We made “Heaven and Earth” to inspire us all to take this world into our own hands and make it a beautiful place of love, compassion, and understanding. The world that we all want it to be. I’m so excited to share it with you all today!!! pic.twitter.com/t2luzowHUG
— Kamasi Washington (@KamasiW) June 22, 2018
NPR – Kamasi Washington‘s idea of heaven is the world he creates and retreats to in his mind. The jazz torchbearer’s double album Heaven and Earth, out today, represents that inward heaven versus his outward reality on Earth.
Growing up in Los Angeles, Washington was known in school for playing renditions of Boyz II Men and Jodeci songs on his clarinet. Now, he’s mentioned in the same breathe as rapper Kendrick Lamar — Washington’s saxophone skills can be heard on Lamar’s 2015 album To Pimp A Butterfly — as major players in a larger celebration of black culture.
“I feel like we’re in that turning point right now,” Washington says. “It’s been a long time coming. It’s weird, it’s like culturally we’ve been appreciated in a certain sense, but not necessarily celebrated. And now we’re going to celebrate the culture.”
For Heaven and Earth, Washington tapped into creative escapes in the form of the video game Street Fighter and movie Fist of Fury, both of which found their way into song titles (“Fists of Fury,” “Street Fighter Mas”) on the album. Washington tells NPR’s David Greene about the movie’s influence and explains the deeper sentiments expressed in his music. Read the edited interview highlights below and listen to their full conversation at the audio link.