At the beginning of All About Love, bell hooks quotes a passage from the gospel’s Song of Solomon: “I found him whom my soul loves. I held him and would not let him go.” From these two powerful lines she writes an ode to knowing when “we can face one another as we really are, stripped of artifice and pretence, naked and not ashamed.”

Formerly known as Josiah Wise, 29-year-old Serpent, who records under the name Serpentwithfeet, joined his family church’s choir in Baltimore at the age of six. “The biggest thank you that I can give to gospel music, even though I’m not a Christian, is by responding to those heavily devotional lyrics that I grew up on – on top on the fact that music was always big and tempestuous,” he explains.

Watch the video for the Serpentwithfeet song ‘cherubim’ here:

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On the Biblical poetry of Song of Solomon, professor of Hebrew literature Robert Alter wrote these were “the voices of two lovers, praising each other, yearning for each other, proffering invitations to enjoy.” These notions of open sexuality, devotion, authenticity, and knowing when the love is right are integral to Serpent’s work.

Asked if his approach to romantic love has changed over the years, he says, “Oh yeah, everyday really. Because I want to become less of a terrible person.” He laughs. Serpent’s voice has a kindness to it – he’s softly spoken, but speaks freely and with confidence, his tones marked by an empathic intelligence. He wants to be more trusting and less worrisome, “and that requires personal work,” he explains.