“God is good,” rapper yU proclaims at the beginning of “Sacreligious” (sic), a standout from his exceptional new album with Deanwood producer SlimKat78, People Of Today. But it’s not the statement it seems to be.
The duo believes in a higher power, of course: yU (Michael Willingham, Jr.) raps occasionally about his faith and how it pushes him through. Meanwhile, SlimKat (Zachariah McGant) is finishing a gospel-themed beat tape, among other projects. But that “God is good” line is sarcastic: the lyrics on “Sacreligious” denounce a preacher who uses his influence in salacious ways. He’s a slick talker, more interested in lining his pockets and sleeping with church women than spreading the good word.
“Got a limp like a pimp, a lotta rings up on his hands,” yU rhymes over SlimKat’s organ-driven beat.
“Sacreligious” deals with corruption in a religious context, but its ideas stretch further than that. “It’s about when people abuse their power,” yU says. “They’re supposed to lead, but eventually mother nature takes over.”
People Of Today marks the long-brewing full-length debut of The 1978ers. yU (who’s also in hip-hop trio Diamond District) and SlimKat have been making music together since 2001. They recorded “Sacreligious” in 2012, and some cuts from the album are even older: centerpiece “P.O.T. Act III” wrapped in 2008. The two met in the late ’90s at a State of the Union show in Northwest D.C. At the time, yU worked with a crew called The Remainz; SlimKat was a member of Khemystery with MC/producer Blackberry Jones.
“We grew as friends and started exchanging ideas,” SlimKat says. “We always made songs. We always knew we’d collaborate on something.” yU’s previous solo albums — 2010’s Before Taxes and 2011’s the EARN — had a ’78ers stamp on them. The two often run ideas and unfinished tracks past each other before they release them into the world.
Alongside his work with The 1978ers and Diamond District, yU is finishing an instrumental album, Culture > Couture and a solo LP called In the Listener’s Stance. SlimKat is finishing another instrumental beat tape called D.R.U.M. on top of his gospel beat tape.
None of those projects have firm release dates, but there’s no rush: The 1978ers understand that good songs age well. “If you can release a song with that much time on it and it still gives you that good feeling,” yU says, “maybe it was meant to stay.”