Legendary singers, Kool & The Gang, are plotting a return with their first new studio release in more than 10 years, aptly titled Still Kool.
The new album, which follows up 1996’s State of Affairs, finds the R&B vets joining forces with fiery 23-year-old vocalist Jirmad Gordon, who found the talented youngster when they head his work bassist and co-founder Robert “Kool” Bell’s son, Hakim Bell (who contributed to Still Kool as co-writer, co-producer and rapper).
“We knew Jirmad was a dynamite singer, but we thought at first he might be a little too young to sing for the band,” Kool recalls. “But when he came into the studio with us, he really rose to the challenge.”
“Jirmad is a rising star,” adds sax player/keyboardist Khalis Bayyan, who produced and wrote numerous tracks on the new album. “He’s got the chops and the passion. It turned out to be a perfect fit — after all, we were even younger than he is when we started.”
In addition to contributing vocals, Gordon also contributed lyrics to one song on the disc, the club single “Give It Up,” which he co-wrote with longtime Kool & The Gang keyboardist Curtis F. Williams.
The tumultuous state of the world is a frequent focus of the group’s new material. “Miracles” was initially written after Bayyan narrowly survived a terrifying car crash, but took on new depth when it embraced the story of the “lost boys” of Sudan. “Livin’ In The 21” argues for “a little faith” amid the new century’s turmoil. “Dave,” inspired by the classic sci-fi film “2001: A Space Odyssey,” turns that movie’s computer-and-astronaut dialogue into a plea for a better future. Opener “America,” meanwhile, explores immigration and the various borders that divide us. But these more sober questions are balanced by plenty of party grooves and romantic interludes — and the result is quintessentially Kool.
Kool & The Gang have been around since the late 60s and have enjoyed mainstream success with singles such as “Ladies Night,” “Joanna,” and their only no. 1 hit, “Celebration.”
Their music have been sampled by numerous hip-hop artists including DJ Kool, who sampled their single “Hollywood Swinging” for his single, “Let Me Clear My Throat.” “Summer Madness” off their 1974 album, Light of Worlds has been sampled several times; most notably by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince for their version of “Summertime,” as well as being featured in the 1976 smash hit “Rocky.”
Their forthcoming album, Still Kool, was produced by Khalis Bayyan, George Brown and Curtis F. Williams. It is slated to drop on July 10.