Kamasi Washington – “Street Fighter Mas”

Kamasi Washington – “Street Fighter Mas”

Next month, the young jazz hero Kamasi Washington will release the massive two-and-a-half-hour double album Heaven And Earth — a massive undertaking for just about any artist, but maybe not for one who first made a splash with the monster triple album The Epic. Washington has already shared two tracks from the album, “Space Travelers Lullaby” and “Fists Of Fury.” And today, he’s got a new one, a six-minute instrumental called “Street Fighter Mas.”

The new song is built from a deeply funky drumbeat, the first thing we hear on it. But from there, it surges into the stratosphere, with strings and wordless choral vocals that remind me of the themes to old sci-fi TV shows. Washington and his bandmates get in some powerful solos, too. It’s a melodic, accessible track, but not a dumbed-down one. Here’s what Washington has to say about it:

When I was younger, I was in between the end of the arcade generation and the beginning of the console generation. We used to go to this place called Rexall to play Street Fighter. At Rexall, there would be different people from different hoods there playing the game. It was the one place that was like an equalizer. It was just about how good you were at Street Fighter…for the most part. In other places, you were afraid of these dudes; there, you would just play the game and it was what it was, you know? I was really good at Street Fighter, so where the song really came from was me jokingly saying I was going to have my own theme song so that when I showed up to play Street Fighter they’d play my theme song before I came in, like a boxer. In the context of the album, it was the connection that we got with those guys in our neighborhood. We used to call them OGs, the older guys that we looked up to.

In a lot of ways, for me, video games was the way I connected with them because I was never affiliated with any gangs, but I knew them and I was cool with them and that was mainly through the video games. At an older age I thought how amazing would it be if the OGs could just play the game and solve their problems that way. The meaning within the scope of the record is a connection to the past and all of the many ways we can connect.

Here’s the song:

And here’s a preview for the video, which comes from the great director AG Rojas and which features Washington swinging a sword-cane and looking regal:

Heaven And Earth is out 6/22 on Young Turks.

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