A knight’s art is performed as minutes of inspiration off moments of contemplation—a horridly beautiful cycle of Art for the most original people. A king’s assignment is to profess to carve insight out of concrete so that the steps we pave are known as freer. A kinship of alms, Brownsville KA works iron out the life between survival and savagery to honor the men who were not afforded humanity despite being fueled by the fool of rich’s empowerment. As knowledge is approaching new hells only a gambit could foresee, a score of meaning again fills nights.
The Night’s Gambit is KA’s third album and the second essential work he has given Hip Hop. With this release, the classic Grief Pedigree is now an incredible moment in history as The Night’s Gambit continues a catalog that will be as important for the integrity of Black Art as Hell Razah’s 00’s work. It will also be remembered as a leader in the works that highlighted the beauty of the lyric and the revolutionary art of sampling.
The majority of classic Hip Hop work is based on the theme of the dynamic character exploring his continued dominance in the most realistic manner. That’s a subtle/overt core to classics that molded us from Paid in Full to It Takes A Nation to Cuban Linx to The Great Migration. Ka, as all great MCs, embraces this naturally yet focuses with heavy bias on a first person documentation of the humanizing themes struggling within. And as Rakim became our most important author, Chuck D our needed wise spokesman, Raekwon, our heralded street crime narrator and Bronze, our rugged bluesy scribe then KA is our newest poet of a brother’s warring conscience.
The magnificence of the magnified conscience in Art is humanity is seen and heard breathing. On Gambit, the themes stanza’d begin with poverty. Poverty isn’t a mere condition when it is mixed with Black and Brown. It’s the part of the oppression curriculum that grades your character. It’s the violent test of choice between the theft of the garment or the re-accessorizing of an old garment. It’s when the wearing of the brass Universal flag pendant is iller than the diamond encrusted gold cross. Yet there is no graduating credit but harder works to debit cause ol’ meals can’t be re-eaten and only the worst foods are left to be reheated.
In a time of escapist materialism and the glorified relevance of the irrelevant, Ka knows most won’t see his inner struggles of conscience—it’s origins (“I’m pain in the spoken form/this new strain came from where hope is gone” – “Peace Akhi”) or our relation to it (“you may never love me if you was never hungry/young G/slung D/ comfortably before I had a gumby..” – “Peace Akhi”). At best, the admiring critic will note this theme as an old scar that just won’t heal. As another Brown Brooklyn writer who hunger (ed/s), it is a permanent lesson that may instruct one at any time. That it can scar a dark principle into oneself isn’t just a wishful abstract but a concrete path made vivid upon every contemplation. And Ka contemplates “there was a time I wasn’t doing it right” that sparks what informs every decision he will forever make (“…wisdom spread/give him bread/others never left a crumb…Don’t gauge success by the movement of wealth/fuck bank B/ thank me by improving yourself… Was living differently ‘til that epiphany…” – “Barring the Likeness”).
The other major theme of The Night’s Gambit is the forum for his meditative recovery – Hip Hop. The entire LP is a homage to Hip Hop via execution or direct acknowledgement. In so doing, he honors the great vessel of salvation we created to create our way out of our destitute. He notes that “some criticize the lyrics I agonize over/from the days I behaved like a thug/I don’t get rich from this/this a labor of love” (“Nothing Is”) yet Hip Hop was “all these psalms calmed my savage/How I live was often hectic/All this is off the record” (“Off the Record”). As the album progresses the homage is in taking the classic Grief Pedigree to deeper extension.
The wonder of the lyric here is KA as a painter of the perfect quote with verses that are piece by piece brush stroked. They paint a face of his path where his cleverness colors the eyes (“trying to build sound nation to fill foundation of disrepair/ from poor land we plan to give off the richest air/heir..” – “Soapbox”). The mettle of its jaws are in the merging of his will driving him through the arcane chores of illegal activities (“swiftee baggin’/quickly grabbin’/don’t horde it all/ no cartel but we march well as the water boil/weakest child eating now/still a chomper/pray my body stay on pace with my will to conquer” – “I’m Ready”). The ears distinctly hear as he aerates consequences in soundly details (“There’s no milk or honey/just some kill for money/get better tools/did whatever moves fill your tummy…you know the saga/block was tough/home was harder…” – “Knighthood”). Ka’s lyrical portrait is all enlivened by a backdrop of meditative scrutiny that crystallizes his hopeful visions(“paid major toll on this land/hope to afford the sky” – “I’m Ready”) and propels his authenticity through understanding shared in powerfully creative spurts (“My heart is never the question/I write hard phonetic aggression/My Art is parked in the medicine section/stay sharp/each word carves letter perfection/I got full bars/you need better reception/did I mention I pay attention instead of protection/Peace to my brethren in the depth of correction…” – “Peace Akhi”).
As an MC, the tools of embellishment that color the lyric are in his use of techniques as his mastery of internal rhyming on “Our Father“ (This wizardry/ delivered me/ the flyest flute/What I summon/ have ‘em dumbin’/ like a cauldron of some eye of newt/Was a young esquire/ in bum attire/jum supplier/Hunger/ made me gun for/ hire/Funny how they used to run from me, now/ they come admire…”) or the subtlety of wordplay as on “Nothing Is” noting our fallen MCs (“My mom forgave me when I was ill and stressing her/I continued rhyming when they was killing the messenger”). Thriving through the underground as Doom did in the mid ‘00’s, KA re-ignites lost parts of the rhyme. Whereas Doom eliminated hooks and choruses, Ka reinvigorates a tool used for evil. Every chorus on Gambit is masterfully woven to summate the song, scroll a chunk of his heart and hook the listener sonically. From the long feature chorus of “Jungle” (“…rob the wealth ignore the pastor full of cruddy/should’ve studied I Self Lord And Master”) or the one drops of “Peace Akhi” (“Pistol’s the only peace I see/it’s war here/but still tell my niggas it’s ‘Peace Akhi’”) and “Barring the Likeness” (“Barring the likeness/hard to live righteous”), he reaffirms his quest for enlightenment and work to uphold it. Some bars are so well written throughout that the entire song melodically loops (“slung d when you was 23 chromosomes/when I was dying on an iron horse/fading/dreaming of that flying Porsche…”; “you may never love me if you was never hungry…”) into the coming chorus as on “30 Pieces of Silver” and “Peace Akhi,” respectively.
All of this becomes revolutionary as KA merges two major factors in all NYC birthed music . The major two recent urban genres of New York City (Salsa and Hip Hop) are defined by their musical innovations as much as the gritty reality of the oppressed beautiful they represent. Musically these genres innovated by amplifying what they didn’t have giving them a freedom to try anything. KA’s production continues making Hip Hop without an emphasis on the breakbeat. There is no track on Night’s Gambit without its foundation yet it is his flow with skilled pauses and precise pacing that allows the overt bass thumps, guitar chords and cinematic keys, bells and horns to time the Boom Bap. Some tracks are easier to notice as on the rugged guitar bass on “Off the Record,” the roots groove of “Our Father” or the driving organ and most explicit drum track of “Knighthood. Some are more hidden as on the thudding bass drum under his verse’s breath as on “Jungle” or the airy keys of “I’m Ready” leading a backing bass drum and quick snares. As all great Hip Hop albums, the production is excellent because of KA’s choices and just as his brother Roc Marci’s last album (Reloaded), KA’s work here shows deep crates via ingenious selection. All the tracks bind as one yet every song is easily distinguishable. This production, putting breaks in the backdrop as a mere timing pattern, highlight lyrics and the wonderful choicework that goes into sampling.
Ultimately, Hip Hop music is also our artistic representation of the grit coming out of a lovely Black and Brown poor people giving forum to anyone of poverty, humility and talented sentiment. KA’s The Night’s Gambit simply is another score that could sound a new life for the better.