BLAck pARty Is Making Music to Live To

We caught up with bLAck pARty as he prepared to release his new album ‘Hummingbird.’ He talks making “life music” and what he’s learned from Donald Glover.

Black Party press photo June 2022

Photo by Donovan Johnson

Black Party press photo June 2022

Moments before meeting Malik Flint, better known as rapper, singer, and producer bLAck pARty, I’m introduced to his loyal fans.

It’s a Monday evening in mid-June, and I’m waiting to meet him outside of The Seville—an intimate lounge nestled at the bottom floor of The James hotel in Manhattan where RCA’s Black Music Month event is taking place—when a small legion of his supporters arrive at the entrance. They know about the private event because bLAck pARty accidentally shared the address on his Instagram page a few hours before the show, and they came here with a mission to sneak inside.

“Sometimes, I forget that I’m a recognizable figure now,” he tells me later. “I be walking down the street and someone will stop me like, ‘Yo, aren’t you bLAck pARty!’” Even though he has a long evening ahead of him, he still makes sure to take a picture with every fan.

His fans came here on a Monday afternoon to try and hear songs from his upcoming third studio album, Hummingbird, because bLAck pARty makes music that fits perfectly into their daily routines. “I just like making life music,” he explains. “One of my favorite artists is Al Green, and my pops used to always talk about how my family would play his albums front-to-back at home because it was just life music. It was music to live to, and that’s the ethos that I use in the approach to my own work.” 

With some guidance from his RCA and Wolf + Rothstein mentor and good friend Donald Glover (who signed him to the label in 2019), bLAck pARty shaped Hummingbird throughout three years of living, learning, and experiencing new things. Like Glover, he had his newborn child while working on the album, and he learned how to balance the new responsibilities of fatherhood with music by watching Donald do it first. “[Donald] had a kid while he was working on Awaken, My Love!, so I was able to get a preview of that,” bLAck pARty explains. “All of these things are terrifying, so having someone who’s doing well at balancing all of these things and is successful is great.”

From embracing tender and rejuvenating sounds on his debut album Mango, to distilling the blossoming energy of day parties and the warmer months into 10 tracks on Endless Summer, the rising artist has always been focused on making music that doesn’t have a short shelf-life, and Hummingbird is no different.

Following the release of his new single “On My Way,” bLAck pARty caught up with Complex to discuss the process of making Hummingbird, which is due to release on July 14. We also spoke about the significance of its name, what he’s learned from Donald Glover, and more. The interview, lightly edited for clarity, is below.

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How are you feeling? 

I’m feeling great, man. I’ve just been on a marathon of getting back into the swing of things. I took a little paternity leave, and now I’m fully back in promo mode. Getting back into the zone has been a little tough.

Congrats on becoming a father. How has having a child affected your personal life and your approach to music?

It’s changed me as a person completely. Becoming a parent, you become responsible for someone outside of yourself, so it just rewires your brain to think of things differently, or approach situations differently, because you can’t be on some hot-headed rock star shit when you have a baby. Being young, I could get arrested and it would really mean nothing. It’s a funny story to tell afterward, but now I have to stay out of trouble. I have to be mindful of what I do because children watch what you do, so it’s just little things like that.

Then professionally, it’s about having to shape my routine or my workflow around having a kid. As I was finishing the project, the baby came. During that point, I was in the mixing and mastering stage, so he would be staying up until 3 a.m. Cool, come sit on my lap while I mix songs. And he’s paying attention, so it was a shift, but not a bad shift. It was just a bonus.

In terms of your own upbringing, what was it like growing up in Arkansas? What is the music scene like out there?

It’s changed dramatically since I left. Coming up in Arkansas was tough because it’s such an interesting place. It has such deep musical roots. Sister Rosetta Tharpe is from Arkansas, and she’s the godmother of rock and roll. She literally influenced an entire genre, but we don’t have the same flow and industry and ecosystems like a city like Atlanta or Houston. It’s very DIY, which makes a lot of the music come out really creative. Now, there are a lot of people popping up like ZaeHD. He started out dancing before he was making music. He was a background dancer for Future, and then he started making music and was killing shit before TikTok really started blowing up. Artists like Kari Faux, too. Now it’s blossoming with more and more artists. It feels like we have a real chance, because before, it was just a bunch of people wishing for the opportunity because nobody had ever gotten a deal. But now, even my little brother is signed to a New York label. Literally my whole family makes music at this point. It’s like a family business. 

I feel like music is almost hereditary when it comes to families that have been deeply immersed in it.

Exactly. I agree completely. In my personal opinion, I think music has a certain energy current, like a power generator. Once you’re a part of, you can never truly leave. It will always pull you in, so in that same way, it can affect an entire lineage. If one person sparks it, somewhere down the line, someone else will follow.

Black Party press photo June 2022

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The song is relatable for someone like me who is extremely focused on not being late to things. In general, you’re great at making tracks that fit specific situations perfectly.

I just like making life music. One of my favorite artists is Al Green, and my pops used to always talk about how they would play his albums front-to-back at home because it was just life music. It was music to live to, and that’s the ethos that I use in the approach to my own work. Music can ultimately affect your day. Noise, in general, affects your energy. I like music that affects my energy field positively. It doesn’t have to be the thing that everybody is rushing to listen to, but when you need something to cook to, clean to, ride in the car to, hop buses to, I’m the soundtrack. I don’t necessarily have the most party records, but when it comes to records you can just exist to and enjoy your time, that’s my body. I also try to only make music that I’ll enjoy 10 and 20 years from now and not hate. 

When did you start working on this album?

Fall of 2019. As soon as I finished doing my tour run for Endless Summer, I went straight into the studio to work on the next project. Everybody I was cool with, I had them pull up to the studio and we just had open sessions. That was pretty much all of fall, and then COVID happened and it changed the whole process. A lot of records that I had originally were going to be more rap-focused. The shutdown made this shift where the album had to be a balance because I had to blend these two worlds and make them make sense together. Over 2020 and 2021, a lot of it was trying to make music in lockdown, and once the lockdown was over I was able to really get back in the studio. I remember one day I had 11 people in a tiny studio during lockdown. Being able to have everybody in the studio again helped. 

You said Endless Summer was made at your family home and Donald’s home studio. What creative spaces did you occupy to put this album together?

I had started Endless Summer at Donald’s studio, and he had just built it, so I was basically the tester before he had to go in and work on his last project. I was just in there on some mad scientist shit, and then I would be at my parents’ house with the most basic setup. It was like night and day, because you had this millionaire studio at Donald’s, and then being at my parents’ house it was super stripped down. Just a laptop, handheld mic, and nothing major. That process was way different because I would wake up at 4 p.m., chill, and then get into the recording process and be doing that until 4 a.m.

Hummingbird was made all over. Endless Summer was mostly L.A., so that’s why it feels very L.A. That project went over really well with people from California and Hawaii, tropical places, whereas I felt like I lost a lot of my east coast audience because it would literally be like vacation music for anyone who lived on that side. For this one, I was in L.A., but also all over the place. I was in the South too, so that added a lot to it because the way I approached records was different. Going to other places allows you to get a better idea of what’s actually going on outside of the bubble that you live in. And life has changed tremendously from 2019 to 2022, so I think that also makes the album interesting because it’s taking all of these newfound life experiences. Also, [I’m] getting better at singing, because I took singing lessons over the summer. Just little things like that, so now it’s a whole level up from the last projects.

You’ve been signed to Childish Gambino’s RCA-partnered Wolf + Rothstein label for just over two years now. What type of guidance and advice has he given you so far?

I think the biggest things I’ve learned have just been from watching him. I’m big on learning from example, and I think you can learn more just from watching people. Sometimes you understand what you’re capable of when you watch someone else pull something off, or when you watch someone else open certain doors. It allows you to find your way, too. Being around him for all of those years was like a crash course in being what I am now. Like how to deal with all of this, and balancing it. 

He had a kid while he was working on Awaken, My Love!, so I was able to get a preview of that. All of these things are terrifying, so having someone who’s doing well at balancing all of these things and is successful was great. And being able to watch him fight for his ideas. People at home don’t see how hard people like the Kanyes and the Donalds come out of their personal finances to fund whatever it is that they have in their heads, and they will fight until the end for it. There’s a lot of stuff like that that I learned. I’m not a person who takes advice very well, so I just learn from example, or I’ll ask certain things. I’d say the biggest thing he taught me was to stay focused. I just remember I was at the studio and he was like, “Yo, just stay focused.” It was a very Yoda thing, but as I got older I was like, “Yeah, Donald was right.”

What can fans hope to expect from Hummingbird, and what are you excited to share with them in this album?

I’m excited to share new sounds with them. Features as well, because I don’t do that many. I snuck in some cool features. Hopefully they appreciate it and enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it. I had to make sure this is something I enjoy listening to before I even pass it along to the fans. I’m the quality control, so hopefully they enjoy it just as much as the last project, if not more.

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