By Jesse McMann
Rap Music Journalist
Release Date: June 30, 2016
“Fortune favors the prepared mind.” This certainly proved true for Bronx rapper Kemba when Kendrick pulled him on stage to rap during a recent concert in Brooklyn. Previously known as Y.C. the Cynic, Kemba has now decided it’s time to grow with age. Listeners witnessed the end of Y.C. with “The Farewell Tape”, and now we see his first album under the new alias Kemba. In a recent interview with The Fader, Kemba explains that Y.C. was a nickname he got from friends when he was 12. He now desires a name of his choosing without prior meaning, and thought Kemba sounded “young and powerful”.
Throughout this album Kemba speaks on CNN and Fox’s portrayal of African Americans, Brooklyn P.D., and the church. I see greed as a centerpiece to the idea behind Negus. Kemba calls out churches through his line “Preacher reaching where the tithes go/Pastor tweeting from an iPhone 6/Practice fainting from a high foam pen.” He then pursues cops with “My my PD drive by, I better lie low/Born with a man-made disease God couldn’t diagnose/Fat lady singin’ in the nursery room I’ve been dying slow.” As if that’s not enough, Kemba then calls out CNN and the government with lyrics “You would think we was drug lords if you watch CNN/Where the hood get the drugs from, please remind me again.” I am a big fan of the way Kemba uses ominous and intense effects while addressing the institutions mentioned above to give a physical embodiment of the greed and corruption in America.
While speaking on issues Kemba sees as urgent, he calls his listeners into action, and to grow past what society seems to allow for those born with nothing. He uses a Jesus analogy as a means to show the lowest of society leading a revolution: “Jesus of Nazareth raps to the non-exalted/It’s Hera’s daughter reviving a dying culture.” Kemba then references Lauryn Hill, a leader in the black community, to show his frustration with people leaving the hood once money comes, instead of building to make it better with “We traded our Lauryns with foreign money.”
The album ends with “Brown Skin Jesus” giving you screeching guitar riffs from “Lord Have Mercy” by Lijadu Sisters, produced in the ’70s. The use of a guitar sample like this is a refreshing take that I have not had the treat of hearing in a while, but I loved Kemba’s use of the freedom found in classical rock for this track. These riffs were key in classic rock songs that became a symbol to revolution for young people breaking from the mold of their society. Kemba hopes he can spur a new revolution within his generation: “Time to lead the people from the wretched… teach ’em to protect themselves from demons and their precious false deities and heathens.” He then ends this track by urging people to fly instead of run, as a way of telling people to fight against the wrongs they see even if it means death, because either way the fat lady’s already singing.
Kemba utilizes his platform to speak on police brutality, bias in news coverage, corruption in social systems, and to push his listeners to continue to educate themselves. This is done through the songs mentioned above and samples from news segments, as well as comments by Donald Trump. The lyrics used throughout this project personify the corruption present in our social systems in desperate need of change. You can tell Kemba believes change will come as seen through his self appointed leadership in “Brown Skin Jesus”, so it will be interesting to observe how effective this belief and call to action will be in the long run. While the style of this album hasn’t changed noticeably from “The Farewell Tape”, I’m excited to see what Kemba referred to as a “course of my evolution”.