*Leading up to the release of an album, most artists are in full-promo mode; they’re logging frequent flier miles going from city-to-city, hitting every radio station within range and flooding your timeline with the reminder to hit the iTunes store at 12:02 a.m. But, two days before the release of their fifth studio album, Aja and Fatin Dantzler were in a West Philadelphia park engaged in battle against nearly a dozen other families in fun-filled day of games and activities developed with the concept of love and family at their core. The first annual Kindred the Family Games were an extension of the Dantzler’s; family, love, fun, education and community.
It’s that same sense of community that’s fueled the first single from A Couple Friends, “Everybody’s Hustling”, a song that focuses on the struggles most Americans are living in the face of expanding materialism from the media. It should come as no surprise to find the couple behind events such as “The Games” or their choice for the first single, it’s part of who they are, outside of the studio. The rest of their DNA is encoded throughout the CD: lovers, parents, partners and friends. It’s that last trait that’s central to the theme of the album; this album is steeped in the relationship the two share beyond their vows, which informs the success of all aspects of their relationship.
The musical translations of their relationship have resulted in four critically-acclaimed albums, with timeless music, but A Couple Friends showcases their growth as songwriters, a duo and husband and wife. Songs like “Call Me Crazy”, “Look at What We Made” and “What I’ve Learned” find the duo sharing some of the lessons they’ve learned through their fifteen-plus years together, while reflecting on the struggles faces throughout their journey to this point. They paint an accurate picture of marriage, a marriage spent in a business that pulls you in directions the body isn’t meant to move. However, it’s their self-awareness and faith that keeps them grounded and focused on the larger task at hand, raising their six children towards adulthood. In the ultimate moment of life informing art, Aja caught her eldest children in a chorus during chores and the song made the album, with the kids chanting, “The laundry, the dishes, the rooms and the kitchen”, over a sick beat crafted by longtime collaborator’s Vidal Harris 15-year-old son Lil’ V.
This album is truly a family affair; the core group of producers has been working with the first family of Soul since their 2003 debut, giving more credence to the friendship theme. Having people who know you and can accurately translate your ideas musically makes for a soundtrack that matches the songwriting ideally. Vidal Harris captures the fun-loving spirit of the two on “Loving the Night” and “Never Loved You More”, which gives the visual of a night on the town, dancing and laughing, something you can catch Aja and Fatin doing every once in a while.
The beauty in writing about love, as Kindred the Family Soul does with ease, is sharing what it’s like when the two of you aren’t in sync and how your idiosyncrasies sort of realign you. Fatin begins “Not Complaining” by singing, “Last night we tore it up/We fought then we made love/This morning when we woke up/We just smiled and then we both hugged”, yes Fatin, that’s the type of s#!% most of us go through. However, it’s the trust and love we’ve built through the years that allow us to laugh at silly disagreements and petty arguments.
The albums crown jewel is its title track. The completely stripped down track allows our narrators to be completely vulnerable, unpacking the beauty of the friendship that has fueled their union. For these few moments, it’s about Aja and Fatin, pouring their souls out to one another in a way that you can hear “thank you” behind his lyric. The song is topped off by a guest piano spot from Valerie Simpson and instantly the intimate connection is drawn, because your mind goes to the relationship she lived and wrote about for so many years with the late Nick Ashford.
Aja and Fatin are a couple friends. Seriously. They’re friends with one another, my wife and I, and thousands of others who’ve gone “Far Away” with them and realized that “One Day Soon” our dreams of love and happiness will come true. They write life. And love. They love and live and encourage everyone to do the same. A Couple Friends is the current milestone in their journey, but prepare for a short film based around songs from the album and further extensions of their brand that will not be limited to music, but based in whatever love touches.
A Couple Friends is now available via Shanachie Entertainment wherever good music sold, like iTunes, Walmart and select record stores around the country. Stay current with Kindred the Family Soul via their social media links (Twitter and Instagram: @Kindredthefam and @Kindredthewife) and on Facebook.