One of the best songs on Bon Iver’s i,i, “Naeem,” was named for one of the many artists in the orbit of Justin Vernon’s 37d03d collective. That artist is Baltimore-born Naeem Juwan, who in a different lifetime used to record salacious rap music under the name Spank Rock. Now based in LA, Jawan has rebranded as Naeem and is relaunching his career with Startisha: an album four years in the making, featuring a broad cast of collaborators, resulting from Naeem’s aim to “write songs from a personal place, and to write love songs.”
After previewing his new sound with a cover of Silver Apples’ “You And I” last month, Naeem is back today with Startisha’s lead single. The woozy, deconstructed hip-hop track “Simulation” features fellow Vernon associate Swamp Dogg as well as Vernon himself, who writes, “I’ve been really blessed to have Naeem come into my life because of the wonderful events of the first PEOPLE event in Berlin at the Michelberger hotel. He has become a great friend and I’ve gone back now since meeting him and seen what true mark he left on the city of Baltimore and its music scene today. I feel very thankful to have been a part of the making of this record.”
Here’s what Naeem himself had to say about the song:
I had been reading a few books, such as Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, And Art, and they helped me solidify feelings I’ve had all of my life about surviving a society of institutions that presents fictions as fact, and often use these fictions to diminish my worth, or to convince me to join their gangs. I wrote this song to remind myself, and hopefully everyone that hears it, that nothing is real, and our greatest defense in this life is our own creativity, and finding great faith in whatever sigils and icons we choose to guide us.
Naeem and director Scott J. Ross made the “Simulation” video without any in-person contact, and Naeem rocks a protective mask in the clip. We’ll probably be seeing a lot more videos like this coming up! But few of those songs will sound quite like Naeem’s unique combination of sounds. Check out the “Simulation” video and the “You And I” cover below.
01 “You And I”
02 “Simulation” (Feat. Swamp Dogg & Justin Vernon)
03 “Let Us Rave” (Feat. Velvet Negroni)
04 “Woo Woo Woo” (Feat. Amanda Blank & Micah James)
06 “Stone Harbor”
07 “Right Here”
09 “Tiger Song”
Startisha is out 6/12 on 37d03d. Pre-order it here.