This album was released on September 20th last year. This is one my most anticipated albums of 2019. I’ve really enjoyed every single I’ve heard from it. I first became familiar with Kemba when he was performing under the YC the Cynic alias. The first song I heard from him was the remix of The Heaviest Cross with Homeboy Sandman. After hearing that, I checked out the GNK album, which I thought was great. He then changed his stage name to Kemba, and released his Negus album in 2016, which was even better than GNK in my opinion. I haven’t really seen too many people talking about this latest album for whatever reason, but I’m genuinely expecting it to be one of the best albums of 2019. Even if it’s not, I’m sure I’ll definitely enjoy it to some extent, especially since I already love all the singles I’ve heard.
This album didn’t end up being quite as amazing as I was hoping it’d be, but I definitely think it’s a great project, and I’m very satisfied. There aren’t any tracks that I dislike, so I’ll talk about the whole thing in the proper order of the track listing. It begins with Work in Progress, which is a highlight for me personally. I think the production from Ivan Jackson & Cole King is fantastic, and I really like Kemba’s vocals at the beginning of the track. The sung hook is pretty good too. He doesn’t really start rapping until around the halfway point of the song, but the way the track builds up to this point is really nice. The verse is awesome too. At first, I was under the impression that the album was named after his grandmother for whatever reason, but it’s actually named after his mom.
God, family and a little money
All the things my mama said I’d need someday
Got my name from the King James
That I promised mama I’ma read someday
Hopefully, they still accept my plead
Please remember one last thing
Just from the first track, it was clear almost immediately that family and religion were two major themes of the album. I love this shit. I think it’s a great way to start the project. It’s dope af to me. It’s followed by Captain Planet, which I don’t love quite as much, but it’s still a very good song. The beat is less jazzy & melodic, and more traditional & boom-bap sounding. The percussion is very hard hitting, especially once the first verse actually begins. It’s a dope verse too.
The devil don’t ever take a holiday
The dark won’t ever take my light away
My heart pump mango-cherry icee
I can hear the call from a mile away
The melodic hook is kind of simplistic, but I like it a lot. The content here is more about growing up and how Kemba prepared for his future as an adult. The second verse is fantastic.
You only knew my name when the cash was handed
Now we side by side like the Transatlantic
Mama never saved up Yale money, but she did save up bail money
That’s if she didn’t misplace the stash from the last shift
‘Cause puttin’ cash in the bank just feel funny
I learned metaphor ‘fore I knew what’s a credit score
I literally said “that’s fucked up” out loud to myself when I heard the Transatlantic line. As much as I love the rapping on this song, I just wish it was a bit more adventurous sonically. It’s not that exciting to listen to. I’m definitely entertained though; it’s a dope song. It’s followed by one of my favorite tracks on the album, Exhale.
This is one of the singles I heard before listening to the full album, and I fucking love it. I just love how wholesome and comforting it sounds. The sung hook from Kemba is awesome to me, and the smooth production from Brasstracks & Frank Drake is phenomenal. I love the first verse from Kemba too.
It’s back to square one; first steps, I was falling over
A nigga got into a good school, but I passed it up for a four-leaf clover
I left a good-ass job alone, medicate, late registration
Mouth wired like Kanye, I ain’t even seen my own graduation
I feel like Kemba’s soft vocals on the hook sound very feeble, but in a very charming and endearing way; I love it. The first time I listened to this shit I was very confused because Smino deadass sounds like a woman. He sounds a lot like Jean Deaux or Mereba honestly. I don’t think his verse was as good as Kemba’s from a lyrical standpoint, but he sounded really great; he fits perfectly over this warm, cozy production. The song is fire. I love it. It’s followed by Alas, which is a really fantastic 25-second instrumental interlude. I love the production, and it leads into what is probably my favorite song on the album, What a Day. I think the content about people in his family not being on good terms with each other is pretty interesting, and I have some friends who would relate to it a lot. Kemba’s vocals on the first verse aren’t great from a technical standpoint, but I love them. I don’t mind his singing at all. I like everything about the song, but the main facet that really pushes it over the top for me is the final verse. At this point, the somber and low-key production gets a bit more dramatic, and the writing is amazing. The manipulation of his vocals during this performance is pretty cool, and the way he ends the verse is absolutely heartbreaking.
I had all this platinum and gold for you
All these accolades and goals for you
All this focus on your needs, money, shelter, god, and greed
All this shit that I achieved
Overdosed on hopes and dreams
I would sail the seven seas
Just to pick up a flower pot with a rose for you
Never thought that you would leave
But I guess this joke’s on me
You ain’t even see the bearings of my fruit
I spent all my time at work instead of spending time with you
That verse alone makes it my favorite track on the album. The song is amazing to me. The following track is called Dysfunction; this song isn’t a highlight for me, but I do like it. The vocals on the intro of this song are phenomenal; I kinda wish I knew who they belonged to. The sense of pure hopelessness and devastation in this song is really tragic, and it gets even more heartbreaking during the second verse.
What the fuck is the point of this?
I couldn’t get through to my mother
I can’t get through to my brothers
Yet I’m paid to talk to audiences
I guess God can play a motherfucking joke
Guess it’s true, I’m only useful during performances
I’m personally not crazy about the sung hook; it’s a little too slow—it just feels kinda tedious to be honest. I like the production though, and I definitely love the lyrics. The song is dope. The following track is called Nobody I Can Trust.
This is one of the singles I heard before listening to the full album. I think the music video is amazing. The song isn’t quite as impressive to me on its own, but I still like it a lot. The first verse is awesome.
Dreams really do come true, your boy’s the proof
You was screaming Su Yung too, you lost the youth
Bitch, I think I’m Bishop with the juice
Except I’m pulling strings, I’m the fiddler on the roof
The hook doesn’t really stand out much sonically, but I love the lyrics.
Ain’t nobody I can trust, my niggas getting stuck
Cops throw ’em in a truck, lock niggas up
Circle getting smaller every day
Life getting shorter every day
The second verse is really great too. I really love this track from a lyrical standpoint, but it doesn’t stand out much sonically. His flow is cool, but his delivery is pretty restrained, and the production is a little flat. I definitely like the song though. It’s dope. The next track is a 19 second long skit called (Un)Rest. It sounds like what Kemba hears as someone is trying to guide him through the kind of meditation exercise that I would have had to do while I was in the psych ward. However, you hear a bunch of chaotic sounds and distractions in the background, making it difficult to focus on the meditation. This skit probably didn’t need to be separated into its own track, but it’s cool. It transitions seamlessly into my least favorite song on the album, Peter Pan. I really just don’t care for the production from Ivan Jackson & Lakim Bryant that much; the melody is very similar to that of the Tried by 12 beat. I like Kemba’s rapping on this track a lot though. The first verse is great.
Put a dollar on my vision board
Niggas took the money out the center
I can’t even manifest it
Had to learn to be protective
The hook is dope too, and he killed the second verse.
They was robbin’ little niggas after school
I was taught don’t let a fuck nigga front on me
Hid the weapon in a paper baggy
Either show the gun or get the fuck from in front of me
Only God and mama keep me company
They the ones that saves me from my enemies
I definitely like the song, but I just really don’t like the beat. It’s a good track, but, again, my least favorite on the album. The next track is a 59 second interlude called Who Would’ve Thought, and I think it’s fantastic. Kemba sings throughout the song, and the autotune and vocal filter on his voice sounds very Kanye West-ish, but in the best way possible. The production is also very grandiose, much like a good Kanye song. Out of all the interludes, this is definitely my favorite one. It leads into The Feels, which is actually the last full song on the album that wasn’t released as a single ahead of the project’s full release. I’m kind of torn on the structure of this track. On one hand, I like how he’s pretty much just rapping the entire time; however, I also feel like this could’ve been more eventful and impactful if it had a strong hook. I’m not crazy about the production from Black Milk & Ivan Jackson personally, but it’s definitely not bad. The actual rapping is the one aspect of the song that really stands out to me. He fucking killed that final verse.
Do you believe in Jesus or need the sentiment?
God’ll receive us, but preacher is really a sinning man
Nah, I don’t need it, I’m pleading, I’m heathen, I’ll sin again
“Tryna be equal” and “probably evil” are synonyms
Nobody seen the relationships needed rekindling
I kinda wish the verse didn’t just fade out, but the bridge from Portugal. The Man is surprisingly decent. The song is dope. The next track is a 35 second long skit called Dead Deceased. It’s kinda cringy to me because I just think the gratuitous use of the term “deadass” is corny. It’s fine though. I don’t really mind the presence of this skit. It segues really nicely into the lead single from the album, Deadass.
This track dropped at the very beginning of 2019 if I remember correctly. The jazzy beat is self produced, and I actually think it’s pretty good. I’m not crazy about the hook, but it’s not bad; I just feel like it lasts too long, and the flow he uses is a bit generic. The actual verses are very good, but they’re too short in my opinion. The second one in particular is pretty awesome though.
We don’t got no MedicAid, all my niggas medicate
Thought my future’s set in stone, thought I would accept my fate
You know who said I would fall, if you wanna set that straight
Set that date, bitch
I like the song, but this is probably my least favorite of the singles. It’s dope though. The penultimate track is another single called Last Year Being Broke.
I like the song a lot. The production isn’t really that impressive to me, although I do like the faint piano keys in the background. The one aspect of the song that really makes it stand out is the first verse; he killed this shit.
They thought I was stupid just ’cause I ain’t get no college in
Shorties playin’ Cupid with more collagen than Kylie Jen’
You can hear me speakin’ from the pit, this shit is bottomless
You thought I was powerless, I had that shit bottled in
Now I’m ’bout to body shit
The hook is nothing special unfortunately. The second verse is good, but it’s really short. I like the song though. It’s dope. The final track is a single called Alive, and it’s another one of my favorite songs on the album.
This is a very fitting outro because it feels like the point at which Kemba finally reaches solace; he’s still devastated by the passing of his mother, but he’s deciding to live the rest of his life to the fullest and appreciate what he still has. The way he kind of depicts the black woman as God in the first verse is very cool.
Of course it’d be a black woman that’s in charge
Who else could make the flowers and the bees
Then make the proudest hit his knees to try and please a merciless God
Then turn the other cheek, but suck her teeth ’cause she’s still pissed off?
The vocals on the hook from Eric Bellinger are fantastic. I love both of the verses, and the production is great. The second verse in particular is probably my favorite part of the song.
I don’t know my future in the slightest, but I’m sliding in the driver’s seat
And guiding it while God and mama guiding me
Split up with my pride, but they still instilled the pride in me
It’s a really great way to wrap up the album because it kinda ties up all the themes into a nice package.
Tumor took my lower jaw, only made me want it more
It’s a miracle I’m even talking; I’m the underdog
Don’t expect to bargain for a portion, no I want it all
Overall I’m grateful I’m looked over by an angel
I could be the one that saves you
Kemba’s manipulated vocals on the outro sound really goddamn nice too. I think the song’s amazing. I love it. Honestly, it was hard for me to choose between this one and What a Day for my favorite song, and I’m still not confident in my final decision. Both of them are fire though. 😀
This album is really great. Personally, I think I like Negus slightly more than this project, but they’re extremely close in terms of enjoyability for me. I love this one though. I don’t think it’ll quite make my list of favorite Hip Hop albums from 2019, but it’s close. Again, there’s not a single track here that I don’t like, and I really love the themes of family and religion here. The content revolving around the passing of Kemba’s mother really struck an emotional cord with me, even more than any other album that has the same theme. I think some of the beats can be a little flat here and there, but even when that is the case, Kemba saves it with his stellar writing. I’m really glad I finally got around to hearing this because I love it. It’s a very dope album.
Favorite Song: What a Day
Least Favorite Song: Peter Pan
Watch the video below for more thoughts on this album.