Already on a prolific roll this fall with the releases of their deeply grooving and soul transportive singles “Long Live King T’challa” and “No Idea,” brothers Pihon and SamUiLL Kalonji – aka the Nairobi born, L.A. based duo PS The ReBels – meet our current fraught, anxious moment boldly, brashly and purposefully with “Bumaye,” an uplifting and empowering anthem fusing their trademark alt hip-hop vibes, a clever and insightful narrative flow and an infectious tribal chant of the title (which means “kill ‘em” in the language of Lingala, an indigenous language spoken in the Congo) that pays homage to their father’s native land.
As you tap your feet, chant along and find yourself swept up in the swirling energies of their battle cry, you’ll no doubt get the feeling that the brothers are tapping into this watershed world of 2020, where masked faces and social consciousness are intensely entwined. So it’s very interesting and even a bit surprising to learn that the track was originally conceived back in 2013, shortly after the Kalonji brothers started working with veteran hit writer/producer and “mixologist” MouseQuake (Nas, Lil’ Wayne, Scarface, Zaytoven, Rakim, Pimp C). Considering our emotional and spiritual needs of the moment, we should count ourselves grateful that it took them a handful of years to craft what they call (and you’ll take viscerally to heart as) “an inspirational message of fire and bombast.”
From the start, PS The Rebels – joined by Congolese-American artist Kajad – make their specific audience clear above the hypnotic chant of “Bumaye!,” although we can all connect in spirit with “the hustlers,” “the grinders” and “all-time survivors” and their provocative call, “whatever you do, go kill ‘em.” Though it’s a timeless sociopolitical statement of harsh historical racial truths – including incisive lines like “They used to hang my ancestors from trees with no respect” and “Peace to my ancestors with chains round they wrist” – one of the big thematic selling points of “Bumaye!” is its connection to a the title phrase being made famous during the legendary “Rumble in the Jungle,” the 1974 bout between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in what was then Zaire.
Over the backing chants, one of the key lines they rap is “A hustler, Bumaye! A grinder, Bumaye! Say Ali Bumaye! Ali Bumaye!” The connection is clear between the legendary attitude and stamina of the world’s greatest boxer and the needs of his people past and present to fight for justice as the ancestors shine on and their modern-day descendants are called to redress centuries of wrongs. Though Ali is PS The Rebels’ most prominent reference, equally impactful (for those who know their recent history) is their name check of Kwame Ture - a prominent organizer in the U.S. Civil Rights movement and global Pan-African movement.
The duo lightens the load a bit by following their incendiary call “Never tell them sorry, when we buymaye and then we conquer” and “Hard work plus dedication is what it takes to succeed” with a playful nod to “MouseQuake on the beat,” as if their producer is helping them add to this crucial call to action and arms. Other African centered references that should have you Googling are “pull up in an all balack Katanka” (a Ghana based auto assembler and manufacturer) and “Peace to Kabaka” (the traditional rule of the Baganda people of Uganda).
A rough translation of “Hasante sana kwa hi barake” is “blessing, thank you very much brother,” which – whether you take the time to dig deep into the ethnic phrasing or not – is a sentiment you will share once you let Bumaye! wash over your sense and rouse you to action. Their crafty rhyme of “From Los Angeles to the land of Wakanda” with “all black Kantanka” is whimsical reference to their adopted home, the cultural phenomenon of “Black Panther” and their recent single “Long Live King T’chall