The Secretly Canadian Newsletter

serpentwithfeet is simply letting the pendulum swing nowadays. The Baltimore, Maryland-born singer-songwriter is taking the natural steps as a versatile talent from chapter to chapter in his career. This versatility comes alive thanks to influences that include Geoffrey Holder, Toni Morrison, Brandy, and Nina Simone; and his love of literature and theater that has resulted in songwriting credits for television shows and movies in addition to musical collaborations with the likes of Daniel Caesar, Bjork, and Ty Dolla $ign. serpent’s third album GRIP is the latest presentation of his wideranging artistic skills. GRIP finds its home on the dance floor of Black gay clubs and the intimate moments that happen there and afterward, no matter the location. For serpent, Black gay nightlife spaces “raised him a second time.” These clubs provided a different sense of welcoming that nurtured him in a new way exhibited on GRIP.

GRIP and the Black gay club share an interesting juxtaposition: the club is public; the dancefloor is obviously a place where people look at and watch one another. At the same time, the Black gay club is a safe community space, it is “for us”, and in that way is very private, very intimate. Throughout the project’s ten songs, which feature Ty Dolla $ign, Yanga YaYa, Mick Jenkins, and Orion Sun, serpentwithfeet wraps himself in midnight and indigo hues. From the project’s start to its end, moments of sweat, indulgence, and tension can be felt through upbeat high-energy records as well as songs that find their home in the steamy bedroom moments. The moments will later come alive on stage as GRIP will also soundtrack of serpent’s upcoming original dance theater production, Heart Of Brick. The work will “explore the loss of queer Black nightlife spaces and the stories that surround them.”

On his third album, serpent explores the intimate forms of physical touch and how they occur. Whether it be a grip around the waist or the face, serpentwithfeet managed to explore all angles thanks to the second lens he looked through:

“Going out while working on the album and seeing how people stood at the bar when ordering a drink, Are they on their phone trying to disappear from the scene? Are they flirting with the bartender? Are they writhing slowly to the music? What does it look like when a guy runs into his ex and that ex is with someone new? I’m curious about all of this.”

It’s for this reason that it’s extra fitting that GRIP begins with the lively dance record “Damn Gloves” with Ty Dolla $ign. The record kicks off the album for an unusual jarring yet exciting start to the project, one that goes against his track record of gentle and smooth album intros. It sets the scene for the many scenarios, large and minuscule, direct and indirect, that serpentwithfeet looked to explore with this album, “I wanted to do something completely different than what I’ve done previously,” he cites as his reason for such an effervescent beginning.

From start to finish, GRIP sonically lives the highs and lows of not only a night out at the club but of romance as well. “Damn Gloves” captures the adrenaline rush of a night’s peak with a thumping bass entwined in dance production that mimics the heartbeat’s speed as intimacy runs high between two lovers. “Spades” employs a sweet guitar-driven melody to create a tender moment as a slow-dance would. “Hummin’” is carried by an ear-pleasing chant and a marching drum pattern that works toward a climax of intimacy as bodies are drawn on each other on the dance floor. “Lucky Me” is sweet and honest, void of anything that distracts from the moment at hand as serpent’s voice, a twinkling guitar melody, and enchanting synths serve as the driving force to champion a new romance.

If it’s not ensnared by the rhythm from the club speakers, serpentwithfeet uses GRIP to explore the areas of love that only the hands can as the project continues. “Safe Word” squeezes itself into the tightly interlocked relationship of partners who know each other very well. A self-defined “romantic,” serpentwithfeet looks to discover the “soft moments” that go on to exist when they’re not supposed to, i.e. with the one-night stand you met at the club as discussed on “Deep End.” There, the question “What about when you both really enjoy the moment and don’t want it to end?” is posed. Then there’s “Spades” which places monumental value on a loved one’s desire and patience to teach them how to play the card game that is so tethered to the Black community.

This is a moment of growth for serpentwithfeet, and it’s one that’s not surprising for someone seven years into their career, but it’s even noticeable through his last two projects. DEACON is a study of self and a look inward, and following that exploration, serpentwithfeet switched his focus to the world that lay in front of his eyes. Specifically, he set his attention on the world that he called home in the important adolescent and adult years of his life, and with this, we see a study of community on GRIP. This community had a huge impact on the LA-based singer, and through ten songs, he gives it its flowers with a body of work that highlights the moments that are most close to the heart.


Damn Gloves (ft. Ty Dolla $ign and Yanga Yaya)

Safe Word


Deep End

Rum / Throwback

Black Air Force (ft. Mick Jenkins)


Ellipsis (ft. Orion Sun)

Lucky Me

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