The first that strikes you about Kubwa Baraka Johnson is what’s written on his website: “I’ve gone thru many metamorphoses as an artist, but one thing remains the same….I AM NOT A RAPPER!” Continuing, he says: “However, I have an ability to use words and the music’s powerful influence to create a sound blended with witty wordplay and harmony. I utilize Rap/Hip-Hop to inspire and raise awareness of self and our connection to others.”
I’m not sure where that bold statement is meant to lead to, coming from a man who uses the spoken word in his songs, but there is something unearthly yet so earthly about his voice, lyrics, and of course the beats, two of which were produced by none other than Jay Dilla. All of the 8 songs on Baraka Johnson’s “In Love With My Museik” EP were written and recorded in 2009 or before. “Daddy’s Gurl”, “Rode Bluz” and “Huslaz Anthem” are all more than 10 years old.
There is something beautifully deranged about this work, like the acid-dream sounds of “Stone” which rides atop a sample of Gino Vanelli’s “Getting’ High”. It ebbs and flows between reality and some alternate musical universe, which produces the effect of a warped, time signature. These wave variances have subtle effects on the mind causing the brain to produce a chemical response. These chemicals do one of two things; they help you to see the doorway to this alternate audio dimension in all its wonders and potential, or they initiate a rapid shut-down of your alternate awareness, anchoring you to the most common version of hip-hop and rap music shared by most people of this world. To put it briefly, Baraka Johnson’s old school influenced spoken word music, redefines and redirects, hip-hop as we know it.
The first single to come off the EP will be “Huslaz Anthem”. There is nothing else that sounds like this right now, and you might need to go back to the 90s to find anything close. Nevertheless, anyone who likes hip-hop that dares to be different and true at the same time needs to check this out. The 2 tracks produced by Jay Dilla, “Grassroots” and “War” featuring ILLIMIJ with Robert Illo, just puts the cherry on top of this collection.
For those who are sick and tired of the ear candy played on the radio. The seemingly endless loop of standard beats; standard topics; standard deliveries and especially the standard bikini-clad, booty-shaking rap video, this is the EP to have. Slick and unassuming, Baraka Johnson composes in a way in which the voice, samples and beats weave in and out; each equal in importance; leaving his words and messages to ride above the musical tide.
The “In Love With My Museik” EP works so well on a whole. There is an undeniable organic feel to it. As opposed to the top-40 over produced hip-hop, this album gives the impression of unrelenting talent at work. And whether or not Baraka Johnson claims to NOT be a rapper really doesn’t matter to me. I just dig the music as it is!