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There’s a chance you’ve heard pianist Drew Kid, even if you didn’t realize he was there. He’s played keys on some of the D.C. area’s better releases—yU’s the EARN, the 1978ers’ People of Today, Dunc’s Cycles—and gigs regularly with various bands throughout the city. Kid is pretty low-key, and his music—a fluid blend of jazz, soul, and hip-hop—is equally unassuming. As frontman of the Oooh Child Ensemble, his band is all over the musical spectrum, and the group’s new album—Rebirth—calmly migrates from traditional jazz to funk and R&B in a breezy 30-minute haze.
Despite its brief runtime, Rebirth is full of subtle nuances and creative shifts, giving the album a textured resonance that scans as jazz, though it feels like something much deeper. It’s music that just is—existing without preconceived notions of what it’s supposed to be, reaching for something different yet largely accessible.
Rebirth feels driven by adversity. It’s carried by a persistent fog that gives the music a crisp, autumn-like vibe. Kid dedicates Rebirth to his aunt, Maria Corazon Cerafica, who died of heart disease in 2010, and his mother, Josefina Cerafica Flores, who died of lung cancer in 2011. You hear their voices throughout the album, and its two best songs—“Cerafica” and “Rebirth”—are directly influenced by those women. “Cerafica”—his mother’s maiden name—pivots between a swing melody and rapid Latin-inspired percussion, emitting a sophisticated tenor. “Rebirth,” the album’s title track and lead single, loosely interprets Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Bottle.” Written in the summer of 2010, the title alludes to a rebirth of sorts for his aunt, resurrecting her spirit with bright Cuban rhythms.
Though Kid is the album’s central figure, Rebirth is as much about its guests. Rapper yU appears on “Gettin’ Over,” offering a standout verse about his father, who also died of lung cancer. “I mean, how can I relax,” yU rhymes, “when my Pops he didn’t nap until he passed.” Producer Drew Dave spits a rare flow about his own come up: “Used to keep my feelings under wrap, tryna guard shit/But now I put them all up in my music, this is God’s gift.” The song is about fighting to move past obstacles. It’s about toughing out the bad times and preparing for better days.
Elsewhere, on the shape-shifting “Diko’s Groove,” Kid and the band craft a funk gem that evokes Kool & the Gang and Sly and the Family Stone. The instrumental plods along smoothly, with the drums breaking down into a nearly one-minute solo at the end similar to Sly’s almost 14-minute romp, “Sex Machine.”
Toward the middle of Rebirth, and the end of “Afrocentric Asians,” we hear Kid’s mother calling him in college to wish a happy 19th birthday. It’s a sweet message that most of us have received from loved ones at some point or another. Perhaps on purpose, Drew puts the voicemail squarely in the middle of the album, signaling a transition for himself and his art, letting us know that his mom still guides his steps, although she isn’t physically here.
That explains why Rebirth feels so transformative: Kid is one of the coolest guys in the room, adding his own flair to traditional sounds—though it’s not always apparent. You’ll realize he’s there soon enough.