Stew & the Negro Problem : Making It

In today’s politically correct world, a name like Stew & the Negro Problem is sure to raise some eyebrows. But rest easy; Stew knows exactly what he is doing, and he is doing a damn fine job.

Making It is the first release for Stew and cohort Heidi Rodewald since their Tony Award winning play Passing Strange, which was turned into a Spike Lee Joint. The duo has crafted a soulful, eccentric collection that has all of the polish of a Broadway musical, with the twists and turns of an intriguing plot, to boot. Opening with the title track rave-up, the celebratory vibe dissipates slightly and a serious tone emerges in the theme of a dissolving relationship delivered from the perspectives of the two participants. “Curse” sums it up perfectly: “It’s a love and pain thing, a no one can explain thing, it’s simply complicated folks.”

Over the course of the album’s varied tracks, Stew and Rodewald pass the aching heart back and forth. They bask in the honest pain of the break-up like old pros; they are, and their intimacy with relationships is informed by the break-up of their own. The beautiful “Love is a Curse” shines with Rodewald’s confident vocals, and the album wraps up a bundle of emotion in “Treat Right,” the closer that offers a promising resolution. But Making It isn’t all about the emotional back and forth of broken relationships. “Black Men Ski” offers humorous wordplay, and “Speed” mines frenetic punk influences to bring to life an artist’s relationship with methamphetamine.

Stew & the Negro Problem are more than just an irreverent name. They are a whirlwind of melody and experience, staking claim to styles from across the musical map. With Making It, they have created an album worthy of greatness; one that should expand the recognition for Stew & the Negro Problem from theater circles to the broader musical mainstream.

Making It is out now on Tight Natural Productions.