There is nothing more exhilarating than coming across art or music that you never knew you needed, or would be intrigued by until hearing an enthusiastic “Yebo!” at the start of a song. Tribal soundscapes, left of centre melodic tones and a rapid fire flow, Maryland raised DC-native musician KAMAU made his electrifyingly rambunctious debut into music and we haven’t looked back since. It all started over a year ago with the release of two songs,”Moon” and “The Sun, both spell-bound with dizzying falsettos and an alluring message of self empowerment and instilled confidence. Sonically it was something entirely spontaneous and exciting to listen to and more importantly the start of something worth keeping track of.
Since releasing his earlier work via SoundCloud, the singer-rapper-producer has performed many intimate gigs, gained what’s shaping up to be a strong following, and has even impressed with original renditions of Adele’s debut single “Hometown Glory” and Outkast’s “Hey Ya”. In its essence, KAMAU’s music is arranged for both catchy and intellectual digestion, while still making the music a vital focal point. Disguising, or rather masking his face throughout various pictures and artwork covers, KAMAU has almost forced the listener to fully embrace is most well received gift; his voice. It’s regal in delivery, is an instrument of its own, knowing no boundaries from harmonies, melodies, beats and more.
Making his official debut, A Gorgeous Fortune (July 2016 via Invisible Firm) is KAMAU’s innovative 6-track EP that tackles everything from love, to freedom, and questioning the consequences of police brutality and its blue wall of silence. While A Gorgeous Fortune is executed in both an honest and resonating fashion, this debut is nothing more than a taste of what’s still to come of the now Brooklyn-based artist.
Hello, my name is Kamau
Ay ay, I am from the clouds
I’m a human
I’m a human now, but I used to be
I used to be a raindrop, word up
It’s sensational wordplay at its best. A Gorgeous Fortune opens up with “Jambo,”, an exciting and action packed introduction to who KAMAU is both as a person and an artist. Beatboxed syncopation and chant-like rifts effortlessly harmonized as backing vocals, serve as the bassline for “Jambo,” really putting his musicality on full display. It’s a self-proclamation of one’s own god-given talents and begins to set the tone for the rest of the EP.
Watch: “Jambo” – KAMAU
KAMAU’s versatility regarding substance really begins to shine as the project briefly shifts directions towards love at first sight, unrequited romance, and praised women with brains and beauty in “Justfayu,” “Gaims,” and “BooDha.” It’s also the most melodic portion of Gorgeous Fortune with catchy hooks and strays from the norm in delivery. Many artists nowadays have experimented with what it means to rap and even what it means to be a musician that does both rap and sing. Although there are probably less rappers who actually have something to say and are clever about its delivery, KAMAU finds himself in a similar vein that rappers like Pell and Chance The Rapper occupy.
Putting love aside, KAMAU’s most moving songs on the EP are in fact his more socially and politically aware, calling into question the ramifications of police brutality in “PohLease,” and an exulting cry for freedom in “FoolMoon.” Both essentially come doused in the emotions surrounding the state of affairs currently subduing most of our conversations about race and equality on a daily basis.
Watch: “PohLease” – KAMAU
As a Black person in America,
When you see the police
Say a little prayer to the Shepherd,
Who let Wolves guard the Sheep
This intro to “PohLease” is probably the most honest and powerful lyric of the entire EP. It really paints this picture of the emotions of what many of us supporters of the #blacklivesmatter feel, in clear and vibrant strokes. It’s uniting in nature with the sound of foot soldiers marching as the preliminary bassline before KAMAU fires off in an interrogative fashion. The song’s outro goes on to list all the names of those unjustly gunned down, in a touching homage to close out.
It’s refreshing to find an artist that has the ability to stay true to themselves, their beliefs and artistic integrity without compromise. Maybe that’s just the beauty of today’s music landscape, which allows artists like KAMAU to explore different ways to deliver messages on age-old concepts like love and still persistent trials on racial equality. A Gorgeous Fortune is effortlessly KAMAU and his statements and successful attempt at pioneering his own lane down modern day avant-rap, blending deeply rooted cultural influences while remaining playful, political, and innovative will continue to be something we keep our eye on.
cover photo: KAMAU © Arturo Olmos