Many rappers today want to tell you about their wealth — the designer clothes, the luxury cars, the endless fountains of champagne. Not Khemist. This Philadelphia-based rapper and poet just released a new single called “I Been On a Budget” that exposes the difficult life of the starving artist. The song’s composition calls back to jazz rap of the early 1990s as defined by groups such as A Tribe Called Quest and Digable Planets. A combination of bass, drums, and horns underscore Khemist’s verses and emphasizes that, while a musician’s struggle to make ends meet is not new, it still matters.
After two sharp snare clicks, Khemist takes off. Opening lyrics, “I hate this job that I got / I hate these floors that I mop / These god damn walls that I wash,” are supported by a funky bass riffs and steady drums. Khemist’s background as a spoken word poet is apparent in this single as his lyrics are intricate and plentiful. It feels as if he can barely take a breath, which is a fitting affect considering how suffocated he feels by dead-end jobs, graveyard shifts, and insufficient paychecks. Khemist laments about student loans and asks the question on every millennial’s mind, “what the hell did I get a college degree for?”
As the seven-minute track continues, Khemist becomes frenzied and a drum solo at the five minute mark highlights just how unrelenting his anxieties about money are. He says it best in this line: “You don’t know how desperate I am / Cash rules everything around me.” “I Been On A Budget” is an powerful, jazzy anthem for every aspiring artist who is hustling to their next paycheck.
Khemist will perform at Sittin In’: Live Sessions featuring Ursula Rucker’s Supa Sista Presents on April 24. Sittin’ In is a monthly series at the Kimmel Center that brings new, cutting-edge artists to Philadelphia audiences. The series strives to defy musical genre and pulls on everything from straight-ahead jazz to freestyle hip-hop and everything in between. Best of all, the event will be hosted in the Kimmel’s Commonweath Plaza and is free to the public. This month’s Sittin’ In will feature Ursula Rucker, a Philadelphia-based poet and hip-hop artist who has been active in the scene for over twenty years. The event will also showcase poet / emcee / activist Geri Omni, hip-hop / soul artist and activist A’Xavier Lovehall, and live painter Anthony Carlos Molden.
For more information about Sittin’ In, go to the Kimmel Center website. Check out Khemist’s new single, “I Been On a Budget” below.
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