“This is the first record I’ve made where I had a clear vision of where I wanted it to go from start to finish,” trumpeter and composer Theo Croker tells Apple Music. “It plays like a movie soundtrack, following an astral traveler through a reconnection with his ancestral history.” Coming to prominence with his 2014 major-label debut, AfroPhysicist, Croker has since gone on to receive a Grammy nomination for 2019’s Star People Nation and has lent his uniquely lyrical trumpet melodies to the likes of rappers Common and J. Cole, as well as singer Ari Lennox. For his sixth album, BLK2LIFE // A FUTURE PAST, Croker imagines a fantastical, Afrofuturist sonic landscape that encompasses the broken-beat polyrhythms of “Lucid Dream,” the funk thump of “Soul Call // Vibrate,” and the soulful balladry of “No More Maybe”—all tied together by his piercing horn tone. “It’s a hero’s story, with the trumpet as the main character,” he says. Here, Croker walks us through each scene. “4KNOWLEDGE” “This is the beginning of the movie, where the mothership drops off myself and my other musicians on Earth and charges us to go out and raise some vibrations. It’s us being given our message and our purpose. I’m setting up the listener for the rest of the record, musically, with these ethereal sounds of the ship landing in the center of a jungle.” “Soul Call // Vibrate” “This is a call to action. It’s us moving around the planet, inserting vibrations in the people we’ve come across, and drawing energy from the environment. You can hear the water, the birds, and the air moving. It’s really connecting with the planet and all the different elements to call your soul home and to raise your vibration.” “Just Be (Prelude)” “‘Just Be’ was meant to be an orchestral interlude, but COVID didn’t allow such a large session to happen. Instead, we just performed it as a trio with trumpet, piano, and bass in only one or two takes, and it ended up as a beautiful prelude, setting up ‘Every Part of Me’ sonically.” “Every Part of Me” (feat. Ari Lennox) “‘Every Part of Me’ was a really collaborative track. I recorded a bunch of melodies with Ari Lennox and then we sent it to Ego Ella May, who wrote these beautiful lyrics on what it means to be accepted as a nuanced person—as a woman of color—in the world. I really wanted to get a woman of color to tell a story that you might not normally hear in my music, to give her freedom with her lyricism and melodies.” “Anthem” (feat. Gary Bartz) “Gary and I have worked together a few times and he’s a great mentor of mine. We ended up recording a whole bunch of songs, but only this one made this album. There’s hardly any improvisation on the track, since we had Gary overdubbing himself to create this amazing, anthemic horn section. Once it was finished, we both agreed that there was no need for him to solo, since this record is about melody, rhythm, and harmony.” “Lucid Dream” (feat. Charlotte Dos Santos) “This is a great tune and it’s got an odd form to it. The drums are supposed to be super active, while the harmony floats over it. It’s supposed to feel like a lucid dream or an astral travel, since it’s the spiritual awakening of our hero. Charlotte Dos Santos is a composer and singer that I really admire, and she did a magnificent job nailing the melodies in a way that worked so intuitively with what I had played.” “Where Will You Go” (feat. Kassa Overall) “I’ve worked and studied with Kassa for over 15 years, and there’s always a lot of intention when we collaborate—it has to be unique. He brought in this idea based on a Chopin piece that we chopped up and sampled. We then recorded live takes of it with him doing these vocal effects and MCing. It’s lyrically about understanding that there is no way to go but inward when you want to cultivate the hero inside of yourself.” “No More Maybe” (feat. Iman Omari) “I sent Iman Omari a take of us playing the melody of this track live, and he sampled it and then wrote and recorded these lyrics. Musically, the trumpet starts off in a very ethereal plane, almost like it’s outside of planet Earth, and Iman Omari is inside the sphere and I’m trying to get his soul to wake up and come out to see the bigger picture, to transcend, which he does beautifully.” “Happy Feet (for dancers)” (feat. Malaya) “This song is about Black joy and feeling good in the love that you have for yourself. It’s the scene in the movie where the hero gets to party a little before going into his final battles. Malaya is a great up-and-coming singer and lyricist, and she has the ability to write lyrics to any melody that I create, which is so unique. Melodically, I was incorporating the Detroit house style of Moodymann and Tall Black Guy, which brings so much joy.” “Imperishable Star” “This is the self-reflective moment of the hero’s journey, where he’s in deep meditation. We’re all made of stardust and the imperishable star is the one that doesn’t waver, that you can always find and follow. At this moment, the hero is tapping into his imperishable star and aligning himself before his final test.” “State of the Union 444” (feat. Wyclef Jean) “‘State of the Union’ came about after the record was finished. I was playing what I had worked on for Wyclef and he really wanted to get on ‘Hero Stomp,’ but that wouldn’t have worked in terms of the narrative of the record. So, I called Kassa Overall, who flipped all those samples and stems to create this introduction to ‘Hero Stomp,’ where the mothership returns and sends down an emissary to address the planet. Wyclef is that emissary and he delivers this immense state of the union with some of his finest bars.” “Hero Stomp // A Future Past” “‘Hero Stomp’ is a call and answer. It’s the part of the story where the hero is proving his worth and going through his rite of passage to then receive the strength and power of his ancestors. Only then can he transcend into his highest self. It has over 20 tracks of horns layered on it to create the effect of me facing my demons and raising up my spirit through the music.” “Pathways” “This is a continuation from ‘Hero Stomp.’ It is the final movement of the journey and the acceptance of the hero by his ancestors. He has received their blessing, and so this is the celebratory moment where everyone is partying to a mission accomplished. It is a joyous end to the journey.”

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