Pisces – [Kemba]

Formerly known as “YC The Cynic,” 29-year-old Kemba is an adroit artist from Hunts Point neighborhood in the Bronx of New York with three respective albums (Negus, GNK, & Gilda) to his name. Negus (2016) was his breakthrough album, which is an inspiring self-portrayal of his life, detailing the inadequacies of being a black male in a society that frequently shuns and distorts blackness. Before listening to any new material from Kemba, I highly recommend listening to all three albums mentioned for greater clarity of his persona and artistry.

Unrelated, but certainly relevant, is a line from Lupe Fiasco’s song “Manila,” from his latest (2018) album Drogas Wave, which reverberates Kemba’s message: “You can accomplish anything if you survive blackness.” The one-take music video for “Molotovs at Poseidon,” a highlighted track off his debut LP GNK, begins with Kemba being held at gunpoint, before he stunningly remarks to his attacker: “Go ahead and fire your gun, you’re shooting at Zeus, I held onto my crown while I ripped through my noose.” Such is the fearless style of Kemba; illustrious imagery mixed with impeccable lyricism, topped off with sheer confidence.

However, followers of Kemba know that this is all but the entire story of this particular song, yet alone his entire career. Exactly seven days prior to performing at 2015’s South by Southwest festival, Kemba was assaulted by unidentified perpetrators, in which he brutally suffered ten micro-fractures in his face. Not willing to falter, Kemba remarkably still performed, recalling that he constantly tasted blood and consequentially had slurred speech throughout the show. It is also worth a mention that the artist has had his mouth wired shut after terrifyingly being diagnosed with a (fortunately) non-cancerous tumor. These gruesome facts of Kemba’s life are graphic but fully necessary to completely grasp the darkest days before his present dawn.

Citing his mother and fans as his greatest sources of motivation, Kemba’s latest music is better than ever. Most importantly, the artist is seemingly also in good overall health. If you have properly listened to all of his discography, take no longer to hear “Pisces,” a brand new single that aligns with the life experiences and content that Kemba has shared so far. Like any song of his, the record opens up in style, where Kemba declares: “I made it out Hunts Point I just might be a legend / I had a few close calls I just might need a blessing.” One can presume that these lyrics are in reference to the numerous hardships during the emcee’s childhood, with the ‘close calls’ pertaining to literal instances that could have taken his life. Not to mention the mental baggage that comes with real-world trauma, which could also be taken in this particular context. Another notable line from the song is where Kemba states: “Every day I wake up another little white lady feel threatened,” followed by a lyrical onslaught of bars that coincide with the heavy content off Negus. You can stream “Pisces” below, which is also available on all streaming services.

Words by Brandon Washington