mon 20/09/2021

Album: Sons of Kemet - Black to the Future | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Sons of Kemet - Black to the Future

Album: Sons of Kemet - Black to the Future

Shabaka’s jazzers raise a fist for BLM

A mash-up of calypso-reggae-hip-hop-jazz and more

Shabaka Hutchings is a busy man. Not only does he head up the calypso-reggae-hip-hop-jazz mash-up that is Sons of Kemet, there’s also The Comet is Coming and Shabaka and the Ancestors, and plenty else that we don’t hear about, no doubt.

His various ensembles aren’t just occasional outings either, and since Sons of Kemet’s exquisite Your Queen is a Reptile album from three years ago, there’s been albums and stand-alone singles from both the other groups. This means that there’s plenty of change afoot and anyone expecting a re-tread of the Mercury-nominated Your Queen is a Reptile on their new disc, Black to the Future, is in for a shock.

Sure, there’s still Theon Cross’ tuba-fuelled groove and Tom Skinner and Edward Wakili-Hick’s frantic percussion, as well as Hutchings' strident sax, but the new album also introduces a healthy dash of grime and free jazz to their sound, as well as a response to the rather large elephant in the room that has been pointed out by the Black Lives Matter movement. That’s not to say that Your Queen is a Reptile wasn’t political, but Black to the Future really grabs things by the throat. Joshua Idehen’s vocal contributions to “Field Negus” and “Black” particularly lay out the band’s stall, with righteous fire and brimstone preaching about injustice and inequality. Moor Mother similarly has plenty to say on the lively “Pick Up Your Burning Cross” and Kojey Radical is hardly laidback on lead single “Hustle”.

That said, this album is no single-speed ball of suppressed rage and elsewhere the dubby “Think of Hope” and chilled “Envision Yourself Levitating” provide plenty of contrast along with D Double E’s contribution to the Dancehall-infused “For the Culture”. Nevertheless, as Joshua Idehen howls in disbelief, “You call for calm? You call for peace?”. Sons of Kemet clearly believe that we’ve got some way to go before that can happen.

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