Kemba Goes From Cynical to Analytical on Negus

In a vast sea of New York underground MCs trying to build on their name, the man formerly known as YC The Cynic swerved on everyone by changing his. Now known as Kemba, the Bronx MC not only switched up his identity, he’s undergoing a sonic evolution rarely seen from such seasoned MCs. The skilled lyricist has never been known as a shallow rapper, but Kemba has  been broaching substantive topics more than ever before.

His “Already” and “New Black Theory” tracks are catching steam. On the Tupac-sampling “New Black Theory,” he notes “I can walk outside now and get shot down if you ever wonder why I’m hostile,” then subsequently airs out everyone responsible for that circumstance, from a dirty police system to journalists who fuel the corrosive atmosphere.

The harrowing video for “New Black Theory,” which cleverly highlights police predation as a racial issue, is going viral. Kemba recently culminated his reintroduction by releasing his new album Negus.

From the jump, Kemba puts his cards on the table, rhyming over a charging beat that would be galvanizing as a standalone. It’s not though. “I’m not naïve, I see your micro-aggressions/you might think you’re hard to read, you really hyper expressive,” Kemba rhymes, while imploring the listener, “please don’t call me conscious, don’t call me political.”

After hearing the 12-track project all the way through, it’s hard not to. I recently made an article pondering which artists may be faking the funk with their newfound consciousness. It’s easy to talk the talk for a song or two, but Kemba went 100% in.

For the literal entirety of Negus, Kemba employs his lispy flow to put white supremacy on front street. He explores colorism on “Greed.” He speaks on how “we traded our loins for foreign women” on “Hallelujah.” He laments that, “cats work from 9 to 5, then from 9 to 5 they creepin’” on “Kings and Queens.” The album is composed of a subdued, mysterious soundscape that allows Kemba’s lyricism to take precedence.

It’s a shame physical CDs aren’t in demand anymore, because any armchair Hip-Hop critic spouting that “no one is saying anything” BS deserves to be slapped across the face with Negus. For now though, just keep it chill and e-mail them the Bandcamp link if you wish.

Negus can be streamed below.

Alex Oka