Seven years ago, when rapper Davaion “Spaceman Jones” Bristol and producer Cliff B. Worsham (aka MOTHER HOOD of electro-soul trio RBTS WIN) first started working together, neither had any idea how fruitful their professional relationship would prove to be.
As both were well aware, the complex nature of collaborations often results in merely one combined effort and dreams of future crossovers. But thanks to a mutual appreciation of each other’s musical talents and a shared operation on the same creative wavelength, the two Asheville artists have remained in steady professional contact as well as becoming, in Worsham’s words, “family.”
The duo’s latest creative endeavor, Spaceman Jones and The Motherships Vol. 3, receives a record release show on Friday, April 12, at The Mothlight. Bristol calls the new album their most political thus far, spurred by his feeling that both the Democratic and Republican parties are “disconnected” and led by “people who want to run the world,” resulting in a current socio-political climate that he compares to the oppressive one in the dystopian film Demolition Man.
Along those lines, Worsham compares modern-day Washington, D.C., to reality television, and views his and Bristol’s music as a way to “throw a wrench in the gears.”
Over Worsham’s layered, often dark sonic landscape, Bristol’s highly visual storytelling unspools to an impactful degree. Spitting in a tone still optimistic, the MC’s timbre comes across more tempered and weathered, as if he’s seen that much more of life since Vol. 2, has become significantly wiser and has a wealth of new intellectual nuggets to deliver to open ears attached to the average low- to middle-class person struggling to survive in modern times.
In turn come such bars as “How you gonna live if the wage don’t raise?/The cost of living turned the world into a cage” from “Front Lines” and “I do this for my zeroes in last year’s clothes/Working 40-hour weeks, but still ready to roll” from “Sermon on the Mountain.”
For Worsham, who identifies Bristol as his favorite rapper — and not just on the local scene — it’s consecutive lines from the last verse of the album’s closer, “Banks and Collection Plates,” that stand out as his partner’s best rhymes: “Whether you take a knee or tote a tiki torch/We all getting ate by the same damn fork/Of course they got you focused on skin tone/Fight amongst yourself while we do the whole world wrong.” Without hesitation, the beat-maker can recite the lines from memory with the same awestruck appreciation as the first time he heard it.
Not one to let a compliment go unnoticed, Bristol puts Worsham on his “Mount Rushmore of producers” and praises his friend’s increased skills in utilizing live instrumentation. Typically sampling obscure vinyl to spark ideas, Worsham then replaces them with in-studio instruments, resulting in such authentic sounds as the sliding bass guitar line on “Sermon on the Mountain,” the mournful lead blues ax on “Walter White and Dolamite” and the sensitive, finger-picked strings of “Real Dope.”
Vol. 3 will be the last in the Spaceman Jones and The Motherships trilogy, but the duo has already mixed and mastered a follow-up and will continue to strengthen their professional partnership with an eye toward creating more together in the same room. With both artists locked into what Worsham calls “a constant state of creation,” each will also release a solo album this summer. Worsham’s vocal-centric collection features a variety of producers from across the Southeast, while Bristol refers to his own disc as “some ignorant shit” that the lyricist felt he had to express before returning to his socially conscious focus.
As they do their parts to push Asheville hip-hop forward, both agree that the state of the local scene has, in Bristol’s words, “never been better.” In addition to a more generally organized industry, he feels that the beats and lyrics have improved across the board from a passionate set of artists of which he’s glad to be a member. Worsham echoes those sentiments, noting that it’s evident more musicians are “doing what they love,” and that with “more eyes” on the scene at large, the individual players are rising to the occasion.
WHO: Spaceman Jones and The Motherships with RBTS WIN, Jah-Monte Ogbon and FLLS
WHERE: The Mothlight, 701 Haywood Road, themothlight.com
WHEN: Friday, April 12, 9 p.m. $8 advance/$10 day of show