by Sam Robinson
Just over a year after the release of his excellent 100 EP, Reach Records artist Kevin Burgess, better known as KB, returns with an album pointing to tomorrow. Tomorrow We Live is focussed on a greater reality that far exceeds the fallen world we experience today. Through an array of styles, many of which is laden in chilled R&B vibes, KB’s sophomore album is a certified winner.
Tomorrow We Live was recorded around the globe, from KB’s home city of Tampa, to Atlanta, and even South Africa. These locations bring a varied sound to the album – from hard-hitting slick trap to celebratory African tribal sounds. KB brings a bunch of surprises on this record – from storytelling that will put a lump in your throat (Calling You) to pop tracks that CCM-spinning radio will lap up (Fall In Love With You) – but it’s the clever mix of KB’s rapping and singing ability and his heart for the gospel that makes this album so great.
Opener Rich Forever is a smooth, R&B number built on a very cool piano motif. It’s a reworking of a song he released last year under the name Silver & Gold. The song opens with KB declaring: ‘Last year I made more money than I ever made in my life,’ and he then shares his experience of growing up poor. The song compares worldly riches to immeasurable heavenly riches that await us in eternity with God.
Lead single Sideways (ft. Lecrae) dwells on the way that Christians are often seen by the world. Super trappy with tight production, this contains one of the best beats on the album, heard best in the coda. And a Lion King reference or two never goes astray.
I Believe (ft. Mattie of For Today) is built on a chanting crowd screaming ‘I believe that we will win!’ Featuring warped trap and tribal influences, KB speaks about the horrors of this world, including cancer and racism. A hope of a perfect tomorrow is pointed to, and the song breaks into an extremely joyful African chorus.
Fall In Love With You came as a bit of a shock to me. It’s a CCM-esque track written from KB to his son. Featuring ukulele with muted brass, it sounds more Jason Mraz than Kevin Burgess. The pop vibes are pushed to party mode on Always & Forever, for me the standout song of Tomorrow We Live. Drenched in soul and funk, this song sounds like a Will Smith track from the late 90s. It’s bright, summery, and super joyful: ‘I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I know who holds tomorrow.’
Ima Just Do It (ft. Bubba Watson) brings us back to da club – airhorn included. The track proclaims that the best way to live is by faith, and true living is living for what’s to come. Cruising by name indicates a smooth track, and it is. The song rolls along as KB raps about Tampa, shrimp and garlic sauce, and some pain of his past.
Calling You is a bit of a reality check on this album. KB shares a haunting story about suicide, and to explain it here would serve as an injustice to the song. I’ve no doubt that KB has spent a great deal of time considering how to share this story, and it is chilling. I had goosebumps listening along, it’s the most real and shocking song I’ve heard in years. If you don’t end up getting this album, please listen to this track at least once. It’s powerful and chilling.
Save Me serves as an interlude after the confronting Calling You, and brings us to Drowning – a slower, but intense piece. KB talks about his past, and that he couldn’t find real joy, only distractions. It’s a call of hope as KB points to the saving power of Jesus: ‘Pull me up now before I drown… Save me from me before I drown.’
Crowns & Thorns (Oceans) samples the immensely popular Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) by Hillsong United. Adding warm percussion, there’s a great contrast between verses of despair and the sparse chorus that speaks of our union with Christ. Again, KB shows us the great forgiveness and freedom from sin that is on offer at the cross. ‘My idols are mimicking Jesus, I bury my sin and in three days it’s back up again.’ The album closes with a bonus track, Find Your Way, reminding us of our value in the eyes of God. It’s not as powerful an ending as Crowns & Thorns, and I think it could have been left off the album.
Reach Records continually raise the bar with each and every album release, and Tomorrow We Live is no exception. Full of stellar production, tight arrangements, and confronting words – this is one of the best albums of 2015.
Of the bright salmon album cover, KB says, ‘Salmon because my music is normally served raw,’ and this couldn’t be more true for this album. On it, KB calls us to lift our eyes to eternity, and he does this by painting some horrible, devastating pictures of the broken world we live in. Our true home is calling us, and tomorrow we live.
From me, Tomorrow We Live gets four-and-a-half stars.
Tomorrow We Live by KB will be released Tuesday 21st April, and can be pre-ordered on iTunes. Keep an eye for our chat with KB about the album in the coming weeks.