In 2016, Matthew Jefferson released NEGUS, his first album as Kemba after releasing a few mixtapes under the name "YC the Cynic". As his Wikipedia page recounts, he was interviewed by Peter Rosenberg on his radio show when NEGUS dropped and then called up by Kendrick Lamar to rap onstage at his concert. This series of events can seem like the beginning of a familiar trajectory into rap stardom, but Kemba's rise was stalled. In 2017, the Bronx artist's mother passed away and he had to recollect the pieces of himself. Fast forward two years and we're seeing both the result of this process and the process itself in the form of a beautiful album named after his mom, Gilda.
Kemba's reintroduction coincides with his signing to Republic Records. Gilda has the complete, expansive and colourful sound of a project that stands as the amalgamation of all the milestone events that preceded it. It can be a tough listen, as Kemba is left with the project of working through fragments of memories and stitching them into something beautiful - something he could proudly hold out and present to the world. It's filled with his mother's advice to him and her dreams for him. It's fortunate that Kemba no longer goes by YC the Cynic because that pseudonym would not be apt for this album. There's nothing cynical about it. It's hopeful.