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Why Ka Is King

Why Ka Is King

ka-beanieForget what you know or think about street cred and never mind keeping it real for just a second. You realize as well as I do that rappers dance around the truth (maybe too much) and they’re probably all a bunch of liars. But it doesn’t matter if the best liars truly are liars: you believe them. They talk and you feel something, you nod along and accept outrageous shit at face value. Because you believe them. Nas could have been a stand-in for Urkel outside of the booth but when he kicked funky rhythms, you saw those rappers monkey flip. When Biggie rhymed tight you smelled the sardines he ate for dinner. Ka raps like that.

“None rival, my catalog’s a slum bible/not the right course but with white horse, unbridled

In the ‘Ville pumping steel, hunt until we feel full/Home cold as Poconos fill rodent holes with steel wool.”

I’ve never met him before but I’ll bet my life there’s one thing Ka knows better than the back of his hand: every crack in every sidewalk in every street in Brownsville, Brooklyn. New York. Put aside his scary consistency, the gravel in the voice, the gutter soundtracks he programs, and pay attention to the thousand pictures each of his words are worth. Every verse is a hood movie on VHS, all grime and grit. You’re there with in the backseat while he’s polishing his shotty. You’re there when he’s happy to cook a batch on a rusty stove because it’s so cold outside. He has a song named “Collage” which as a title is pretty much what his music is: both production and lyrics are intense snapshots of the scenes around him torn apart and shuffled into something beautiful, even if the subject matter is dark.

“8 blasting goons, late afternoon form roadblock/started clapping, my little man was unwrapping his blow pop

Shot in the face, never got to taste the sour apple/strays from the trey put him down like a power tackle.”

Every beat is a tense horror movie score, stripped down with less bombast than most beats and these sparse drums and loops that shove the raps in your face to make sure you’re listening and believing. Precise, methodical rhyme schemes What I’m saying is Ka sounds like the type to kill somebody in silence and stay calm and collected the whole time. Omar Little on wax. The videos he directs and shoots himself reinforce the aesthetic, always simple and monochromatic mirrors of the songs they accompany. It’s all flashes of imagery from his corner of NY. A flipbook of his history around the block.

“Trust, crushed like a hair, get your wig pushed/no bird in the hand, preferred grams by the big bush

Just another lost soul strolling the crossroad/we ain’t speak, clicking heat is our Morse code.”

And it’s been a long time coming for Ka. He was in Natural Elements back in the day (the self-admitted weak link) and after a hiatus following his first solo record, Iron Works, he stuck the landing on two self-produced albums straight: Grief Pedigree and The Night’s Gambit. Now, after a little blog shine and another EP of more of that same dark beauty (1200 B.C.) he’s starting to get some shine. Recently he aligned with Adult Swim and released more of his usual dynamite: a spring reverbed-out psychedelia sludge pile called “Lost Prophet Report” that only indicates more progression on Ka’s part. I didn’t think he could find his lane any better but it looks to be that way. Stay tuned for the slaughter.

8 Comments

  1. Thomas_76
    Oct 08, 2014 @ 22:53:00

    The videos seem to serve as a vessel to futher highlight his lyrics. He seems intent on writing the perfect rhyme.

  2. Smitty
    Oct 08, 2014 @ 22:44:00

    One of the most compelling parts of his music (IMO) is the the regret and vulnerability that underscores the grit. He has that thing. That thing that Scarface has and that the young Vince Staples has.

  3. Rich
    Oct 08, 2014 @ 14:35:00

    His voice used to be alot grimy-er when I first heard him, on GZA’s Pro Tools album, years ago.

  4. Rich
    Oct 08, 2014 @ 14:34:00

    I really like KA, but I don’t like his music videos. They are too boring. Part of it is he shows himself in them alot, and there’s no charisma. There’s no way I’d see him at a concert, but I’d stand side by side with him and listen to anything he says.

  5. Lokeye
    Oct 08, 2014 @ 12:29:00

    Yeah, I wouldn’t have found that new cut otherwise but what a gem it is. Great writing too. Clicking subscribe now… I’ll be back for more articles.

  6. AndrewMartin520
    Oct 08, 2014 @ 11:08:00

    Dude, right? SO GOOD.

  7. Humpasaur Jones
    Oct 08, 2014 @ 10:47:00

    Thanks for the heads up on the new jam, hot damn.

  8. Augustas B.
    Oct 08, 2014 @ 10:42:00

    Great piece, but I think there is one thing that is missing here: the introspection. Ka is rhyming to get things off his chest and his authenticity is completely disarming. The images of poverty, crime, and personal growth are images of his past. Hip hop very rarely gets this personal — this is straight up poetry.

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