackness cover “[Brandy’s] voice has aged like the finest of wines, layering harmonies all over Glasper’s signature keys and Riggin’s rapid drums… Common’s bars serve as the proverbial cherry on top while a choir lends a hand to close the jam out.”
Filmed in Jackson, Mississippi over Martin Luther King Day weekend, the video features the Jackson-area activists Hollis Watkins, Frankye Adams Johnson, Dr. Cindy Ayers Elliott, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, and the Maddrama Performance Group.
“Optimism is the fuel drives all survival strategies,” says the video’s director B+. “Being optimistic is a faith that things must get better. I remembered over Christmas reading an article by Robin DG Kelley about Jackson, Mississippi. It inspired me deeply. The notion of folks building community over longer periods, keeping focussed on the local especially when the national fails and following in the narratives passed to us by previous generations seemed so profound. The work of Chokwe Lumumba, and now his son and the larger community around them is deep, heartfelt and sincere something we can all aspire to. As Kelley says, ‘So I propose that we turn away from the latest celebrity death match, and turn our attention to Jackson, Mississippi.’”
“It has been incredible to work with B+ and his team,” says Common. “B has a beautiful way of telling stories, be it photographs, film or music videos, he connects to the soul of the subject. As a collective we wanted the visual for ‘Optimistic’ to convey the spirit and energy of the song. The people of Jackson, Mississippi — from the children to the activists to the mayor — told this story in a simple and beautiful way. And shooting us in the studio is truly just capturing us in our heaven on earth.”
“It was an honor and a great experience working on this video with August Greene and our sister Brandy,” says Riggins. “February is a wonderful month for this song to be released because of Black History Month. Also, one of the greatest producer/musicians J Dilla was born on February 7th, so this is the perfect time for us to continue to celebrate him.”
In 2017, Common, Glasper, and Riggins collectively won the Emmy for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics on the strength of their song “Letter To The Free,” which was recorded for Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th. The longtime friends and musical collaborators felt the time was right to release music from August Greene, which has themes of optimism and black excellence. They have found a sound that does not solely fit into one genre, but is truly an invigorating hybrid of R&B, hip-hop, and jazz.
Starting March 9, the album will be available for digital purchase on Amazon Music and to stream on both Amazon Music Unlimited and Prime Music.