Moor Mother Credit: Bob Sweeney

The music of Philadelphia MC and sound artist Moor Mother, aka Camae Ayewa, didn’t come to life for me until I had the chance to see her perform earlier this year, and suddenly her chaotic, psychedelic layers of samples and electronic noise made sense. After more than a dozen digital-­only releases, in 2016 Ayewa dropped Fetish Bones (Don Giovanni), an Afrofuturist-tinged indictment of institutional racism, sexism, and predation presented with intensity and fury, enhanced by a withering eye for detail. On “Deadbeat Protest,” when she begins howling “Fuck, get away from me! / You can see my dead body at the protest” over a machine-gun-like spew of electronic beats, the everyday reality of the horror she describes leaps into life. At the performance I caught (at the Borealis Festival in Bergen, Norway), Ayewa seemed to want to shake the audience out of their stupor and incite them to action—she seemed genuinely angry that some listeners weren’t doing much more than nodding their heads. Her gritty voice is matched by a raw collision of industrial-­grade beats, in-the-red noise, and clashing samples—layers of a cappella African-­American spirituals, 60s soul, hard gospel, and environmental recordings, all of them scuffed up and unruly but also indebted to hip-hop aesthetics. Her latest release, a collaboration with producer Mental Jewelry called Crime Waves (also on Don Giovanni), pulls back on the noise and frenetic energy, but Ayewa’s presence remains just as harrowing.   v