Collected Essays was the first EP from Aela Hopeful Monster and Canadian producer Nicholas Craven. Five tracks of narrative lyricism: reflective writing paired with soulful Sunday morning vibes. For the cover, Aela Hopeful Monster and visual artist Alvin Epps chose to recreate one of Hopeful Monster’s favorite paintings, William Waterhouse’s Boreas (named after the North wind, which features prominently throughout Hopeful Monster’s writing). The EP is named after James Baldwin’s Collected Essays, a quote from which closes the album. The opening track is named after Hopeful Monster’s paternal grandmother, Vira, whom she never had the opportunity to meet, but whose story she tells. Vira lyrics featured below.
Vira (lyrics by Aela Hopeful Monster)
I hear Mahalia sing that tune
I let my heart tether to the moon
light blink of my eye
a flash in my sight
My mother with swaying hips and a sparkling eye
That’s what I call a sweet summer night
when a voice rings with warmth of humid light
and a child feels what it’s like to have a soulful vibe
You don’t know what it is when you’re a tyke
you just know its fire – water in your hand
you can’t grab it, but it’s filling in
filling up, like the preacher filling wine he calls blood
We sat on the porch stacking quarters up
never more than three
that’s three days of lunch money
I still love the clink of that change in my hand,
so much has changed since the days of powdered milk and empty hands
So we shoot some texts about being kids – how our mothers gave more than they ever had to give
Now that’s some shit so real that they lived; how’d our mothers get throttled so hard, yet here we live
come up untouched – unbruised from brittle roses, they blossomed us up
Let me find my niche as a badass bitch
cuz my mother fought hard for me as a kid
Now that right there is the story of me, but ya see, I know my roots, they run real deep.
My grandmother whose name I keep, sat on a train in south Philly.
This was the 70s
She had her son by her side, he couldn’t have been more than nine
Tears started welling in his eyes
She looked at him and said mijo why are you crying?
He said he was scared of this foreign place
They sat on this train so far away from their home in L.A.
She said please don’t you cry
I’m also scared
and gripped him tight
Now that right there is exactly why he gripped that memory keep from dying when she had to say goodbye, cuz she took that train up to the sky.