Brasstracks: The Vibrant Tour
Kemba, Anthony Flammia, Pell
Fri Feb 1
Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 7:30 pm
Advance GA $20 | Day of GA $25 | Premier Plus $40 | VIP M&G $60
This event is all ages
• Full dinner and drink menu available
• The Premier Plus section is a raised area with reserved seats and tables. There is a dedicated server for faster service
• This event is part of the Smithsonian Year of Music. For more information, please visit https://music.si.edu
In August 2016 Ivan and Conor produced arguably the biggest Hip Hop record of the year with Chance The Rappers ‘No Problem’ feat Lil Wayne and 2Chainz. This led to a GRAMMY nomination for Best Rap Song to add to Ivan’s nomination for his writing contribution to Anderson Paak’s ‘Am I Wrong'. They also released their debut EP, Good Love and took the EP on the road with their Good Love Fall Tour.
During a heavy summer ’17 festival season playing all over North America Brasstracks released a slew of new singles and covers culminating in the first edition of their most recent project “For Those Who Know Part 1” which was released Oct 20th. Part 1 boasts collaborations with Robert Glasper, The Underachievers and more. March 2018 saw the guys embark on their first ever headline US tour, playing 19 cities and selling out Los Angeles, San Franscisco, Seattle and NYC's iconic Bowery Ballroom in their hometown show.
To conclude their “For Those Who Know” series Brasstracks released the Deluxe version of the project and embarked on a first Asia tour. Now they enter the next chapter with the release of new single “Vibrant” featuring Pell and announcing a 28 date headline North American tour - “The Vibrant Tour”, kicking off in January 2019.
The artist formerly known as YC the Cynic is taking a giant step forward on his new album Negus – one so big that it necessitated a whole new name, Kemba.
The Bronx native has always made music inspired by acts like Mos Def and Goodie Mob, who are lyrical and not afraid to address crucial contemporary issues. But he felt like his original rap name, bestowed at a young age and tied to the more traditional boom-bap sound that he established on his early releases, no longer fit this new material. The songs on Negus, while having no shortage of great raps, also allow a whole other side of his inspirations to shine through – their sense of melody.
“I’ve been YC since I was 12 years old,” he says. “I outgrew it. I was limited by the sort of Golden Era brand that I built as YC the Cynic. Now I’m able to let my true inspirations and influences show through melody as well. Starting new as Kemba feels like the next step in my evolution.”
Kemba’s story starts in the Hunt’s Point section of The Bronx, where he was the middle child of a single mother in an R&B-filled household. His older brother, himself an accomplished rapper, was the one who first brought hip-hop into the house, and started his younger sibling on a new path.
By the time he was nine, Kemba was already writing raps, and he never looked back. The ability to rhyme was his one relief from childhood teasing over severe eczema, which lasted well into his teens.
“My childhood memories are covered with scabs and palm-fulls of cocoa butter,” he recalls. “I remember all the trial and error I went through. I remember vividly times I've gotten out of the shower and didn’t put the petroleum on fast enough, so I had to carefully get back into the shower before my skin cracked and I started to bleed. From first grade to my junior year in high school, I was the kid with the reptile skin. The one redeeming quality I had was that I could rap.”
At 17, Kemba faced another, even more serious obstacle – a tumor in perhaps the worst spot for an aspiring rapper, his jaw. He faced constant surgeries (“If I wrote a “Through The Wire” for every time my mouth was wired shut, I'd have a concept EP,” he jokes), and doctors told him he’d be lucky to be able to talk at the end of the process, never mind rap. But Kemba made it through and continued working steadily.
As YC the Cynic, he released critically acclaimed projects like Fall FWD and 2013’s powerful GNK, the latter of which earned near-universal critical praise as “one of the best projects of the year” for its “lyrical mastery” and the artist’s “smooth, yet complex, flow.” But Kemba’s new moniker marks a new phase, one that was inspired by the same events that would cause a protest movement that shook the country.
The Black Lives Matter movement, and the police violence and political corruption that inspired it, are at the core of Negus. Songs like “Heartbeat” and “Greed” deal smartly and passionately with matters of literal life and death to Kemba and his community.
“When I started writing this album, the plan was for it to have a lighter mood than GNK,” he reveals. “Then Mike Brown was killed. Then Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, Freddie Gray, and over and over again. I couldn’t write about anything else at that point. I felt my life was in danger. And so were the lives of the people I love.”
The album also focuses on Kemba’s personal artistic revolution. The single “Already” was written well before the name change became public – as, Kemba says, “my way of setting it in stone.” The track’s accompanying video takes sharp aim at a music industry that keeps its artists in an endless stage-to-prison pipeline.
Kemba’s roots in hip-hop’s birthplace of The Bronx come through in everything he does. He is a co-founder of the noted local hip-hop organization the Rebel Diaz Arts Collective, which runs a community center in the South Bronx with lectures, classes, and more. That mission to return something to the community is forever a part of Kemba’s mission.
“The Bronx is the place that made me who I am,” he explains. “I feel an obligation to give back to the people here. I want to help and also shine the light on people better equipped to help.”
With Negus, Kemba has made an album that reaches both back to his neighborhood and out to a wider world fighting for justice in new and exciting ways. And he does it with those rarest of qualities, radical openness and honesty.
“As an artist, I finally learned where my art and my life meet,” he says. “I finally learned to be completely open and honest, baring my soul and insecurities, because that’ll make for the best art, and the best artist.”
After touring with G-Eazy, in 2015 he released LIMBO, an EP produced by TV on The Radio’s Dave Sitek, developing his "experimental soul" sound to set him apart from his peers. After supporting Kehlani on a nationwide tour, Pell launched his first headlining run, spanning 28 cities and music festivals across the country including Hangout, Firefly, and Pemberton.
2016 proved to be a pivotal year musically for Pell. Singles such as “Show Out”, “Basic Beach”, and “All In A Day’s Work” propelled him to a wider reach but his recording sessions with Louis The Child would be key. Under the moniker, Pellican Child, they would produce the single “Turn Me Down” and garner 2M+ plays across streaming platforms. With momentum on his side, Pell remained busy throughout 2016, collaborating with Big Gigantic, Boys Noize, and AlunaGeorge, plus performing at shows with Tory Lanez, Sweater Beats and more.
There was no drop off in 2017. Pell performed at festivals such as Bottlerock, Forecastle, JMBLYA and more. Alongside his festival circuit, Pell became a Red Bull Sound Select artist, which led to two new London On Da Track-produced singles, “Patience” and “Jam." The latter record was featured on a national Samsung Galaxy S8 campaign. In December 2017, Pell released his EP,girasoul, via Payday Records The project featured collaborators such as Saba, Imad Royal, Roget Chahayed, Bill Delelles and Vérité. girasoul has over 4.5 million streams to date.
Ever evolving and looking to the future, in 2018 Pell linked with NGHTMRE for Magic Hour EP, which went through Mad Decent in June 2018. The EP, which was meant as a bridge to a future project, was followed up by “Hear Me,” a song that is featured on Madden 19 soundtrack and co-produced by Pell, an aspect of his skill set that he continues to develop.
"My transition has really been a musical one in terms of me being more hands-on," he says, "I'm definitely producing a lot more and I feel like that's helping me create in different ways. I just like being the musician with it now and just not the artist. I can be in different rooms and contribute different things other than my voice."
Before his new project drops in 2019, Pell plans to release four new loose singles that he will begin to roll out to preview his new melodic direction to fans. “Fallback” — one of the four singles being released — is an excellent example of Pell’s ever evolving sound. With over 90M streams to his name and being one of the new faces of NOLA, Pell is turning his dreams into his reality. "I feel like I give songs soul, something not tangible but you feel it." Soul indeed.
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