Righteous Movement’s new album will be good. And late.

It’s Colored People Time. Almost.

Photos by Andri Tambunan

No seriously, what time is it? Damn, this story is late. No, I mean, it’s really, really late. The interview with Righteous Movement took place months ago—in the winter. And here it is, just in time for summer. Sorry.

But hopefully, though, if anyone understands the predicament, it’s the guys from Righteous Movement, who are set to release their new album Colored People Time, if not soon, then pretty soon. CP Time, they say, addresses lateness and all the other aspects of time: history, the present, the future and pretty much everything in between.

Sitting with Tais in his Midtown apartment, along with DJ Tofu de La Moore and fellow emcee Skurge, it’s hard not to notice a void. The group’s two other emcees, S.O.L. and Theek, are missing. Well, not missing, but they’re, uh, late.

Skurge is mellow, especially when compared to his dynamic stage persona. Tofu and Tais, on the other hand, are amped up and ready to talk. Tais is thoughtful, careful as he explains the reasoning behind their controversial album title.

“We were supposed to come out with this album a year ago—but we didn’t want to rush it, so we kept pushing it back,” he says. Righteous Movement fans have been waiting for a full-length album since last year’s jaw-dropping teaser LP While You Wait, a stunning set of songs that recalls the frenetic energy of Organized Konfusion and street knowledge of KRS-One. “Our goal is good music, and when you have five cats trying to agree on good music, it takes longer.”

You see, people, quality takes time.

But Colored People Time, no matter how it might sound, isn’t just about the literal stereotype of colored folks always being late.

Skurge—who, by the way, could easily double as The Cosby Show’s Theo Huxtable in his post-“jammin’ on the one” days—seems to loosen up as the interview progresses. And he’s glad to expand on the real concept behind the new album.

“It’s a two-sided coin … and I wanted to flip it; we feel like it’s time for our people to raise ourselves up,” he says. “It’s our time to start moving toward a better life. A lot of the stuff you can never forget, but at the same time, you have to move forward—”

He’s interrupted by DJ Tofu.

“We should call our record label Reparations,” he says, laughing, then continuing in his best female secretary voice: “Reparations Records, how can I help you?”

S.O.L. and Theek wander in about 45 minutes late. Theek—self-described as “Bill Cosby and a little bit Sidney Portier”—wears a black rag around his neck, an ironed T-shirt and a clean pair of black-and-white Vans. S.O.L., as usual, has on a pair of Timberlands. Not that shoes have anything to do with music, but there’s an undeniable vibe, style and individuality to each member that sets Righteous Movement apart from other hip-hop groups. They’re guys you’d want to hang around with after the show.

Despite his tardiness, Theek jumps right into the conversation, talking about last year’s Vans Warped Tour where Righteous Movement was invited to perform on one of the stages. He said as they walked through the parking lot full of different kinds of music fans, he remembers one kid in particular who stopped to talk. “I hate rap,” he said, “but you guys were great.”

Theek added: “You have to take pride in that.”

When they’re all sitting around a table, you realize that these days, it’s hard to find a hip-hop group with all black members. The days of the Fat Boys and Run-D.M.C. are gone. The rap demographic has changed, and Eminem is listed as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, emcee of all time. Like rock ’n’ roll before it, traditionally, black hip-hop has taken over white suburbia, and in turn, white suburbia has taken over hip-hop. To see an all-black group that attracts a broad fan base is, well, comforting.

“It’s a plus,” says Tais. “I think that people get the perception that all black people are the same, but [with Righteous Movement], you see there’s diversity inside our group.”

It certainly is a good time for hip-hop.

But on the flip side, time hasn’t always been on hip-hop’s good side. That is, it’s hard to stay relevant in such a young man’s game—it’s a brutal truth, and something the members of Righteous Movement have thought long and hard about. After all, they’re not in their teens anymore.

“As much as you’d like to, you’ll never get another Illmatic out of Nas,” says S.O.L., whose own rhyme style is varied and interesting, and at times can be oddly reminiscent of the Queensbridge, N.Y. emcee. “People grow and experience—and not always how you want. I can never see De La Soul falling off. Or I can never see Common falling off … or especially that nigga Black Thought falling off. But some artists change and grow.”

For such a self-aware, thoughtful and calculating group of artists who study hip-hop like it’s an ancient text (sometimes even to a point of tedium), it’s hard to imagine that Righteous Movement will fall into the ugly mouth of time and be swallowed whole like some of their less savvy predecessors (Onyx? Da Bush Babees?).

“We are changing the studio that we are recording out of. We noticed a difference between our old material—the richness and the quality of it; the new recording studio didn’t have the same fullness. We don’t know whether it’s a technological thing or whether it’s just plain old soul and spirit, but we’ve been trying to lay some stuff down at the new spot and it just don’t—”

Skurge pauses, trying to find the proper words to complete his thought. “It’s like a Jheri curl that don’t quite work.”

Ah yes, the Jheri curl metaphor. Perfect.

Their meticulousness carries over into the studio, of course, and from the looks of it, Colored People Time is going to be nothing less than a masterpiece.

“We put a lot of thought into our hooks … because we got a lot of flak when we told people what the album title was going to be. They were like, ‘You’re setting black people back 100 years!’” says Skurge.

Theek adds, “When you’re four black emcees and you name your album Colored People Time, you really have no room for error. We’ll be held accountable.”

People need to loosen up a little. Judging from the early signs, Colored People Time will be intelligently done; it’ll address issues, be politically relevant, musically profound, lively, party-rocking and maybe even, you know, a little late.