Lenny Kravitz's forthcoming "Black and White America" actually started life as another project altogether, one he describes as "a very funky album, really interesting and something that I am still going to put out." But "Black and White America" was an unexpected wild card he just could not ignore.
"As I was finishing that other (album), I started writing these other songs," Kravitz tells Billboard.com. "They were coming out of the blue, and they had nothing to do with what I was doing. At first I figured, 'Well, I'll put these aside for now and deal with these later,' and they kept coming -- one, two, three, four of them. And I was dreaming a lot of the music. It was just coming to me and it was really fluid, so at that point I had to say, 'Well, OK, I guess this is where I'm going,' and I went on to make 'Black and White America.' "
The self-produced 16-song set -- due out Aug. 30 and his first since "It's Time For a Love Revolution," as well as his debut for Roadrunner/Atlantic -- is one of the typically diverse Kravitz's broadest-reaching yet. There's plenty of hard riffing in tracks like the first single, "Stand," "Rock Star City Life" and "Come and Get It," which the NBA used for promotional TV pieces earlier this year, but the set also delves into old school R&B on the title track and "Super Love," reggae on "Boongie Drop" and the airy ambience of "I Can't Be Without You."
"As a person I am all over the place. I'm completely schizophrenic," Kravitz explains. "I've tried to make a record that sort of has one sound throughout, and I just can't do it. When I go left, I want to go right; When I go up, I want to go down. I have so many musical styles inside of me. Growing up, I listened to every kind of music and it's in me and it's just the way I am, so the albums always come out like that, all over the place."
Recorded mostly by Kravitz and guitarist Craig Ross, "Black and White America" features New Orleans' Trombone Shorty on several tracks, as well as Jay-Z and DJ Military on "Boongie Drop" and Drake on "Sunflower," which Kravitz co-wrote with Swizz Beatz. It's more rap than he's usually included on his albums, but Kravitz says that also wasn't pre-conceived.
"It's all music, you know?" he says. "I only go where the music takes me, so if I hear it in the track, I'll do it. I won't do something for the sake of, 'Well, this is hip now.' When I wrote 'Boongie Drop' I heard a rap in the middle, and I immediately heard Jay's voice and we had collaborated twice before, so I called him and when I went to New York I put him on the track. And then I got on the phone with Drake for ('Sunflower') before he had even heard the track and he said, 'Yeah, I'll do it. I'm a fan and I love your work and I would love to be on it.' So that was cool."
Kravitz, who recently opened four shows for U2, will be touring Europe starting in mid-October, then returning to North America for shows in November and December. And he promises the "Black and White America" material will work well on stage. "I'm looking forward to playing a lot of new material -- really looking forward to that," he notes. "that's what makes this thing really fresh as well is that I have all of this new material to play. I can't wait."
The complete "Black and White America" track list includes:
Black and White America
Come and Get It
Into the Black
Rock Star City Life
Boongie Drop (featuring Jay-Z and DJ Military)
I Can't Be Without You
Looking Back On Love
Life Ain't Ever Been Better Than It Is Now
The Faith of a Child
Sunflower (featuring Drake)