Kemba - formerly known as YC the Cynic - has been dropping hard-hitting singles over the last 3 months building up to today: the release of his new album entitled Negus.
The first thing that catches your eye with Kemba's recent single releases is the artwork, which features a range in prominent cultural and political figures from Raven Symoné to the Clintons. In discussing his reasoning for making such a bold statement with his single artworks, Kemba stated,
I've had the pleasure to work with Ivan Merlin for a few years now, but I had no idea how good he was at creating these portraits of people until recently. It started with me asking him to create one of Rupert Murdoch. Once I saw that, the idea came to me. Let's identify these characters that are harmful to people of color, in the media. And let's be unapologetic about it.
The most poignant piece would have to be the front and back cover artwork for Negus, which feature Tamir Rice and Aiyana Jones. Kemba selected these two individuals for his album artwork because,
Tamir looks a lot like I did as a kid. A lot. And that realization was really scary to me. Also, the album is very much the journey of a black child in survival mode. The back cover is of Aiyana Jones. Just her image alone is so powerful, and touching to me: this young cute little girl whose life was cut short at the hands of the police.
Negus is an unapologetic, powerful account of what is going on right now in America for Blacks. Kemba spits visceral bars that hit you as soon as "Caesar's Rise" starts. Frank Drake's smooth yet thumping production creates the perfect springboard for Kemba to unleash his truth. The cherry on top are the well placed sound bites that enhance the themes discussed.
Kemba's timing for Negus is almost too perfect given the current climate of the United States as it pertains to race. Kemba strays away from nothing on this project, which makes it so easier to connect to. In regards to the timing of Negus, Kemba said,
When I started on this album, I wanted to make something light-hearted, and bright. Then I went to Ferguson in October. The things I saw there influenced me to create something for the people who I walked those streets with. Not even content-wise, but the overall sound. Something powerful, and audacious, that makes you want to puff out your chest when you walk outside. I do really wish everything that I said on this album was outdated. I wish it was all in the past. But since it's not, I'm glad I could at least provide a soundtrack for it.
From top to bottom, Negus has a sound that is consistent throughout. That is more of a result of Frank Drake taking the reins of guiding the project sonically with the only other featured producer being DJ Illanoiz on "Hallelujah". When discussing the production of Negus and how he met Frank Drake, Kemba shared,
The album is very close-knit. 90% of it is produced by Frank Drake. Only one song isn't: "Hallelujah". That's produced by DJ Illanoiz. And Frank's older brother, Cole King, did additional production and vocals on the whole thing. Add me on the vocals and some production ideas, that's the whole crew. I met Frank through an email, at a time where I was figuring out how to craft songs. It was serendipitous, almost. He lived in Upstate NY. I worked on a couple of beats he sent, then a couple more, then a couple more. Before you know it, my album GNK was mostly done. He then moved the NYC, and we finished it, and just kept going ever since. I trust Frank's ear. His sound is unique, but still grounded with similar influences I have. We work well together.
"Kings & Queens", "The New Black Theory", "Already", "Psyrens (Curious)", and "Hallelujah" are favorites, but the entire project will stay in rotation once you hit play. Let Negus be your soundtrack or allow it to open your eyes to what is happening right outside your window.