The bicycle is a central theme of “World Sport,” the latest album from Mattapan rapper Kadeem. The cover art features five multicolored clones of a bicyclist, and a promo trailer for the project offers a supercut of bike-riding cartoon and film characters. There’s a reason why bikes are ubiquitous in the album’s lyrical and visual content: Kadeem’s connection to his own bike, his main form of transportation, is the foundation for much of the tape’s aesthetic.
“It’s called ‘World Sport’ because I was riding my bike, an ‘87 Schwinn World Sport, while I was making a lot of this, and really trying to get to the essence of who I am as an artist,” said Kadeem.
The 26-year-old MC, whose full name is Kadeem McIntosh, has spent a good part of his life on two wheels, navigating the streets of Boston, peddling drugs, writing rhymes in his head, and working most recently as a Doordash delivery man. Sitting in a Codman Square restaurant hours before a listening party event last Thursday, he explained that the bicycle motif, and its connection to sport, is meant to evoke themes of progression, resilience, and not giving up.
“We all come from little corners of the world where we’re just trying to play our own sport, whether that be hustlin’ or B&Es or working a 9 to 5. So the idea of all those trailers was just to kind of capture this essence of like, you’re not stopping your momentum, you know, you keep going.”
If riding a bicycle offers a measure of freedom in the form of mobility, it also offers a unique vantage point of one’s environment, according to Kadeem.
“It feels like I’m in a movie sometimes, honestly. When I’m walking I get the micro – OK, boom, this is here, I notice this flower, I notice this, this, and this. But when I’m riding on that bike I get the macro lens of what my community looks like in one kind of blurry snapshot, and there’s something really poetic about it that I really love. That’s why to this day, even though I could be in a car, I’m still riding on a bike.”
A self-described “community-based” artist, Kadeem roots much of his lyricism in experiences and memories from his neighborhood; references to places like Chez Vous and Kay’s Oasis lend an acute sense of place to the project. The album’s single – and its beating heart – is a track called “Three C’s,” a eulogy to the now closed Caribbean Cultural Center, a place that Kadeem, a Jamaican-American, says was a fixture for the Caribbean community in Mattapan when he was growing up.
“It was just a huge hub in the 90s for Jamaicans and Jamaican-Americans to use the space, cultivate art, dance, see family. Like I was saying, you could have a funeral there, and then a couple hours later you could have a graduation party. So it was really like a place of life that breathed [life] into the community, and unfortunately it closed down, but a lot of my experiences as a Jamaican-American definitely came from there, for sure.”
The release of “World Sport” comes at a time when Boston-based rappers are gaining more and more traction on a national scale; in recent weeks, the face of Fields Corner product Cousin Stizz has stared down from billboards across the city in anticipation of his new album. Reflecting on the ascension and growth of rap in Boston, Kadeem was reminded of a quote from Jeff Goldblum’s character in Jurassic Park: “Nature finds a way.”
“It was destined to come to this, and it still is growing and it’s gonna hit a point of artistic maturity,” he said. “Regardless of things that happen that might set that back, whether it’s publications moving out of the city, or gentrification, or whatever it is, like, where there’s heart, there’s art. You know what I’m saying? And this city got a lot of heart.”
As for “World Sport,” Kadeem says he simply hopes his music will find ears in “all the hoods –Mattapan, Roxbury, Dorchester” and empower the people around him.
“I hope this tape puts me somewhere where I’m able to give a voice for the marginalized, you know? That’s always the goal,” he said. “f you’re not trying to inspire or help, then you’re wasting your time.”