MAGNET’s #16 Album Of 2017: Hurray For The Riff Raff’s “The Navigator”

In a country with a short, shameful history and an even shorter memory, you can live in a place for years but never really understand where you are, let alone where you come from or where you’re going. On The Navigator, Alynda Segarra, the sole permanent member of Hurray For The Riff Raff, fights the tendency to erase and assimilate, instead celebrating the lives of the displaced and dispossessed through snatches of gospel and bomba, doo wop and Dylan. In the guise of Navita Milagros Negrón—part Boricua street kid, part Ziggy Stardust, part Segarra herself—the Bronx-born multi-instrumentalist leads listeners on a journey through the projects, the subways, the clubs and the luxury condos of The City. From “Hungry Ghost,” which inhabits the same sonic space as Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark,” to “Rican Beach,” a slow-grooving anthem of resistance against gentrification, to the proud “Pa’lante,” Hurray For The Riff Raff draws a solid line from striving ancestors to all still dealing with the fallout of colonization. In the process, Segarra wrests Americana from those who would reduce it to banjos and beards, planting her flag decisively in the place—geographically and culturally—where she and her people, as much as anyone, truly belong. —M.J. Fine