Hip Hop Culture for Grown-Ups
Words by Scott Ramirez
“Sleep and die, I learned that before Elm Street”
“Ka” is an honorable title for elders in my Filipino background and it’s only right that this Brownsville, Brooklyn lyricist be treated as such – a veteran. Having released his first full length album Iron Works in 2008 and guest verses on GZA’s Pro Tools album and Roc Marciano’s Marcberg, Ka is no rookie in the field. Upon further reading into his bio, his early rap career included being part of the heralded underground group, Natural Elements and the duo Nightbreed, with partner-in-rhyme, Kev. With such a solid resume, there’s no surprise that the beautiful urban decay aesthetic of NYC hip hop is instilled within his sophomore release Grief Pedigree.
“Intoxicated with tryna’ make it, I ain’t gotta drink”
There’s a certain “something” to the album with the initial listen, and through tuning in multiple times, I was drawn further into the record. The harmonious balance of the rhymes and beats is an apparent factor on why I dig this album so much. Everything on Pedigree is self-produced, from the minutiae details to the dope samples. The beats are never too overbearing, it’s minimally made but done just right, giving the lyrics ample space to maneuver and attack. And Ka’s growling but calm delivery perfectly meshes with the ominous sounds. The overall feeling is like a strong 1-2 combo, Grief Pedigree hits you.
“My word is bond, yours don’t stick”
What hits the hardest are the lyrics which are straight raw and meticulously written. Ka is an accomplished lyricist. No corny & cheesy punchlines, but rather, finely crafted multi-syllabic rhyme schemes and metaphors. His writings compose of narratives of the vigilant, determined and spiritual within the grimy bricks of Brownsville. Unlike other more popular contemporaries, Ka discusses the street life with meaningful contemplation and a mature outlook, never boasting or glorifying it, which is always refreshing to hear. It’s that humble and grounded attitude which helps carry the record further on to greater heights. Painstakingly crafted and approached with a Zen-like focus.
“Had a cold heart ’cause my apartment was freezin'”
Overall, I highly recommend this album. Perfect environment to listen is through headphones when you’re trooping back to your base at 3am. The beats are haunting, the rhymes are hard-hitting and the mood is heavy. To the many that still love that 1990’s flavor, this is an album that has strong foundations in the past with an outlook to the future. And don’t be surprised to keep hearing jewels after multiple listens. Grief Pedigree really grows on you, it’s not for the shallow or impatient.
Your money is well invested in an emcee like Ka, buy the album and support him!
Words by Scott Ramirez