Bronx MC Kemba’s transition from YC the Cynic has been one of the most intriguing stories of 2016. In April, Kemba noted that his name change “will allow me to be the artist I’m becoming, unapologetically. I’ve learned a lot about the industry since the release of my last album.”
Seemingly a lot about the issues plaguing the Black community, as well. The crowning achievement of Kemba’s artistic evolution is Negus, a concerned, unabashedly Pro-Black work which tackles America’s plight from his exceptionally learned perspective.
Atop a densely layered, resonant soundscape where warbling harmonies, movie clips and guitar solos lurk at every turn, Kemba tackles sensitive issues on every track. If his recent “New Black Theory” video didn’t explain the issue clearly enough, his pointed analysis throughout Negus should. Kemba has a tremendous reputation as a lyricist, but never before has his message been so potent.
On tracks like “Psyrens” and “Caesar’s Rise” particularly, Kemba sidesteps monotony by weaving together assonant lyricism in varying flows.
“Picture god grabbing Adam by the Adam’s apple just as Adam’s havin’ at the apple, now those adams got you grabbin at your fuckin Apple tablet backin up because there’s a Black man in all black passin,” he spits on the latter song. On some tracks, Kemba grooves his message home through slick cadences, but in his most passionate moments he resolved to pack every possible pocket with enlightenment.
Kemba augments the bruteness of the album with melodic, vibrant hooks typified by earnest harmonizing. Such is the case on the second half of “Heartbeat,” where he notes “I don’t even really wanna get to know ya, one of us might go soon ” before eulogizing the brothers who died and mothers who cried–all victims.
Though Kemba refrains from exclusively examining the country’s plight through a spiritual lens, the moments where he does are another attractive aspect of the album.
“Do you realize we might see the end of time in our lifetime?,” he asks on “Brown Skin Jesus.”
Who knows if that time will come, but hopefully we get to hear more of Kemba’s sonic progression in the meantime.
You can stream Negus below.