- Aug 22, 2020
Album Review: Kvzmvn
by Portia Zuba Uwase
"I expected to enjoy the project because I loved, and still love, their previous work, but I could not have anticipated how provocative, dark, and politically charged it would be."
I was eagerly waiting for Kvzmn, a joint project between singers Sogokuru and Yannick MYK, since they first announced it. I expected to enjoy the project because I loved, and still love, their previous work, but I could not have anticipated how provocative, dark, and politically charged it would be. This album is about two black men coming to terms with the fact that they will always be the villains in a world that is determined to see them as threats and them embracing that villainousness. The album is satirical in a way because the singers acknowledge that they, black people all over the world, have been plundered, as author Ta-Nehisi likes to say, and subjected to a system(capitalism) that would cease to exist if it weren’t for the constant violence inflicted on black/brown people. Yet, the singers are also participating in that system and seemingly relishing the experience.
1900, the first track, is reminiscent of the disco era of the 80’s. Sogokuru and Yannick MYK are asking their love interests to pull up at their trap house(a place where drugs are illegally sold). The irony is once again present because the characters are telling their love interests that they are safe in a trap house yet trap houses harbor criminals and are therefore likely to be raided anytime by the police.
Kvzmvn is my favorite song on the album because of the urgency in the beats achieved through the use of rapid drums and background noises that sound like protests or battle cries. The sampling of Rwandan traditional folk songs, the narration of the colonial legacy of Rwanda and how colonization perpetuated extreme divisionism which eventually resulted into a full fledged genocide against the Tutsi, and references to Rwandan cultural customs such as kwivuga, an elegant take on bragging, bring forth the familiar Rwandan nostalgic thematic present on the duo’s past records. Additionally, the song explores the perpetual state of paranoia black men, particularly those who have been forced into a life of crime, live in because they are easy targets of either the police or business rivals which necessitates the need to carry arms to protect themselves and drugs to help them forget all the injustices of the world as well as people who owe them money for drugs. Remember their trap house?
Tulitsabolo opens with a sample of Philemon Niyomugabo’s “Munsabire”, an anxious and melancholic pondering over the future, and then the song transitions to a trap-induced beat where Yannick MYK is essentially saying “fuck that future shit, YOLO.” This was such an ingenious way of showing how people who go into crime are, in most cases, well aware of the consequences especially when they are black, but still have little regard for their own life because life and racism haven’t given them much of a choice. The title of the track, which could loosely be translated as “pop that shit”, is consistent with the theme of violence and the use of the imagery of weapons through out the whole album. It is also possible that Sogokuru and Yannick MYK are bragging, rightfully so, about their abilities as rappers and producers especially in the lines “Ibyo dukora si ibya buri wese”. The song closes with Yannick MYK urging everyone to be humble because “money comes and goes.”
The fourth song KLLDMKK( Kill Dem Quick) reminds me of Daft Punk and Pharell’s Get Lucky. I thought that it was an interesting beat to use considering that it is very upbeat yet the content of the song is about the deadliness of both Yannick MYK and Sogokuru’s gangs as characters in this album and their figurative deadliness as musicians capable of annihilating their competitors. The song ends with words of wisdom where Sogokuru is encouraging people to embrace change because it is, as a matter of fact, the only constant.
Intanashono embodies everything I have come to associate with Yannick MYK’s music: humor, blunt lyrics marinated in Rwandan slang, and the inevitable blows thrown in his rivals’ direction.
“Wari washishurwa wajya gushishura nawe ugasanga uri kwishishura, iyeee babyita kwihurura sino gushishura.”
The song ends with Sogokuru proclaiming that while it may be easy to steal their style, achieving his and Yannick MYK’s success is much harder. These lines can also be used to describe the character’s notoriety in the drug business.
Nighttime! is a slow trap beat with police sirens in the background to portray how Yannick MYK and Sogokuru are always inches away from being arrested. As it can be inferred from the previous sentence, lyrically “Nighttime!” is a detailed account of Sogokuru and Yannick MYK’s drug operations, their desire for succeeding in a capitalist society, and their lack of fear for crime. As I have alluded in previous paragraphs, this is symbolic of how oppressed groups usually try to thrive in a system that oppresses them instead of trying to dismantle it.
Reba Meduza is another favorite of mine because we get to know the characters, Sogokuru and Yannick MYK, a little more. By now the characters have become desensitized to violence because they are constantly flirting with danger and because their desire for money and power has overpowered their humanity. Sadly, “money no longer comes and goes” to Yannick MYK and Sogokuru as they had sang in Tulitsabolo. These lines in particular demonstrate their newfound instinct for killing:
“Twe ntidutinya, mu mitima n’umwijima ikipe igizwe n’ibisuma.”
Furthermore, we learn that the character Sogokuru can’t commit to his love interest because he considers love expensive.
Marijoanna, a playful pun on marijuana, is a beautiful zouk song that talks about the characters’ love for drugs and the stigma attached to drugs(weed) especially when they are done by poor and/or black people. Sogokuru goes on to mention that people who are critical of drugs do so out of ignorance. They wouldn’t know how the drugs help folks get closer to “Jah.” I loved this song because it can be romantic depending on how you look at it and because it is a reminder of how marginalized communities resort to drugs as a way to cope.
Kolimiti, an enjoyable afrobeat ensemble, creates an ideal backdrop for the characters who are encouraging partying and money spending, implying that they have probably earned a lot of cash money from their drug deals and are ready to mingle with the ladies. However, Yannick MYK’s character remains cautious and can’t be complacent because of the life he leads.
“One time gusa ntacyo bitwaye iri joro niryawe.”
Mukobua plays with hints of morna influences, a Cape Verdian and Portuguese form of music. In this song, the characters make use of their best pickup lines and promise to spoil the love interests they met at the club with money.
“Jeans zawe zira fittinga mère wawe yakoze imiti” // “kira phone ukubitemo nbr mobile money ushyiremo ayo ushaka” respectively.”
Iminsi, which is a mid-tempo ballad, the love interests of Sogokuru and Yannick MYK discover that the characters were drug dealers, prompting the characters to confess to their love interests that they made promises of wife-ing them under the influence and that they were incapable of loving because they were “heartless.” The characters’ bragging about being cold and unable to give and receive love because love would be used as a weapon against them is saddening. It goes to show how being cold and intentionally lacking vulnerability is a survival tactic for men, particularly black men, who have embraced the life of crime.
Now that the rest of the world is slowly catching up or trying to take responsibility for the violence they have inflicted on black and brown people, an album like Kvzmvn is even more relevant. It accurately portrays the branding of black men as criminals particularly in the west and how that labeling eventually leads many black men to a life of crime because that is how they can afford to feed themselves. I am hopeful that Rwandans who find themselves apathetic to the violence committed against other black people across the diaspora will be more compassionate after listening to Kvzmvn because no matter where one is black people will never be entirely safe or unexploited when white supremacy, capitalism, and patriarchy all reign supreme. I appreciated the use of different styles of music because they added nuance to the storytelling. The lyrics and the cover art were so intentional and consistent in depicting the constant combative mind state black men in a life of crime must cultivate. Sogokuru and Yannick MYK truly outdid themselves with Kvzmvn.