Meanwhile (feat. Jelani Blackman & Barrington Levy)
Jimmy Jimmy (feat. AJ Tracey)
Déjà Vu (feat. Alicai Harley) [Live from NW10]
Since moving to West London at the start of the ’90s, Damon Albarn has enjoyed the traditions and revelry of Notting Hill Carnival which pass by his doorstep every August bank holiday. It’s seeped into his music before—2014 solo track “You & Me” traces ghostly vibrations of energy that linger on the streets days after the sound systems have powered down—but never as explicitly as on this EP.
With the pandemic thwarting the event for a second consecutive year in 2021, Meanwhile arrived on what should have been the eve of Carnival, and these three tracks offer portraits of what might have been—and what still is. While love song “Déjà Vu” taps into the weekend’s spirit of celebration, with dancehall star Alicaì Harley as sure-footed amid the steel pans and island rhythms as Albarn is groggily unsteady, the Blur man and his collaborators cast their eyes beyond the festivities. Blending a sticky dub bounce, rattling guitars, and AJ Tracey’s day-in-the-life bars, “Jimmy Jimmy” evokes the local heritage of The Clash as well as lives currently being etched out every day in W10 and W11. And on “Meanwhile,” rising singer/rapper Jelani Blackman finds that the champagne and Red Stripe harbor bittersweet tangs as he reflects on his grandfather’s past in the area and the changing landscape around him.