Nnamdï Credit: Maren Celest

Our country has always privileged the powerful—a group that, historically and presently, has consisted almost exclusively of straight white men. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve only intensified their avaricious push to feed the rest of us into the grinder in order to prop up a broken, inhumane economic system. It can feel cartoonishly surreal to watch the government of the wealthiest country in the world use bullying and extortion to force schools to reopen when that’s likely to cause catastrophic spikes in COVID deaths, while hospitality workers who can’t afford to stay home risk their own health and that of everyone close to them in order to serve the affluent, say, a pastry that looks like a coronavirus particle. Chicago musical polymath Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, aka Nnamdï, couldn’t do anything about the pandemic torpedoing his plans to tour and promote April’s Brat, a tremendous experimental pop album he released through the label he co-owns, Sooper Records. But he’s used lockdown to release a flood of even newer music. In June, he dropped two singles and a righteous, rollicking postpunk EP called Black Plight, a response to the nationwide protests that erupted after a white cop killed George Floyd in May; the EP made more than $10,000 the first day Nnamdï uploaded it to Bandcamp, and he donated it to local grassroots organizations Assata’s Daughters and EAT Chicago as well as to individual Chicagoans in need. Earlier this month, Nnamdï self-released his second album of the year, the largely instrumental Krazy Karl. The title is an homage to Looney Tunes composer Carl W. Stalling, and the music’s whimsical, quasi-symphonic mishmash of math rock, postpunk, and jazz reflects the animated energy of Stalling’s anything-goes cartoon music. When you find yourself living in a society that primes people to complacently believe a New York City cop when he claims a Shake Shack employee poisoned his milkshake, sometimes the best way to cope is to embrace the absurdity—and Nnamdï does just that with the fractured, hectic melodies on “Milkshake Made My Tummy Hurt! It Must Be Poisoned!” Every time our country renews its commitment to bloodletting in the name of profit, the disjointed, uproarious chaos of Krazy Karl makes a little more sense.   v