As one of my favourite groups of the last few years, Sons of Kemet releasing a new album is always an exciting event for me personally. Their 2018 album Your Queen Is A Reptile potently captured this frantic and restless energy, while paying tribute to some of the incredible Black Women in history. Their music has always been centered around the Black experience, and with each release it seems like they’re peeling layers of vulnerability and honesty, which I know is a weird thing to say for a jazz group with a focus on instrumentation rather than poetry, but it’s Shabaka Hutchings, Tom Skinner, Theon Cross and Eddie Hick’s flawless chemistry and mesmeric playing throughout that makes their music so important. On their latest album Black To The Future, they bring their anger, love and reflection together on a 11-track project that features some incredible guest appearances and compositions that are both striking and incredibly emotive.
“Field Negus” featuring Joshua Idehen is a breathtaking opener with disorienting instrumentation that gives way for Joshua to recite quite a stunning piece of poetry that touches on topics of racism, Black identity and the fight for equality. one of the striking moments to me was the line “I don’t want your equality, it was never to give me”. In reference to white people and western colonisers, this moment on the album was ridden with pain and desperation, in a moment that captures the anger and complexity of institutional racism – at least the psychological effects on Black people around the world. White people giving Black folks equality is a privilege within itself, and the act of the more privileged introducing us to laws that ensure equality can be seen as insulting, considering the years and years of pain the Black community in the West have experienced throughout the years. And it’s the anger, fueled by a lack of justice and accountability, that reverberates poignantly throughout. There’s a sense of urgency in “Pick Up Your Burning Cross” featuring Moor Mother and Angel Bat Dawid. Theon Cross’ tuba grooves not only on that track but throughout the entire project give this project a heavy, almost unsettling rhythm. “Hustle” featuring Kojey Radical is another incredible moment on the album. Music and art is a process that usually starts with an idea, but blossoms into something more impactful and complete with hard-work, grit and as the title of this record states hustle. Kojey nails this point thoroughly, while giving us an insight into his personal experience as a Black man growing up in the UK. D Double E makes an appearance on “For The Culture”, a fitting title for this grime and jazz collaboration. The rumbling energy of the brass instrumentation is powerful throughout, especially on tracks like “In Remembrance Of Those Fallen” and “Throughout The Madness, Stay Strong”, which is helped by the effortless drumming as well. More playful and melodic moments are also prevalent throughout this album, with tracks like “To Never Forget The Source” and “Let The Circle Be Unbroken” bringing more colourful and moody moments to the project. “Black” features another incredible poem from Joshua Idehen, and closes the album out with a rhythmic, angry and heartfelt poem that captures the angst and pain of the Black experience as a whole. It’s a difficult yet captivating moment on the album that reflects the restlessness of the album as a whole.
Sons of Kemet have released a raw, dynamic, vulnerable and eclectic new project that celebrates Black life and creativity, while simultaneously capturing the anger, disillusionment and fight of Black people in the UK and beyond. Instrumentally, the album is stellar in every single way. The chemistry between everyone is so strong, and the compositions throughout are a combination of heavy and punchy moments, as well as softer, more melodic arrangements. It’s a truly memorable listening experience and one I will be listening to for quite a while.