Hear an exclusive track from the Brooklyn songwriter’s new album Black Terry Cat, inspired in part by the death of police brutality victim Michael Brown.
When David Bowie released his final album in January, two days before his death, we didn’t know what its title meant. The name Blackstar, it transpired, was one last laugh in the face of fate from the iconic songwriter: a nod to the medical name of a cancer lesion, as that illness ate at him from the inside. Brooklyn-based songwriter Xenia Rubinos‘ new single, ‘Black Stars’, was written years ago, but coincidentally also stares down mortality, gazing into its abyss with intensity.
“I had been visiting my father in Florida. He was elderly and with his health failing, I became his guardian and caregiver,” the cult songwriter tells FACT. “I’d go there every month to spend time with him, do groceries, coordinate the home aids, take him to appointments and just try to lift his spirits.” When she got home to New York, “this piano part and vocal melody just flooded out of me. It was really strong and kind of unruly – it felt very physical, spilling from my insides like I was turning inside out.”
Rubinos explains that “when you look up at the night’s sky it’s possible that some of the stars you see shining have already died. We just see them as they were in the past. I imagined this true sky shining full of black stars.”
The track, which packs an Erykah Badu inventiveness that’s impossible to pin down, colliding piano with deep-grinding bass, was written against a news backdrop of police brutality. “Around that time I, along with many other Americans, was an angry and confused spectator of the Michael Brown case, which felt like a giant tear in some very real wounds in our country.”
The result is a track that elevates the mix of jazz, hip-hop and R&B on her ace 2012 debut Magic Trix to all new funk-leaning highs. It’s “raw and emotional,” she says. “I tried to create space inside it so people can just come in and find their own meanings – or just be.”
Check out the track above, and pick up Black Terry Cat via Anti- on June 3.