Jazz | World | Spoken Word
The memory is a little foggy for me, but I believe that my first memory of the UK Jazz group that is Sons Of Kemet, was thanks to one of the acts associated with it; that being the Jazztronica trio of The Comet Is Coming, which saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings plays a role in under the name of King Shabaka. In the case of Sons Of Kemet, Hutching’s essentially has the same responsibility, albeit under his birth name, and as part of the more contemporary and afrobeat-like jazz sound of the band I will be writing about today.
In late 2019, the same year that saw me discover The comet Is Coming through their phenomenal sophomore album Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery, I also gave Sons Of Kemet a shot, and visited their latest release at the time, which was 2018’s Your Queen Is A Reptile. And while this was indeed quite the enjoyable listen, it wouldn’t be until the current year of 2021, where I give my first critical take on a Sons Of Kemet record. The record in question is their fourth studio album, named Black To The Future.
Right off the bat, what gives Black To The Future an edge over its predecessors, is that it is the most features-heavy album in the Sons Of Kemet discography so far. As well as having the same inclusion of the artist Joshua Idehen at the beginning and end of the album, as on Your Queen Is A Reptile, Black To The Future also features the likes of Moor Mother, Angel Bat Dawid, D Double E, and Kojey Radical, who provided vocals for this album’s first teaser track “Hustle”, which we’ll get to momentarily.
That being said, the more abundant than usual set of featured artists meant that Black To The Future had that level of lyrical engagement that is sure to help new listeners ease into the instrumental sounds, and allow them to grow more naturally on the listener. In conclusion, Black To The Future, in my mind, is easily the most accessible project so far from Sons Of Kemet.
So moving on to the teaser tracks now, our first was the aforementioned “Hustle”. I loved how instantly gripping, and borderline daunting the opening melody sounded, and it made the perfect musical lead-up to Kojey Radical’s empowering and inspirational lyrics, detailing the “hustle inside”, which in my mind, represents the resilience and willpower to keep moving upward in a racially discriminatory and challenging world.
The second teaser track, “To Never Forget The Source”, is more of an expected track from Sons Of Kemet, but by all means no less catchy. It really didn’t take long for that primary melody to settle down inside my memory to play itself on repeat.
And with the release of the full album, a good handful of brand new amazing tracks followed. “Pick Up Your Burning Cross” carried a very similar energy to the tracks on Trust In the Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery, which, by default, would make it something I’d instantly enjoy. “Let The Circle Be Unbroken” ends with a chilling yet tightly gripping finale, which embodied the kind is passionate power that went into the album in a brilliantly artistic way. And “Envision Yourself Levitating” is gorgeously grand, and never felt patience-testing despite its lengthy runtime.
But what I felt were easily the strongest tracks, in terms of narrative, would have to be the opening and closing tracks of the record, powered by the passionate spoken word pieces of Joshua Idehen, especially the closer “Black”.
If you’ve been following my blog from the Christmas period at the latest, you may know that my fifteenth favourite track of the year, was a standalone single from The Comet Is Coming, titled “Imminent”, and it featured Joshua Idehen. It was Idehen’s powerful and artful lyrics that helped to make “Imminent” as awesome of a track as it was, and to see some of the same lyrics passed over onto “Black”, was my personal highlight on Black To The Future.
This brings me to the final main quality that this album has, and it is how passionately and unrelentingly it addresses racial inequality, and how it does so in such a raw and artistic manner. There really is little to no need of beating around the bush when it comes to addressing racism, and Sons Of Kemet most certainly know that, as shown by their undying resolve to shine a light on racism in the UK, and the rest of the world. And with Black To The Future, I feel that this resolve is stronger than ever before.
Favourite Tracks: Pick Up Your Burning Cross | Hustle | Black
Least Favourite Tracks: Think Of Home
Enjoyment: 8/10 | Memorability: 8/10 | Atmosphere: 8/10
Uniqueness: 7/10 | Satisfaction: 8/10 | Narrative :10/10