The opening sounds heard on Kam-Bu’s debut project, ‘Black on Black’, is that of a radio tuning, seeking the right frequency: snippets of the south London rapper’s vocals fill the static noise before the title track kicks in with rapid fire hi-hats. It is, perhaps, indicative of Kam-Bu searching – and finding – his voice as a genre-surfing, versatile voice and one of the most exciting rappers in the UK right now.
On this ten-track EP, braggadocio rhymes weave themselves around socially-conscious raps layered over anthemic beats; his guttural voice nestling itself deeply into the grooves of each. Whether audiences listen to the project as a whole or the singles alone, it’s instantly evident that Kam-Bu is a talent whose ceiling is nowhere in sight, a rapper whose path to stardom has just begun.
It’s none more obvious than on that aforementioned title track. He’d previously told NME that it was “a marching, revolutionary song” inspired by Fela Kuti, with an aim to shift the negative connotations and highlight “Black on Black community, financial literacy, money passing between our hands”. His fast-paced flow and unique wordplay are on full display, his pen is sharp as he rallies fellow youth by essentially mocking their fights: “Fuck a beef on a postcode / You don’t own the land that’s waste of space / Come as one, then we stick it to the man”. It’s an introduction that offers a whirlwind tour of his life growing up in south London and a remarkable statement of intent.
‘Are You On’, co-written with electronic producer Leon Vynehall, further reinforces Kam-Bu’s skilful wordplay as he bends syllables to his whim, rapping “I don’t have to flex / I do this with gang, I speak with my chest, I have to finesse / Now they look stressed”, elongating the last word to fit in with his rhyme scheme. ‘Growth’ and ‘Dumpling’ carry this lyricism onwards as the latter, particularly, stands out with grandiose production filling every imaginable crevice.
The EP switches moods after Kam-Bu’s grandfather makes an appearance on an interlude, though it manages to retain its energy and excitement as he showcases the multiple side of his creativity: ‘Plane Ahead’ is much softer in its production while appearances from fellow south Londoner Rachel Chinouriri and west London rapper Knucks on ‘Stuck’ and ‘Call Me Back’, respectively, round out the EP with class.
The fact that the features are near the bottom of the EP reinforces his ability to carry the weight of a debut project with his own talents. ‘Black on Black’ feels like a playground for Kam-Bu to test what sticks, a genre pastiche that suits every type of audience: the trap fan, the backpack rap aficionado, the R&B devotee – Kam-Bu has created that rare debut project which possesses very few faults.
- Release date: August 20
- Record label: Atlas Artists