“‘Already’ is like the sugar in the medicine,” KEMBA notes. “It has an infectious beat and catchy hook, but the lyrics are as potent as ever. Frank Drake did a great job at mixing his own Dilla-influenced style with his more contemporary counterparts.”
has made an album that reaches both back to his neighborhood and out to a wider world, fighting for social justice with radical openness and honesty. Produced by longtime collaborator Frank Drake
(with contributions from Cole King
) and written entirely by the young spitter
, the 12-track album
(track list below) was recorded on weekends over a span of two-and-a-half years in Mechanicville, NY
. Making GENIUS
‘ “Most Anticipated Albums of 2016
will be the fifth release from the 25-year-old MC.
Last month, KEMBA
debuted his powerful lead single “The New Black Theory“
to coincide with the announcement of Negus
. AFRO PUNK
‘s synopsis of the song (5/26) states: “‘The New Black Theory’ is the newest release, and clever analysis of anti-black culture…The powerful track borrows it’s name from that one time Pharrell Williams tried to over-simplify systematic racism and anti-blackness in America by saying ‘The New Black doesn’t blame other races for our issues. The New Black dreams and realizes that it’s not a pigmentation; it’s a mentality.’ Through the song, Kemba picks apart the hollow statement, and similar ones, that promote victim blaming and respectability politics that serves to minimize the black experience and those who have been systematically abused and disenfranchised by the system.” The single also garnered support from a number of outlets, including OKAY PLAYER
(“…the young brother is still that emcee who refuses to mince his words and continues to bring meaning to all his bars.” (5/18)) and VIBE
(“With fresh, mind-altering bars, the unique melodies of the song are just as provocative as the artwork for the record…” (5/23)). “The New Black Theory”
is streaming now on KEMBA
‘s YouTube channel
KEMBA‘s story starts in the Hunt’s Point section of The Bronx, where he was the middle child of a single mother in an R&B-filled household. By the time he was nine, KEMBA was already writing music and he never looked back. The ability to rhyme was his one relief from childhood teasing over severe eczema, which lasted well into his teens. At 17, KEMBA faced another, even more serious obstacle – a tumor in perhaps the worst spot for an aspiring rapper, his jaw. He faced constant surgeries (“If I wrote a ‘Through The Wire’ for every time my mouth was wired shut, I’d have a concept EP,” he jokes) and doctors told him he’d be lucky to be able to talk at the end of the process, never mind rap.
Overcoming those obstacles, he went on to release critically acclaimed projects including 2010‘s You’re Welcome, 2011‘s Fall FWD and 2013‘s powerful GNK, the latter of which earned near-universal critical praise as “one of the best projects of the year” for its “lyrical mastery” and the artist’s “smooth, yet complex, flow.” But KEMBA‘s new moniker marks a new phase, one that was inspired by the same events that would cause a protest movement that shook the country.
The Black Lives Matter movement and the police violence and political corruption that inspired it, are at the core of Negus. Songs like “Heartbeat” and “Greed” deal smartly and passionately with matters of literal life and death to KEMBA and his community. KEMBA‘s roots in hip-hop’s birthplace–The Bronx–come through in everything he does. He is a co-founder of the noted local hip-hop organization the Rebel Diaz Arts Collective, which runs a community center in the South Bronx with lectures, classes and more. That mission to return something to the community is forever a part of KEMBA‘s mission.
1. FLY (Intro)
2. Caesar’s Rise
3. Kings & Queens
4. The New Black Theory
5. Super Hero
7. Psyrens (Curious)
11. We Made It
12. Brown Skin Jesus (Outro)