Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Sons of Kemet

  • Burn [Naim, 2013] **
  • Your Queen Is a Reptile [Impulse, 2018] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Burn [Naim, 2013]
A debut that flaunts their sound, suggests their parameters, and establishes their bona fides ("The Godfather," "Rivers of Babylon") **

Your Queen Is a Reptile [Impulse, 2018]
Where Elizabeth slithers, British-Barbadian tenor saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings's queens stand tall: Ada Eastman, Mamie Phipps Clark, Harriet Tubman, Anna Julia Cooper, Angela Davis, Nanny of the Maroons, Yaa Asantewaa, Albertine Sisulu, and Doreen Lawrence--one track apiece, look 'em up. This show of matrifocal bravado sharpens and embellishes Sons of Kemet's unique and arresting sonics: West Indian Coltrane/Rollins over two drummers, tuba for bass, and occasional intoned vocals. Purposefully yet also playfully, the implicit politics channel the sweep of the band's third and most finished album. My favorite sequence calms Angela Davis's speedy clatter with a playground melody that implies Nanny of the Maroons had more time for child care than her military record suggests, after which Yaa Asantewaa's track begins calm and builds like her Ashanti revolution. Or so we are left free to imagine. A-