Updated: Aug 20, 2020
"The New Black Theory": Kemba
Production: Frank Drake
‘The most feared and most imitated/ granddaughter love it, granddaddy hate it/ brands pay top dollar to legally take it/ they strip it naked/ we recreate it.’
Intertextuality is a common feature if not a defining characteristic of Hip Hop. It is a referential genre, sometimes even self-referential and on Kemba’s ‘The New Black Theory’ the artist is in conversation with the political ideas of the African American community. The ‘New Black’ is a rather complex term which has taken on different meanings as time has evolved. The term first came onto the scene with Trey Ellis’ essay on the subject in 1989 where he theorised that there was a new black identity emerging among a ‘black bourgeoisie’ that was creating ‘cultural mulattos’. Whilst Ellis’ ideas are problematic and elitist the term endured and has been used by figures today to express how multifaceted blackness can be. Kemba isn’t questioning that on this song. Kemba is reflecting on the use of the term by some as a way of blaming the African American community for contemporary issues and that success is not tied to race but a mindset. ‘Who the new black now?’ Kemba’s question is rhetorical, aimed at figures like Pharrell and Raven Symone, showing that their arguments are facile and ahistorical. Also, the song slaps. Give it a listen.