Thirty Nothing
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Thirty Nothing

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Photo by Saada Awaleh-God.


September 9, 2009 (09/09/09) was going to be a huge day for Toronto emcee Ian Kamau. Besides the fact that he was turning thirty on that day, the artist (better known simply as “Kamau” from guest appearances on k-os albums) was going to release his first full-length solo album in over a decade of active participation in the Toronto hip-hop scene.
There was much thought behind the planned date. As Kamau wrote to the members of his Facebook group:

Nine is a number of completion, the last number before a restart/reset. Nine is the last number before ten, ninety-nine the last digit before one hundred etc. It symbolizes completion, not an end, completion is the end of a cycle not an entire process, meaning the completion of a stage/phase and entering into a new phase… nine multiplied by any number from 0-10 will equal nine when you add the two numbers in the answer. Three is also a significant number in that many things simplest group of things…you can’t have a simpler grouping then three.. one less then three is two and that is a pair not a group.…This might seem a little strange to some, but this is the reason that I was pushing to have my album come out on this day.

Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out as planned. As an independent artist responsible for almost every aspect of putting out his music, Kamau wasn’t able to finish the product on the self-imposed deadline. He did, however, have a party.
It was a full house at the Anitafrika Dub Theatre, packed with supporters from a tight-knit community. After a short introductory speech by Kamau, in which he described the listening party as somewhat “awkward and uncomfortable” for him, the quiet emcee had DJ Nana play nine songs from the upcoming album. Attendees took in songs from the new LP amidst candles and dimmed lights, applauding and shouting their support. Between a couple of songs, Kamau let the audience know he had stopped sampling, and that everything was produced in a sun gallery on Esplanade—impressive, considering the high level of musicality showcased that night. It was hip-hop heavily influenced by jazz and blues, full-bodied with no compromise on words or rhythm.
Known for exceptionally well-crafted lyrics, Kamau had the audience’s full attention during the playing of the unforgettable “Black Bodies,” a song that took Toronto residents back to the infamous, “summer of the gun” by examining gun violence through the socio-political factors that contributed to it. During the chorus he sings: “Black bodies on the concrete/falling down, calling out/save our souls.”
Attendees (and anyone else who might be interested) already had a chance to sample some of Kamau’s new material through a series of free, downloadable mixtapes. Volume 1 and Volume 2 of the September Nine series were released this summer, and Volume 3 is on the way. In addition to getting exclusives from the upcoming album, partygoers were also treated to corn soup and birthday cake. And all they had to do was listen.

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