What an astonishing little album we have here. Imani Coppola was a young fresh-out-of-college recording artist when she hit MTV with “Legend of a Cowgirl”, a small hit from a remarkably diverse debut album that was laced with forward-thinking pop songs. Yet this was way back in 1997, and one hit wasn’t enough to sustain a career. She was dropped by Colombia, and it wouldn’t be until 2004 when we heard from her again (via a new album on her own label). After that, however, she buddied up with avant-pop guru Mike Patton, and it wasn’t long until she found a new lease on life. Released on Patton’s Ipecac label, Coppola’s The Black & White Album is a jaw-dropping explosion of colors, textures, and sardonic wit. The chorus to the blazing “Dirty Pictures” is the so-ridiculous-it-works call to arms “you just made a fat girl cry!” The punk-y “Woke Up White” walks a fine line with its racial metaphors, yet somehow Coppola gets away with it (“I know black folks real well / ‘cos I watch me some Dave Chappelle” she screeches). When she flirts with rap, she does so wholeheartedly (as on “Keys 2 Your Ass”, which features a great guest spot from Rahzel). Same goes for her stabs at Paul Simon-styled acoustic tunes (“In a Room”), pitch-perfect Top 40 pop numbers (“Raindrops from the Sun”), synth-heavy homages to late-era Prince (“I Love Your Hair”) and even percussion-heavy productions that would make the Neptunes blush (“J.L.I.A.T.O.Y.O.”), replete with string arrangements, more guest rappers, and sweetly sarcastic interludes. It’s an absolutely dizzying listen, but few albums this year hit that pop-rock sweet-spot with such remarkable consistency. Here’s to hoping that we don’t have to wait another decade for her to blow us away all over again.
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