Serpentwithfeet—aka Josiah Wise—may have recorded his triumphant, gospel-inspired debut album, soil, in New York City and London, but it was a trip back home to Baltimore that led the avant-garde musician to the story he had been searching for and desperately needed to tell.
“I was saying to myself repeatedly that my roots were catching up to me,” Wise explains. “I was talking to my mom in a much more intentional way within the past two years. I’ll be 30 this year and I realized I was trying to understand myself more, and I knew I would not be able to understand myself unless I understood my mother.”
The result of these precious conversations was a series of songs equally devotional, joyful, lustful, operatic, and intimate; elevated by Wise’s elastic, urgent vocals—a celestial instrument honed during his years as a choir boy at church. But soil is more than just a rumination on his roots: It’s an important celebration of his blackness and his queerness.
“When you talk about gay rights, it’s so often referring to white gay rights. It’s really important for me to make a space for black queer people.”