The spoken word multi-verse.
Aint About Me is the project of producer Jan Wagner and Lukasz Polowczyk, a sound artist, poet, and educator based in Berlin, Germany. Its origins date back to 2020, when the pair put out a self-titled debut album in celebration of spoken word, whereby lyrics, poetry, or stories are spoken instead of sung—which is the focal point of Polowczyk’s artistic practice. In his world, a poem can be expressed not only as a poem but also as a sound-art piece, a spoken word composition backed by an experimental jazz ensemble, a site-specific audio-visual installation, a book, a series of grainy, abstract photos, or even a piece of music. In May, the pair put out indigo sine wave, their latest album, and to celebrate it Polowczyk has compiled a mix through his favorite spoken word styles past and present. A head nod to artists who are pushing the idiom forward, whose work resonates with him. “It’s a personal connect the dots, so by no means does it exhaust what’s out there,” Polowczyk says.
01. What have you been up to recently?
Indigo Sine Wave, our second full length, just dropped, so I’ve been lost in label work, but also processing this transmission, if you may. This is the first time I dug this deep with my writing, and as easy as it was on exhalation, dealing with the emotions and the perspectives that it unearthed was, and is, a lot for me to digest.
02. What have you been listening to?
I listen to a lot of old school soul and ’80s electro, funk and boogie, but from more current releases I’ve been rinsing Killer Mike’s Michael, his latest. I love how close to the bone it hits, musically and lyrically. It’s a record where he’s telling his story unfiltered, and he goes into some pretty vulnerable and dark spaces. The spectrum of emotion and how raw it is at times is just crushing. I also have Jay Z’s Reasonable Doubt on repeat, which is still my favorite.
03. Where and when did you record this mix?
I live in Berlin, and I cut this one at home. I’ve been collecting songs for it for the last three years or so, and I tried a few different versions last year, but I didn’t really feel any of them. This one came to me in one go, no second guessing, and the tracks just fell into place instinctively. And the crazy thing is that when I listen back to it now, there is this whole meta-narrative going on; it’s pretty intense.
04. What setup did you use?
I use Ableton for just about everything. I’ve been using it for years. I’ve been offered other tools along the way, but this software does what I need it to do, so I’m sticking with it. I don’t have the time to break my workflow to get to that next level fluency with some other tool.
05. How did you choose the tracks you’ve included?
Well, the idea for the mixtape was to showcase the variety of the spoken word genre and to pay tribute to artists whom I respect, past and present. As far as why I chose these songs, specifically: well, I just went with what felt good in my bones. I suppose that that’s the baseline for me: I’m after that soul! It’s so easy to produce shiny things right now, but what I’m after is someone’s unique take on the world. Every song on here leaves a dent in my chest, that is if I’m present enough to really absorb it. The thing about spoken word is that it requires your undivided attention because somebody is literally speaking to you like all the time!
06. What can the listener expect?
If somebody’s new to spoken word, this mix will be a nice introduction to the genre, a portal into it with multiple hyperlinks leading into very distinct worlds. But, other than that, I see this as like an audio book or a movie. You know how a lot of Kendrick Lamar records are structured like non-linear novels? This mix functions that way as well. There are topics on here that refract through the different songs: it’s a hall of mirrors, really. The topics it covers are: wrestling with mortality, the minefields of identity, toxic masculinity, dealing with Source, etc.
07. What’s next on your horizon?
Well, in a couple of weeks, I will be flying to Brussels to finish an EP with my brother. I’m also already collecting material for the next Aint About Me, just sketching stuff out. Who knows how long this one will take? And I’m also waiting for the kind folks from the OBEY gallery here in Berlin to green light the production of an installation they wanted me to showcase at their space and in Amsterdam, tentatively scheduled for the end of August. Let’s see if this really happens because if it does, I will have to go into that hyper-speed mode to meet the deadline!
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01. Aint About Me “Watching Kali Sashay with My Arm in Her Jaw Locked” (Self-Released)
02. Gil Scott Heron “Me and the Devil” (XL Records)
03. Christion Scott aTunde Adjuah “Ancestral Recall” feat. Saul Williams (Ropeadope Records)
04. DJ Krust “Coded Language” feat. Saul Williams (Talking’ Loud)
05. Moor Mother “Blame” feat. JustMadNice (Anti)
06. Algiers “Can the Sub Bass Speak” (Matador)
07. Ryuichi Sakamoto “Fullmoon” (Milan)
08. Roger Robinson “Nightshift” (Jahtari)
09. Bilal “Day 3 / Voyage to a New World” feat. Erykah Badu (Highbreed Music)
10. Shabazz Palaces “Bad Bitch Walking” feat Stas Thee Boss (Sub-Pop)
11. Samora Pinderghues “Masculinity” feat. Immanuel Wilkins (Stretch Music)
12. Rosa Anschütz “Methane” (Quiet Love Records)
13. Aint About Me “The Sister Friend of a Black Hole” (Self-Released)