During the intro to “Hater Players” on the Black Star LP, Talib mutters that there’s “mad talented cats underground with that raw shit.” I suppose he was talking about the London-born MC from Bean Town, Kabir Sen. “Amartya Sen, a Nobel Laureate renowned for his insights into the economics of poverty,” met a lovely woman (in the ’70s) with whom he had a son; they named him after the sixteenth-century Muslim poet, Kabir.

A half-Indian, half Italian rapper is hard to come by these days; and so is one so blessed with talent. This cat has been the lead vocalist, songwriter and keyboardist of a funk outfit by the name of Uncle Trouble, and dropped his 1st solo project entitled “Cultural Confusion” a couple years back. Not bad for the son of a Nobel Prize winner.

“Fuel for the Fire” is the new 16-track banger and features a span of guest appearances from the likes of Esoteric and III Kings, to name a few. Solomon Grunge and Terminal Bytz handle the bulk of the production, and Kabir even steps behind the boards on a number of tracks; resulting in a synthesis of filthy, melodic composition. The first cut is the title track, where the LP opens up with silky horns and guitar loops, and as you think you are about to hear some Cold Play, the boom-bap comes in and Kabir introduces us to his art, in a voice smoother than ‘Jerome on Martin.”

“I make hip hop music real and raw
’cause everything they say I heard it before
it’s that same old bull, they can’t pull the wool
over my eyes, realize, I’m wise, uprise
From your present state, featherweight, levitate
get it straight if you have to
I’ll relax too in fact you
Need time to hone your skills
Yo Grunge drop digital fills
Undone ill rhythms and some will be kept, while some still
Will be clicked and dragged into the trash
Masked into a blurry nothingness
No bluffing this is just the way things are
I’m shaping solar systems
Rhyming words before I list ’em
In my prose on Papyrus and fire us up with
Beats for your soul […]
But I’m far too advanced and enhanced
The phrasing of my raps dance and glance at me
Lookin up wonderin’ why I’ve chosen ’em
Frozen in my journal they’re helpless prey
And I’m a famished Eagle in this world today”

Shit gets upped a notch on “Essence of Life;” the organic bass thumps deep on this one, while haunted keys resonate in the background. Scratches by none other than Axel Foley are heard throughout the hook, and Kabir croons:

“What sublime beginnings to this essence of life
Blade running strife cuts through my sense of liberty
My sensibilities tend to be challenged with imbalance
Forming intricate patterns of lost forbidden talents
Never cast your ballots when your King gets dethroned
My raps are classic like the voice of James Earl Jones”

“Rise” features Virtuoso and Ajahni, and is a reggae-influenced journey about finding revolution within your self. The beat takes a while to get used to, but it’s a display of Kabir’s fearlessness in creativity. On “Ambition,” Dan Berkson constructs such a soulful-bass guitar-fused crunk-joint that Kabir laces with a thought-inspiring significance. Peep the dope shit:

“Nothing worth believing is too complex
whether it’s a visual image or if it’s on text
Take the time to find the proper context
Probably discoverin’ another concept
I’m like a bomb threat in the midst of the cold war
Scarin rappers shitless from DC to Warsaw
I saw war way before it happened
I’m the Stanley Kubrick Dr. Stranglelove of rappin […]
I wanna kick new flows and prose that glow
Like moonlight on the ocean I wanna feel emotion
That can’t be described by the most vivid imagination
And can’t be fazed by the most livid condemnation
I wanna be part of something bigger than rap got
I figure the jackpot is addictive like crack rock
I wanna use rhymes as means to mobilize the masses
Connect words with thread the needle passes
Life through my glasses reveals the ambition
I’m sittin’ in my car with the keys, lookin for the ignition”

Amayo of Antibalas steps onto the scene to sing the hook on “Revenge,” a pseudo-race riot inciting song of praise that actually espouses the values of ‘thought before action.’ “Adversity” is of tales of the minimum wage earners. The production on this one falters to some extent though. One couldn’t expect them to get it right on the first 9 tracks of the LP; so 8 tracks had to suffice. Moments later the syrupy, reassuring sounds of Lady K can be heard on “Family Feud.” This dysfunctional family cut speaks profoundly on a personal level, and the narrative is authentic. The popcorn-sounding “Money” is a forgettable diatribe on capitalism and how it leads to one choosing a life partner. The theme of love is pursued again with “Mrs. Butterfly” and this is where Kabir’s “Valium milkshake”-smooth voice professes devotion to a slim. Solomon Grunge’s “Disaster” then steps up to the fore with a demented, psychotic bass-driven groove about the dawn of the apocalypse. Here, Kabir switches up his flow and ups the tempo:

“Dingy dungeon roach-infested shambles
scramble out the pocket, fracture eye sockets 
tear cartilage want no part of this dark shit
Always tryin to start shit
Artist with a heart of darkness
Mark this as a date to remember
No light just stained glass silhouettes 
3-D effects and mic checks no sight just sounds
Bust rounds duck down or get blasted in pitch black
You could give a lecture on how a bitch act
Where’s that ‘switch’ at? Blown fuse
Don’t lose perspective, people get neglected 
Infected with the ‘I don’t give a damn’ death wish 
Don’t mess with the poison I’ve ingested
Arabs get arrested, patients get tested
Anthrax in my mail inhaled and digested
Wall Street crashes, no stocks invested
Brokers on the corner feelin sad and rejected”

The penultimate “Dreams” is sung over an overtly organic and musical beat, and is great for a cigar lounge. “Inspiration” ultimately ends this LP with the appearance of III Kings, and here the artists ask us whether this track will be played again for inspiration? Probably, but only if you let the other 15 tracks play through first.

Kabir :: Fuel for the Fire
9Overall Score