24-Carat Black was a soul and funk band from Cincinnati who recorded in the early 1970s, most known for their daring, ambitious 1973 album Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth.
Composed, arranged, and produced almost entirely by longtime Motown arranger and Isaac Hayes collaborator Dale Warren, the urban funk classic Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth is often cited as one of the first concept albums in the soul, funk and R&B genres at a time when such boldly artistic statements were reserved for progressive rock bands. Envisioned as a “soul opera” featuring just eight tracks, the album is an entrancing mixture of lush, orchestral soul ballads and Blaxploitation-era funk grooves, split into vignettes dealing with aspects of everyday life in some of America’s poorest areas.
Despite the fact that it bore the imprint of the legendary Stax label, the album was almost immediately resigned to the dustbin of history. In recent years, it has re-emerged as a shared secret amongst crate-diggers and samplers alike. Its unique blend of immaculately arranged grooves and socially conscious narrative launched the album into cult-classic status among DJs and producers who have sampled it for tracks, most recently by Kendrick Lamar, Jay Z, Digable Planets, Dr. Dre, and many others.
For this episode, I am joined by the band’s saxophonist, Jerome Derrickson. Special thanks to Zach Schonfeld, whose book on this incredible album for the 33 1/3 book series provided invaluable insights and research. I highly recommend it, and you can order it here.