The Cornel West Theory, black cat
THE CORNEL WEST Theory isn’t just a hip-hop band, says Yvonne Gilmore, one of the D.C.-based group’s members. As a poet, ordained minister and spiritual base for the band, Gilmore says the group is really more of “the anti-brand.”

“We’re really trying to honor the fullness of the different things that we bring to the table,” she said. “And we create a sound that is just complex — and yet it works.”

Since 2004, the six-person band named after Princeton professor Dr. Cornel West has created multi-layered music that draws from West’s musings and incorporates rapping, spoken-word and storytelling elements. And with a show at the Black Cat Friday night, a mix tape coming out in February and a tour of the East Coast, the Cornel West Theory is ready to bring its sound to a larger stage.

“Nobody else is making seven-minute songs, and it’s like, ‘Are people going to feel this?'” Gilmore says. “And in the end, we’re just pretty content with being like, ‘Well, we’ll see.'”

Their association with West doesn’t hurt — he was at Theory’s album release party in D.C. last fall, and the band supported him at an event at Busboys and Poets. The group is trying to organize a tour that aligns with his “profoundly busy” schedule, Gilmore says.

“We try to give space for people to retain and pick up and enjoy what’s going on. You’ll leave with not just sounds to rock with, but also with ideas and images.”

» Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW; with Hume, Imperial China, Buildings, Big Gold Belt; Fri., Jan. 22, 9 p.m., $12; 202-667-4490. (U St.-Cardozo)

Written by Express contributor Roxana Hadadi
Photo courtesy The Cornel West Theory