SON LITTLE: Cross My Heart

“Cross My Heart,” the debut track from new ANTI- signing Son Little — the voice of RJD2‘s Icebird project, the voice of “Sleep” on The Roots‘ undun — is a box of bonbons filled with barbed wire. Over a deceptively slinky groove — shades of 70’s Marvin Gaye, Leon Ware — the singer croons, phrases emerging from the swelter, “sex and candy,” “gonna get me some:” a lover’s plea. But the angular blues guitar lick over the top of the track is clue to a deeper, older invocation, as Son Little’s lyrics bear witness to two departed friends, and, inspired by Trayvon Martin, offer a meditation on the ease with which black lives are erased — even now, decades beyond the years when that smoky guitar line was invented. Son Little’s voice soars like a young Stevie Wonder’s as he testifies to his loss, and the “cross my heart” tag line reveals itself not as a lover’s plea, but a defiant prayer to remember the lost. The track is accompanied by an atmospheric black-and-white video that evokes the smoky milieus of Lester Young and Billie Holiday, reinforcing the themes of the song in its references to lost greats. Look for more to come from Son Little in 2014.