by Dylan Healy, Contributing Editor
“We’re here to take back, so here’s our final warning,” Kayana Guity declares with conviction on Jelani Sei’s brand new track, “Rep. Maxine Waters”. Released today, it is the group’s first offering of new studio material since last fall’s fearless LVNDR TWN. And damn, it hits.
The quintet has performed the track at numerous shows over the past year, providing a promising tease of new material to come. In its studio form, the fervent six-minute powerhouse showcases Jelani Sei’s expansive sound palette, unbound virtuosity, and empowering pith, proving them to be one of the most confident voices in the Northeast.
The group helms “Rep. Maxine Waters” without waiver; the strength of Jaylen Petinaud’s ambitious drumwork and Evan Lawrence’s scaling bass lines provide fortification around Scott White’s deft guitarwork and Sam Smith’s electric textures. During the bridge, distant trumpet lines float above a rushing torrent of drums, leading listeners to a massive arrival that finds Guity and Lawrence delivering some of their most impassioned singing yet. “Social justice romance / social slow dance,” they repeat at the track’s climax.
The heart of “Rep. Maxine Waters” is its lyrics, denouncing white conformity (“I can tell that you don’t care / When all our curls are burned straightened”), feigned empathy for movements (“It’s always love without the hate / Throwing up the signs that you don’t make”), and ubiquitous pressure to change (“Everyone scolding me / hard to be hard to be”).
The track is named after Congresswoman Maxine Waters, currently serving as the U.S. Representative for California’s 43rd congressional district. She is the most senior of the 12 black woman currently serving in the United States Congress. “If you believe in something, you must be prepared to fight. To argue. To persuade. To introduce legislation again and again and again,” she has famously said.
Listen to “Rep. Maxine Waters” by Jelani Sei on Bandcamp and Spotify below: