Nov 25, 2021
By Matthew Berlyant
After 2018’s monumental breakthrough album, Your Queen is a Reptile, Shabaka Hutchings’ East London modern jazz greats Sons of Kemet seemed poised to take over the world, or at least the world of jazz, much the same way Kamasi Washington did a few years earlier, propelling a genre of music whose popularity has waned over the decades back into public consciousness. After being used on HBO’s I May Destroy You and a reputation for insidious, barn-burning live shows, we get the highly-anticipated follow-up, Black to the Future.
As far as album openers go, it doesn’t get much more incendiary, fiery, or jarring than “Field Negus.” Featuring poet Joshua Idehen on vocals, this is a rant on par with the 1979 Crass single “Reality Asylum” except instead of religion as its target, the focus here is centuries of white oppression. It must be heard and is one of 2021’s top tracks by any measure.
The album is bookended by Idehen’s poetry again on the closing track “Black,” appropriately closing out an emotionally charged album. Elsewhere, collaborations abound with Philadelphia-based activist, poet, musician, and now professor Moor Mother and clarinetist Angel Bat Dawid on the second track, the tellingly titled “Pick Up Your Burning Cross,” with multimedia artist and poet Kojey Radical on “Hustle,” and with grime MC D Double E on “For the Culture.”
The album’s overall feel, unlike the fiery energy and righteous passion of Your Queen is a Reptile, is one of frustration combined with insularity and resignation, an almost exhaustion at the injustices of the world and particularly of the injustices facing people of the African diaspora all around the world. The tempo on many tracks is noticeably slowed-down and the mix is purposely rough, making it feel less immediate than its predecessor. As such, while it may not take over the world, it is a perfect record for this moment in time as an expression of collective weariness in the midst of an almost two-year and counting pandemic worldwide, the spectre of Brexit in the UK, and amidst the struggles of the civil rights movement in the U.S. to stop police brutality and mass incarceration. (www.shabakahutchings.com/sons-of-kemet/)
Author rating: 7.5/10
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