Today (5/17), KEMBA announced details for his new album titled Negus, being independently released on all digital platforms on July 22, 2016. Coinciding with the new album announcement, KEMBA premiered lead single “The New Black Theory”; available to stream now on his YouTube channel and SoundCloud.
The powerful track is about the term “The New Black,” made popular by Pharrell Williams, infamously 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.” The song is inspired by this empty distinction between marginalized people and the undertones of victim-blaming, while also speaking about respectability politics: the theory that conforming to more mainstream sensibilities will stop black people from being harassed by police, women harassed by men, etc. The single artwork (pictured below) is just as controversial. KEMBA describes it as “A portrait of the oft tone-deaf, oft-offensive, torch bearer of the New Black theory Raven-Symoné.”
With Negus, KEMBA 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 acclaimed MC, 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,” Negus will be the fifth release from the 25-year old MC.
The Hunts Point, Bronx nativehas 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.
“I’ve been YC since I was 12 years old,” he says. “I outgrew it. I was limited by the sort of Golden Era brand that I built as YC the Cynic. Now I’m able to let my true inspirations and influences show through melody as well. Starting new as Kemba feels like the next step in my evolution.” Regarding the title of the new album, he adds: “The word ‘Negus’ means King in Ethiopian dialect. I chose that word as the title because it’s so closely resembles the ‘n word,’ yet the meaning couldn’t be more opposite. The title represents people that are treated as peasant, seeing themselves as royalty and demanding to be treated as such.”