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The Unheard Mixtape 2: Language of the Unheard

by Matthew Evan Taylor

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When invited to write the liner notes for Matthew Evan Taylor’s Language of the Unheard project, I considered my hands. The way they can become fists or bowls. I considered my mouth and name. The misunderstandings promised because I look like me. I considered this flimsy flesh and the beat of this muscle beneath my chest. How am I to hold a world decaying from capitalism so close and hear it calling my name without fear. That’s the thing about fear. You either have it or you acknowledge it before grabbing its hand and jumping high. Fear’s hand becomes a limp thing as you tow it towards the light. Matthew Evan Taylor’s Language of the Unheard is the cliff. Grab my hand, let us be fearful and beloved together.
-- Mahogany L. Browne

MET: As far as clarification on my state of mind when I recorded these: George Floyd was still unknown and alive, and I hadn’t heard of the murder of Breonna Taylor. The video of Ahmaud’s slaying had just been released, and I experienced the same isolated feeling I had when Trayvon Martin was killed. That sense of being shut off was made even more acute by the quarantine and the unyielding whiteness of Vermont, a beautiful place to live inhabited by people who haven’t earned their liberal / progressive reputation. The current uprising has been invigorating for me, because I don’t feel the same loneliness I did before, because it finally feels like “we all see this shit.”

“Fear of a Gray Hoodie”
reminds me of being a black man in Miami, FL who liked long night-time walks before finding out the circumstances of Trayvon and George Zimmerman’s tragic encounter. I was never able to walk alone again, for fear of an overzealous Neighborhood Watch “officer.”

MLB: Death isn’t the only place sadness lives. The government is burning, a house of smoke-filled state-sanctioned murders. Living in a country where no one is indicted for your murder, or charged for your disappearance, is a constant state of fear. So much fear, it begins to feel like a second skin. Or a shadow. A Black person will consider the danger of their shadow before the safety of their legacy. This is a kind of dying too. Have you ever felt so brazen? To walk around a neighborhood like you belonged. To walk in a store like you are welcome? To wear your favorite sweatshirt because it made you feel safe? To listen to your music, mind your business and know you would arrive home, blood and dreams intact, after your evening walk? When I am feeling my flyest, I listen to music and move. The soundscape designed by Taylor reminds me of a kind freedom. Sometimes, I move like the sun is shining just for me. Sometimes, I reach for the sweetest fruit in the bin. I do not think of the trees or vines or orchard them come from. I do not think of the killings. I think of the great breath and the possibility of tomorrow. Then I remember their names. Instantly, the fruit becomes bitter and sour in my hands. Like my love for this country, I remember their names: Trayvon, Jordan, Tony, Aiyana, Breonna, Rekia, & Sandra. America, Black people are more than your harvest.

“Lament for Ahmaud”
is more inspired by the fact we nearly forgot him than the circumstance of his murder. I
admit feeling ambivalent about his murder because the details didn’t seem to be galvanizing support for justice, so I am mourning my loss of outrage and how jaded I had become (Breonna and George changed that for me).

MLB: There comes a day when you are filled with more darkness than light. When your cup
runneth over and your well becomes a desert of despair. There will still be videos of people that look like your brothers and your uncles and your nephews and your father; being mowed down. Hidefinition. On repeat. The day this happens, maybe you decide words are more of a consolation. Words have always soothed the writer in you. So, you find the most reputable media outlet online and read the report. It is matter of fact. Three shots. Red shorts. White shirt. It is matter of fact. Cover up. Lynching. Recuse. In February when the world loses Ahmaud’s kind contributions as a citizen, brother and song; hundreds of people march in protest. And in May, the people join each other on the street to protest the mishandling of the case. And again, in August, people return to the concrete to protest Ahmaud’s memory. To demand acknowledgement of his death. To seek justice.

In March, on what would have been Ahmaud’s 26th birthday, over 170,000 citizens jog and record via their social media networks their 2.23 miles completed. The 2.23 miles signifies the date of Ahmaud’s killing.

In May, the two men that murdered Ahmaud and the man filming the incident are all indicted. A
man in Texas still runs 2.23 miles every day. Whether the wind is blowing or still. Whether the rain pouring or sun beaming. 2.23 miles every day. And we are still waiting for justice. What is justice?

To young people I describe karma, I describe American History and I admit, I don’t know. When we are fighting the effects of mass incarceration, food deserts, police brutality and common micro aggressions, a Black person may not know what justice looks like. A Black person may not know what to ask for. But if we review the historical accounts, justice can look like reparations. Justice can look like proper policies upholding the dignity and civil rights promised to this country’s constituents. Justice requires constant work and re-framing. Justice is not a one-time act. It is a festival of efforts. It is a system that replaces itself when the wheels are damaged or the engine doesn’t turn. It is the key to empathy. Pass it on.

“Optimism in the Midst of Outrage and Despair”
the title references the undying resilience of my people, especially the black women in my life. I grew up in Tuskegee and Birmingham, AL and Jackson, MS. The stories my grandmothers would tell me about life in Jim Crow still cause the hair on the back of my neck to stand. And yet they were able to love, to laugh, and to enjoy life. I can only aspire to that kind of grounding.

The future taught me to revel with the word womb
I close my eyes to the light and look star ways
The sky, like my belly,
Big and growing every day
Womb heavy with tomorrow and guilt
After the bridges burned
& the newspapers burned
Down down down until
the scorched remains smell like ghost peppers
The aftermath smells like the end
of our humanity
Remember the Zulu proverb
The people care about each other
like they care about themselves
I move down the boulevard
Mask covering my nose and mouth
Tucked beneath my chin
The world is almost steady enough for me to forget
About the spreading of an infection
The trees the trees the treees
Are finally standing as firm as they please
No noose no noose no swing low blues
To sweet talk the roots
Rayshard Brooks
Jacob Blake
Tomorrow Kenosha will protest
Today Atlanta will protest
Our future is a picket line waiting to be crossed
I tap my stomach
I sing beneath my breath, like a swamp bubble reaching for air
Thrive thrive thrive
A baby with no name is a grace any which way
So, let’s call him Future
Let’s call her Future
Let the baby call itself whatever it wants
I pray


released October 27, 2020


all rights reserved



Matthew Evan Taylor Middlebury, Vermont

Composer Performer Improviser
hailed as “a promising new voice” (Lawrence Budmen, Miami Herald) and a “risk taker” (Neil De La Flor, Huffington Post) whose music is “insistent and defiant…envelopingly hypnotic” (Alan Young, Lucid Culture).

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