Black Bastards, KMD

Black Bastards, KMD

Readyrock, 2000

An album that we almost never could listen to. Fortunately, between the different bootlegs and unofficial versions that were leaked, we finally had the right to a proper re-release by Readyrock in 2000.

In fact the story of this young talented group is quite tragic, KMD seems to have been spared by luck. The trio from Long Beach, New York started out as a graffiti group before being offered to appear on a track, The Gas Face, by 3rd Bass. Thanks to this appearance, they were able to quickly get a contract with Elektra through Dante Ross, which would allow them to release a debut album Mr. Hood in 1991.

We tend to forget KMD in the history of Hip Hop, however it is thus that Daniel Dumile, at the time known under the name of Zev Luv X, will make its beginnings with his brother Dingilizwe Dumile a.k.a. DJ Subroc and Onyx the Birthstone Kid. The latter will replace Rodan who left the group before the release of the first album. Daniel Dumile is none other than the masked villain MF Doom that we know today.

Were KMD really abandoned by chance? Yes and no. All three were Muslim activists in the Nuwaubian Nation, a slightly conspiratorial black supremacist movement. Like all Hip Hop artists or groups, this activism will be felt in the lyrics. However, in their first album, KMD will use a falsely candid and humorous approach, which somewhat mitigates the message.

After the release of Mr. Hood, the group prepares Black Bastards, which is initially planned for 1993. But things will not go as planned. With artists like Ice Cube and Paris coming out with a strong and hardcore message, the music industry became nervous and tense. The cover featuring a lynching Sambo did not go over well with Elektra. The record company made the decision to abandon the project and especially to break the group’s contract. However, KMD was no more militant than other group, like Brand Nubian also signed to Elektra. Even if the content of Black Bastards is more hardcore with a harder position than on their first album, the trio still kept a certain touch of lightness. 

Anyway, the end is here, the album is abandoned and we had to wait until 2000 to be able to listen to it in an official version. The advantage is that the group, or rather MF Doom, could do what they wanted and release the album with their own artistic direction, without censorship as it could have been the case if it had been released at the time under Elektra. 

We understood it, the group is hardcore, afrocentric and a bit teasing towards the government, they do not spare themselves to spread their message. The group keeps its sarcastic side while stating its ideals inspired by the rhetoric of the Five Percenters and denouncing racist stereotypes, especially on the tracks Black Bastards and What A Nigga Know? More light-hearted themes are tackled such as alcoholism with Sweet Premium Wine, drug use with Smokin’ That S*#% or women with Plumskinzz. Even if the themes seem more entertaining, the tone used is clearly inflammatory, here we abandon the lightness. If you want to have fun, you’ll have to linger on Contact Blitt which is clearly hilarious with a more relaxed tone.

The funky rhythms are simply magical. We regret the quality of the mix on some tracks linked to the abandonment of the project by Elektra, we can thank them for having killed such a project… A little more care could have been brought to the remastering and to the mix of this reissue. But overall the album sounds right and the productions are very well done. The little flute whistle on What A Nigga Know, the funky synth notes on Sweet Premium Wine or the saxophone on Contact Blit make this album as eclectic as sumptuous.

Black Bastards was considered a Holy Grail in Hip Hop at the time. Everyone wanted to get a copy, even a poor one, to enjoy KMD’s music. An album that could have become a classic, but Elektra preferred to kick KMD out for its so-called too hardcore content. Shortly before the release of the album, DJ Subroc, MF Doom’s brother, died in a tragic car accident. This event, in addition to the disillusionment linked to the breach of contract, pushes KMD to split up, and Zev Luv X leaves the music scene for a long period, disgusted by the music industry. He will return 6 years later as the masked villain MF Doom in 1999 with a first solo album Operation Doomsday.

By Grégoire Zasa

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