You know that long worn trope about rappers using up most of their best material on their debut because they’ve had eighteen-odd years of life experience to write about? Ka has absolutely demolished this cliché with his triumphant fifth album. By continuing to refine his craft with each subsequent release, this Metal Clergyman has forged a path to rap supremacy from his humble beginnings as a Natural Elements associate to a highly accomplished soloist.
Honor Killed The Samurai not only calls into question the rule of diminishing returns in hip-hop, but actually makes a case for taking the time and discipline to improve upon what was admittedly already a solid foundation. One of the most striking aspects of this album is that it’s executed with a degree of confidence and expertise that only comes from toiling away for years at this here sport. No line-up of super producers, crowd-funding success stories or social media hype required, Ka just delivers the goods and lets the work speak for itself.
And what a story it tells. Honor Killed The Samurai is very much a continuation of the narrative that caught the ear of astute rap fanatics on the Grief Pedigree album, yet the conceptual tracks strike harder, thanks to more refined writing and delivery. Even more significantly, there’s a consistency in the breadth and tone of the backing tracks which wasn’t present on Ka’s two previous self-produced projects, where I’d be completely in the moment during the songs where the music matched the quality of the vocals only to be jolted back to reality by some of the less effective loops. Having perhaps taken some valuable cues from his work with Preservation on Days With Dr Yen Lo, there isn’t a dull moment over the span of the ten new compositions.
Recalling an appreciation for a sophisticated vocabulary first demonstrated by the like of the Treacherous Three, T La Rock and heir-apprentice LL Cool J, Ka presents intellectual rap which never sinks into pretension or self-indulgence. Delving into topics such as religion, materialism and identity from the perspective of a world-weary veteran who refuses to lose nor abandon his Brownsville mentality.
Rap isn’t a hustle for Ka. He could care less if you’re a fan of his distinctive, low key confessionals and minimalist sonics (which invoke the cinematics of a Tarkovsky film as much as that of feudal Japan), and as a result he embraces the freedom of making exactly what he wants to without trying to cater to any specific demographic. There are a multitude of quotable lines to be found here, but I won’t spoil the impact of discovering them yourself. Rest assured that with his fifth album, Ka takes the best ingredients of his earlier long players and combines in them into a finely tuned masterpiece. You’re either with us or against us.
Ka’s music is available on vinyl and CD from his site brownsvilleka.com, iTunes and Spotify.