Tank and the Bangas won the ’17 NPR Tiny Desk Contest because their live performances are insane. This funk/soul/hiphop/jazz band never seems to perform the same way twice. Their attitude feels like, “Why would we do something like that? Sounds boring.” And with such idiosyncratic oddities pumping out of the irritatingly talented Tarriona “Tank” Ball, if they could, it would be insanely impressive. Seriously, it’s kinda fucking annoying how crazy talented Tank is. I’m almost green with envy. The band backing her is so warm and tight you assume they spend each holiday together and wear matching onesies in their collective bed. But even if you could peel Tank away from her Bangas, her vocal talents and personality alone would make this album worth listening to. She’s bigger than life, soulful, outrageous, real, hilarious, and, hot thick luscious sweet damned gravy on a freshly buttered biscuit, the only thing she’s got more of than the boisterous flair of a mating peacock speed-vogueing through a rap video is buckets of capability. She spits like Minaj, has the vocal depth of a seasoned jazz singer, the cumulative voices of an entire cartoon series, and the honesty of a poet. Tank is the real fucking deal.
Although the style of this album is difficult to pin down, the message of the motherfucker comes off easy. It has depth for years but with the lightness of … well, a fucking balloon. It doesn’t mean this shit is empty. Hells to the fuck no. The production on something like this takes fucktons of work and months of sleepless nights. These 75 minutes, in 17 songs, took thirty staff members across ten studios to finish. Don’t confuse fun with easy. Shit’s not the same thing. Just because something’s smiling doesn’t mean it doesn’t have deep thoughts and a beating heart at its centre. As I listen to this, I’m fully chillaxed and smiling like a cat with a stomach full of ganja cream. This album is more about enjoying the ride than deconstructing each fucking moment.
If you’ve got a keener ear, you’ll hear that this instrumentation is beyond good. These are some top class musicians playing on this motherfucker. If any of them weren’t part of this nose bleed echelon of expertise, they’d stand out like the only fully dressed dude in an orgy. Instead, all eyes stay on Tank. It’s immaculately planned and played. It’s a well-oiled machine working at light speeds to spread the message of being human. In the style of the famous Soulquarians (Erykah Badu, Common, D’Angelo, Mos Def, Q-Tip, Questlove, J Dilla) this technically precise music all about chilling out, watching Netflix, laughing with friends, and not feeling like a total dick for enjoying life. It’s an album where you drink too much, eat too much, undo the top button of your pants, and right before you fall asleep on the couch, you let out a quick, “oh, fuck ya” with an extended stretch. It’s truly fucking beautiful.