If you are steeped in the hip-hop or spoken word scene of Toronto, you have probably seen Ian Kamau perform, heard one of his songs, read one of his poems or at the very least heard of him. Even if you’ve never been to Toronto, you might be familiar with his work from the time he toured the globe with K-OS or appeared on some of his albums as the lone guest emcee. Perhaps you’ve come across Kamau from the time he has spent travelling and working with communities from Sao Paola, Brazil to Accra, Ghana. However it is that you came across his work, you were definitely left with no doubt that he has a way with words. A “natural” so to speak.
For his debut full-length release, “One Day Soon” Kamau embarks on a journey to find his way with music, singing on a majority of the tracks, playing most of the music for the project and completely eschewing samples. It’s a bold undertaking but it succeeds in creating a very consistent and unique sound throughout the album that would have been hard to achieve with a hodge podge of beats from half a dozen producers. It’s actually hard to describe some of the music on here as “beats” but then again this is not a typical hip-hop album. Perhaps Kamau was looking into a crystal ball when he recorded some of those songs more than four years ago, as the ambient atmospherics of the soundscape is at times reminiscent of the music now been produced by other Toronto natives such as 40 (Drake’s producer) and The Weeknd.
The content of the album oscillates from the deeply personal story of forbidden love, “Now that I’m Alone” to the social commentary on gun violence in our community – “Black Bodies”. At SUPAFRIK, we are always excited by artists that strive to connect the cultural dots in their work. There are welcome echoes of the African continent on this album from the Tigrinya language intro on the aforementioned “Now…” to the Swahili and subject matter on “Sleeping Giant”. It is clear that Kamau went into this project with an open mind and open ear. Another favourite “Yesterday” sounds like something that would not raise an eyebrow sitting on a Zero 7 album. There are numerous other aural surprises sprinkled through the disc. One day soon this album may be looked upon as a pivotal point in Ian Kamau’s career or even the Toronto music landscape but today we are just glad that it’s here!
Listen to the entire album here and buy it if you like it:
This was a recent promo video shot at Afrofest for Kamau’s “Cocoons”. You might recognize some T-Dot regulars including the SUPAFRIK table being manned by Chinedu.