Refreshed from a recent three week trip to the Ivory Coast, Petworth’s “conscious” emcee Ras Nebyu has released his latest single, “Naturale.”
“This one isn’t as ‘conscious’ as my other material, and it reflects me having a bit more fun making music, the Ethiopian-American rapper says. “I hate when people think, ‘oh, the conscious rapper is always so mad! You have to not alienate people’s natural human desire to want to be entertained.” And in that vein, “Naturale” is more of a love song—or rather an ode to his “black queen” who “looks like Aphrodite,” and his frank and direct appreciation of their love-making.
Produced by Ibrahim Keita, who Nebyu—a Banneker High School graduate—met while Keita was producing beats in his spare time in between classes at Woodrow Wilson High School, “Naturale” is a synth-heavy trap banger with a soulful edge. The two reconnected during Nebyu’s recent Ivory Coast jaunt—where Keita has relocated. He still produces tracks there and promotes concerts, such as a recent event headlined by Nigerian (and Drake-approved) pop vocalist Wiz Kid that Nebyu also performed at.
MY FIRST TIME PERFORMIN IN MAMA AFRICA, HAD THE WHOLE PLACE JUMPIN ALL WILD. I WILL FOREVER BE THANKFUL FOR THE LOVÉ IN ABIDJAN. PERFORMING ALONGSIDE @wizkidayoTHURSDAY AUGUST 6, 2015#WASHINGTONSLIZZARDS
Posted by Ras Nebyu on Monday, August 10, 2015
“The Wiz Kid show was bittersweet,” Nebyu says. “The show was pushed back three hours, so we got about five minutes onstage.” Not so bittersweet was the appreciation he felt from radio DJs and the community in the Ivory Coast’s capital city of Abidjan, where he says, “despite the language barrier” he was played on mainstream radio for two weeks. Also while there, Nebyu noted that he recorded an “unplugged”-style album with a local band, and shot a music video for “Iyah-Tate,” a track that Nebyu describes as “meditative.”
Looking ahead—not just himself, but for D.C.’s rap scene in general—Nebyu says that, though he’s “having fun,” he’s still conscious at the core.
“While I was in the Ivory Coast, I learned that what Jay Electronica said was true: Rap music is the number one form of communication in the world,” Nebyu says. “As far as D.C. and rap, hip-hop’s the best way to communicate the history of what’s happening, the gentrification, everything that’s happening in the city right now. When we look back at these days in 50 years, all we’re going to have is the archived art, so we need to have more voices being heard. We need to look at who and what were on the pedestal. It’s a slap in the face when people don’t get the full picture of everything that’s going on. We have to even the playing field. What are the kids going to do if they don’t know everything? A half-truth is a lie.”
Visit Ras Nebyu’s Soundcloud here.
Due to an editing error, Ibrahim Keita’s last name was spelled incorrectly.