KABAKA PYRA­MID

Kingston’s Kemetic bass com­men­ta­tor finds the golden mean of hip-hop/reg­gae fu­sion.

Mojo (UK) - - News -

De­spite grow­ing up in a mid­dle-class dis­trict of Kingston, Ja­maica, Keron Salmon was a hip-hop head for much of his youth. “Mu­sic needs to be thought-pro­vok­ing for me to en­joy it and really find value in it,” he ex­plains, “and hip-hop mu­sic, just like reg­gae, has its con­scious side as well as its sec­u­lar side. I used to lis­ten to a lot of Dead Pres­i­dents, Wu Tang, Nas and Rakim, who deal with con­scious is­sues in their mu­sic, even if they might touch upon some things we might not con­sider con­scious.” Part-way through his teens, he ex­pe­ri­enced some­thing of an epiphany via ex­po­sure to Rasta-ori­ented per­form­ers whose fire­brand de­liv­er­ies held hip-hop un­der­cur­rents. “It’s not un­til I got to soak in some of [un­com­pro­mis­ing Rasta sing-jay] Siz­zla Kalonji’s mu­sic that it really trans­formed my life com­pletely; it trans­formed my outlook, my iden­tity, and I really started to see my­self as an African, as a Rasta­fari youth.” Re-emerg­ing in 2010 as Kabaka Pyra­mid (Kabaka means ‘King’ in the east African Bu­ganda lan­guage; ‘Pyra­mid’ for its cos­mo­log­i­cal as­so­ci­a­tions), he shifted to an Afro­cen­tric world­view in­formed by the Kemetic his­tory of an­cient Egypt, his bud­ding locks re­veal­ing a non-stan­dard Rasta­fari in­flu­ence and his mu­sic now us­ing an un­prece­dented blend

of hip-hop and reg­gae to de­liver songs of so­cial com­men­tary and black pride. The de­but Kabaka Pyra­mid EP, The Sound, sur­faced on his own Beb­ble Rock la­bel in 2011, the roots reg­gae back­ing con­trast­ing sharply with the hip-hop styling of his vo­cal flow. Like Jah9’s ‘jazz

on dub’ sub-genre, Kabaka’s newly-anointed hy­brid style was very much his own, and col­lab­o­ra­tion with lead­ing ‘reg­gae re­vival’ vo­cal­ist Pro­toje on the out­stand­ing sin­gle War­rior, on which Kabaka de­clares him­self a “black ver­sion” of both free­dom fighter Che Gue­vara and TV ac­tion hero MacGyver, helped bring him to the wider no­tice of reg­gae fans; Mi Al­right, voiced with ris­ing reg­gae star Chronixx, high­lighted Kabaka’s abil­ity to in­cor­po­rate a hard-edged rap flow, even on the pop­pi­est of reg­gae rhythms. Last year, Kabaka teamed up with Damian ‘Ju­nior Gong’ Mar­ley for the casti­gat­ing sin­gle Well Done, tak­ing world lead­ers to task for their ne­far­i­ous wrong-do­ings. An al­bum, co-pro­duced by Mar­ley, is now in the works while a sec­ond sin­gle, Can’t Breathe, pushes against the pres­sures of mod­ern ur­ban life. “It’s been a great plea­sure work­ing with him, as he’s a ge­nius,” says Pyra­mid of Mar­ley. “He’s al­ways work­ing, some­times to the wee hours of the morn­ing, and the mu­sic that we’ve done, I’m very proud of it.” Ul­ti­mately, Kabaka sees reg­gae and rap as al­ter­nate forms of in­spi­ra­tion. “I think hip-hop has been more about wit­ti­ness, in­tel­lect and lyri­cal abil­ity, but reg­gae mu­sic has al­ways been the spir­i­tual con­tri­bu­tion, and the bass line some­times just trans­forms me to a dif­fer­ent place.” David Katz

Lead­ing the way: Kabaka Pyra­mid, war­rior at the hip-hop/reg­gae in­ter­face.

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