Durham native Kane Smego has lived in LA for a few years now, but his Triangle connections still run deep, as you can tell from the all-star lineup for his vivid new video, which we’re premiering today.

“Collard Green Music” is the title track from Smego’s second album, which came out in August. It finds him in the pure braggalicious Southern hip-hop mode of “North Cack,” the Durham anthem he appeared on with G Yamazawa and J. Gunn, rather than the spoken-word mode of Sacrificial Poets or the theatrical mode of Temples of Lung and Air, his PlayMakers show in 2018.  

In “Collard Green Music,” Smego feasts on the mumble rappers mushing up the charts, appealing back to a time when lyrics were complex and raw, and rhymes were like a gymnast’s best floor routine. He delivers rewindable lines like “I’ve been brutal with the grammar since Pluto was still a planet” with dexterous swagger atop production by Phil Cook and drums by Craig Santiago.   

Maybe “visuals” are killing the video star, but “Collard Green Music” is a throwback here, too, reuniting “North Cack” filmmakers Saleem Reshamwala and Ned Phillips and tossing Tarish “Jeghetto” Pipkins into the elaborate production. He comes with his usual casually mind-blowing puppetry and props, set in a cardboard Durham created by Mana Reshamwala.

With Bull City artists and their kids showing up to play in this homegrown fantasy world, with its familiar skyline and landmarks like the Hayti Heritage Center, it’s almost like a hip-hop Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.  

In a way, Smego says, Collard Green Music is a complement to Temples of Lung and Air, a heavy autobiographical reckoning with race by a white rapper who is also an associate director of Next Level, a federally funded global hip-hop diplomacy program.

“This album gave me a chance to also offer some joyful and playful vibes that still connect back to some of the same threads,” he says. Even the cover photo is a throwback, featuring a young Smego cutting up collard greens with Burly, the complex father figure from his PlayMakers show. Watch:

YouTube video

Follow Interim Editor in Chief Brian Howe on Twitter or send an email to bhowe@indyweek.com

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