Bronx, New York
The artist formerly known as YC the Cynic is taking a giant step forward on his new album Negus – one so big that it necessitated a whole new name, Kemba.
The Bronx native has always made music inspired by acts like Mos Def and Goodie Mob, who are lyrical and not afraid to address crucial contemporary issues. But he felt like his original rap name, bestowed at a young age and tied to the more traditional boom-bap sound that he established on his early releases, no longer fit this new material. The songs on Negus, while having no shortage of great raps, also allow a whole other side of his inspirations to shine through – their sense of melody.
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.
With Negus, Kemba has made an album that reaches both back to his neighborhood and out to a wider world fighting for justice in new and exciting ways. And he does it with those rarest of qualities, radical openness and honesty.
“As an artist, I finally learned where my art and my life meet,” he says. “I finally learned to be completely open and honest, baring my soul and insecurities, because that’ll make for the best art, and the best artist.”