The World is Watching – [Kemba]

“If you’re going to make music for the times we’re in, you HAVE to get feedback to make sure you’re adding to the conversation in a way that benefits the people you’re promoting to. This ain’t a time to confuse, divide, or sell some sh*t we don’t need. At that point artists are there to serve the people. The difference between making protest music and whatever you normally do is that you’re no longer the authority. There will be people who know more than you. So don’t tell us what to do if you haven’t done the work.” These words were tweeted from Kemba, who has been the exact opposite of idle during this horrific pandemic. When I say pandemic, I am not only referring to the ongoing repercussions of COVID-19, but also the continual epidemic of systemic racism and police brutality. Kemba’s tweet supports the message on “Kill Your Idols,” a song emphasizing the importance of not relying on celebrities or big names for guidance. To Kemba, silence is better than ignorance, because spouting nonsense further deviates from the real discussions that need to be addressed. Having a large(r) does not make one more qualified to speak on a particular subject. For health consultation, no one with common sense would listen to a celebrity over a medical professional. Therefore, when combating racial injustice, why does it suddenly become difficult to trust the experts?

Activism is a two way street that involves both action AND listening. Before one can act, proper knowledge is a must. Otherwise, the action will be counter-intuitive to the point of aiding the oppressor. On the face, one could jump to conclusion that Kemba is dissing J. Cole, given the mixed reactions from the Dreamville founder’s controversial “Snow on Tha Bluff” record. Ironically, Kemba released a freestyle over the same instrumental, titling his version “IF YOU ARE NOT ONE OF US – This is Not For You.” Kemba declared this freestyle as an internal meeting, pleading for the misguided to put their pride aside. Contextually, the freestyle was released shortly after the tragic death of Oluwatoyin Salau, a young woman and protester that was betrayed by the hands of her own people. The lyrics “Not protecting your sister is like digging your grave / we forget it’s a similar figure in which we were made” suitably corresponds with the string of unacceptable violence committed against black women. However, the true meaning behind Kemba’s words are out of love rather than spite, aiming to provide clarity to those sitting on the fence.

Reflecting before selecting is crucial for when one decides to project their ideas; this notion serves as the overarching concept of Kemba’s The World is Watching EP. In Kemba’s words: “I created The World is Watching because I was inspired by the energy and strength of people protesting, signing/sharing petitions, donating, and fighting to make a difference. The EP is eight minutes and forty-six seconds long to honor George Floyd. All of the royalties will go to the Anti-Racism Fund.” In times of unrest, all eyes are fixated on X’s and Y’s, seeking any form of credible leadership to follow. However, the same principle rings true for the ostracized; intolerance (understandably) accumulates amid crises. Therefore, it is wise to exercise one’s platform accordingly! In these circumstances, Kemba, understands his ‘servant’ role as an artist for the people; such is the same title for NoName, J. Cole, and all musical artists.

Enabling the voice(s) of the unheard is the untapped power of the modern artist, capable of redirecting needed attention to the experts. My favorite track off the EP is “STAND,” because of the lines: “I can’t stand to see my brothers die, I can’t stand to read my sister’s will / I can’t stand to see our mothers cry, I can’t stand to see my ni**as killed. I’m too young to see the other side / I can’t stand to read my sister’s will. I can’t stand to lose another life / I can’t stand to see the killers live..” To me, this EP serves as a call for solidarity. Facing a struggle as prevalent as racial discrimination, we cannot afford to falter. Stream The World is Watching, the latest EP from Kemba below!

Words by Brandon Washington