The final installment in a trilogy of social justice music albums that look at themes of race and social conditions is set to release later this week.
“Trapped…in The Mess We Made” is the third in a three-part album that was not originally supposed to see the light of day. In 2015, Tomás Doncker, musician and CEO of True Groove Records, was shaken by the shooting that took place at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
“I was really freaked out. This particular thing pushed me over the edge because I thought of my grandparents,” said Doncker. “That could have been my grandparents in church inviting this young man in. What a horrible thing to have happen.”
Doncker stayed home for a week following the shooting and found himself picking up his acoustic guitar and recording some of what he was playing.
“It made me feel whole. I had no intention of writing an album,” said Doncker. “When I went back to work, my partners wanted to know if I was okay. I ended up playing them a few snippets and they said, ‘When do we start recording?’ I was like ‘No no no,’ but they kind of forced me into it.”
Those beginning tracks that Doncker recorded at home laid down the framework for the first album “The Mess We Made,” which infused jazz, funk and soul to explore themes of racial tension as well as the violent relationships between the police and urban youth. After that album received an incredibly positive critical response, Doncker and his team wrote six new songs and reimagined some of the original songs for “The Mess We Made Vol. 2.”
“We did a lot of touring for Volume 2. When we played at South By Southwest, there was an immediate response as if the audience had been waiting for someone to do that. There weren’t many high profile artists speaking about this yet,” said Doncker.
The third installment of the series, “Trapped…in The Mess We Made,” works with some of the most poignant tracks on the previous two albums and puts a new spin on them. “Trapped…in The Mess We Made” will be released online on Juneteenth.
So far, two singles from the new album, as well as their music videos, have dropped online on True Groove’s YouTube Channel. The first, “Skin in the Game,” features hip-hop groups Son of Bazerk and No Self Control and was released last summer. The single itself has been received positively by audiences.
The second, “Blood & Concrete,” features rapper 1/2 Pint. The video dropped on YouTube on June 6 and contains imagery of protests against police brutality with ties to the recent murder of George Floyd.
Doncker said that the video for “Blood & Concrete” was filmed about five months ago and had been taking the editing of the video slowly. However, following the murder of George Floyd, Doncker felt it was necessary to accelerate the release of the single.
“I was resisting the urge to see the news out of Minneapolis, but when I did, I was watching a man being murdered on my phone,” said Doncker. “It’s not just a report of some kid who shot up a church, we were watching a man get murdered like it was a TV show. I called my editor, who told me that he was already working on it for the past three hours.”
Doncker and his team found themselves fighting against the social media censoring the video, making tweaks to keep the video visible.
Doncker says that they did not expect “Trapped…in The Mess We Made” would speak so much to what is going on now, but that it just so happened to fall that way.
“History has made our work extremely relevant,” said Doncker. “We need to rise and meet it now.”
One track on the album that Doncker wants the audience to pay close attention to is “How Long.” The song, which has more of a ballad sound to it, is on the “softer side,” but Doncker believes that this may be helpful for some people to get the message.
“Sometimes the best way to get someone’s attention is not to yell. This new album is pretty brazen, but ‘How Long’ is a somewhat peaceful number,” said Doncker. “‘How Long’ asks the question right in the lyrics: ‘How long until the other man is my brother?’ I would really like people to hear that.”
Doncker also noted that the message in “How Long” is being reflected in the current protests.
“Look at who is out there protesting, it’s white and black people together,” said Doncker. “It’s a beautiful thing – it’s a shame that it took a man’s neck being broken for it to happen. We’re seeing people come together. Only good things can come from that.”
“Trapped…in The Mess We Made” will be available on all digital platforms on June 19. Listen to the album now on Spotify.