Artist Spotlight: Kemba, Kendrick Lamar’s Surprise Emcee

Negus by Kemba

During Kendrick Lamar’s secret show in New York, an audience member challenged him which led to a fan freestyle session. Three fans made their way to the stage: the first fan got booed off, the second fan named was able to harmonize with Kendrick on a freestyle, and the last fan, Kemba took away the crowd with his amazing a cappella.

Story | Matthew Gonzalez

Kemba, a 25-year-old Bronx native, has been rapping since 2010 and was formerly known as YC The Cynic, who was named in the “Top 5 Underground Hip-Hop Artists in New York” by Deli Magazine in 2010. He is the founder of hip-hop community center RDACBX (Rebel Diaz Arts Collective). Some of the RDACBX’s resources include a performance space, a multimedia studio, a computer lab, and an art gallery.

Kemba, when on stage with Kendrick spits lyrics, “My city is gentrified/My genre is gentrified”. Essentially, this gentrification bar is a reflection of Kemba’s livelihood in the Bronx in comparison to the watered down rap game.

He continues with bars that reference RDACBX’s community center, which helped him start his career:

“I could be making money selling records but instead give advice like my lifes together any better”

After hearing the acapella, Kendrick was impressed stating, “He was kicking some real motherfuckin’ shit… Kemba, remember that motherfuckin’ name. Kemba.”

His latest album Negus – Ethiopian term for ruler – is available for streaming on his Soundcloud. This project targets this year’s political craziness, and racial profiling toward African Americans – demonstrated in his music video “The New Black Theory”.

Negus has two standout songs that reference the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates. “Caesar’s Rise” refers to Donald Trump’s quote, “I have a great relationships with the blacks”, while “Greed” – in which the cover art resembles Hillary Clinton – tackles poverty in the Bronx.

Negus tackles racial profiling towards the black community, how race and class are intertwined with poverty, and how people in the hood are affected by the education to prison pipeline. All of these things are reflected in Kemba’s lyricism and yet, Kemba still preaches hope regardless of the societal situation the black community is put in. This probably just a glimpse of what Kendrick Lamar felt from him on stage, but rest assured this isn’t the last time you’ll hear of Kemba.

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