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Live Review: Kwame and Tasman Keith link up and go hard on 'ONE'

22 April 2021 | 1:23 pm | Emma Jones

Taking square aim at the music industry, Kwame and Tasman Keith deliver a collaboration for the ages in their hard af new single 'ONE'.

Kwame and Tasman Keith have teamed up to release a hard, incendiary and impressive new collaborative single titled 'ONE'. The two juggernauts on parallel paths have now entered each other's orbits, both rising to the occasion while extracting the very best their counterpart has to offer. While they've worked together in other capacities (Kwame in the producer seat for Keith's recent mixtape, and the pair joining forces on stage at the end of 2020), they've not quite ticked off the collaboration box until now. And for us, it's a no brainer that these two would eventually meet on a track, and it's also no surprise that when that opportunity finally came, it would be a serious MOMENT indeed.

Both artists have a lot in common: they're coming up in a time when hip hop in this country continues to go from strength to strength, they each openly delve into their lives to deliver raw and honest work, and they both have openly discussed their gripes with the music industry machine. Their artistry is fierce and bold, with both choosing to remain authentic and true to themselves instead of heading after trends, and they both continue to evolve this artistry to ensure each and every release is 100% them. 'ONE' is no exception, with the pair taking square aim at players and labels which are happy to snap up rappers with shiny record deals only to forget about them and stifle their art. Both Kwame and Keith take no prisoners, delivering merciless bars as they assert themselves and their own agency, citing their individual experiences as well as drawing on the power that comes with finding solidarity between each other. It's brilliant, exhilarating and an end result worthy of both their talents.

Sonically, the track is produced by Kapital J and Kwame, and is the key driver in the high energy the rappers are able to tap into. It channels early 2000s hip hop classics, providing the duo the perfect foundation to really go. In a press release, Kwame said, "I remember walking outside where one of the setups were and hearing a drum loop that Kapital J had started and my first reaction was "OH this shit go!" It was such an organic moment and I instantly knew how I wanted to approach the chorus."

It's this organic nature which sets this song apart from any regular collaboration. The energy between the two artists is borne from an organic and natural mutual respect, as well as their shared ethos of backing yourself, knowing your worth and doing your thing. It kicks into gear immediately, and never once lets up as the pair take the track and run with it. From Keith's menacing opening bars in which he immediately clocks anyone who has claimed to "like my shit" without realising he can see right through them, to Kwame delivering showstopping bars of his own in which he shares his knowledge of how he's navigated the industry as a young, black, independent artist, there is not one bit of holding back on this song.

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The main message comes to a head when Keith goes in with the lines "Oh you an obvious rapper, I see the problem with rappers/ I see the politic, actin’ like you a politic rapper/ Labels that polish these rappers, able and pocket these rappers/ And then they let ‘em all go, hood robbing these rappers." It's here they detail the reality of being a young artist with DMs full of A&R reps trying to get a new signing with no knowledge of the scenes and communities they are guests in, and the fundamental lack of respect many have for artists they only see as quick cash cows. By "pocketing" these rappers and then letting them go with debt and broken dreams, many are essentially robbed of their potential careers as they're hoodwinked by the glitz of the industry covering the grit. Further, Keith explains that while these labels might indeed want a rapper on paper, they're quick to try and make these artists pivot from their craft to more palatable and less political work. And, with many music industry companies quick to assert their wokeness without actually doing the work in their day to day operations, it's exactly this that Kwame and Tasman are putting firmly on notice.

Of their relationship with each other, Kwame said, "I feel like there's always been this level of respect that Tasman and I have for each other. I've always highly rated Tasman as an amazing all-round artist! In my opinion, he has one the sharpest pens within the rap community of Australia." Keith agreed, saying "There are very few in this country who as soon as they drop make me want to go into the studio and get to work, almost like a friendly competition. He is one of them. When we properly got to connect during my mixtape sessions we both realised how much alike we are."

The clip's message is further amplified by the Zain Ayub (a frequent collaborator and artistic director) directed visuals in which the pair sit down in an interrogation room with a suit, going through piles of papers only to throw them off the table completely and take total control of the situation. Tasman Keith weighed in on the song, saying, "ONE is our chance to not only show off and make one of the hardest tracks to date but also bring attention to certain things in the industry that we feel are outdated. The energy is unmatched and to share the record with someone who I strongly consider top tier, is special and allows us to create such a moment. Big love to Kapital, Nikos as well, this song wouldn’t exist without them."

Both Kwame and Tasman Keith released career-defining mixtapes last year, and both remain at the top of their game. Both strive to better the industry they operate in not just for themselves, but for others as well, and both deliver defining performances on 'ONE'. There is simply no question as to whether these two will continue to rise, it's more a question of if everyone else is ready for them now. Answer: We certainly are.

'ONE' is out now. Buy/stream here.

Words by Emma Jones

Image: Snappatronik