The marvelous martial mechanisms in the manuscripts are manipulated to master mics among the mysterious mass of the mind’s moving memories. Spare some years for the science, Almighty.
We need a memory that is short because the history of hell accumulates so long. And there are doctors self-medicating on every corner. Prescriptions against the embrace of contradiction like the best of Hip Hop comes in the sickest of times. That we expect realness even when fakeness abounds or we, ourselves, may fail. But the prescriptions are potent and if you forgot today’s error by accepting the errors around you then the wrongs of an era become an epoch you subscribed to. Breaking a terrible cycle is as hard as breaking a great record and Dr. Yen Lo works the impossible brain/marrow washing through muscle/tendon changing. Teared tears of horror’s savage flexing and the steady droning breaking humanity for every morrow is all this ol’ ghetto surviving worsens to. The serious Art of musical Qi, a focused energy work on the mind put into select days of is the work here. Days with Dr. Yen Lo, with Ka on the mic and Preservation on the beats, is one of the great listening albums in this Hip Hop history.
With Preservation arranging melodic punctuations and isolating any rhythmic inflection in the minimalist platters Ka consumes, the MCing is powerfully highlighted. All MCs use a rhythmic isolation to inspire their cadence, tempo and fury. Preservation knows how to find those special breaks for Ka because the music is scored as a musical u-n-i-verse reacting to Ka’s dialogues. The Hip Hop ear, regardless of how refined, is formatted to hear incompleteness in the way Ka accepts the beds to lay his vocals on. However, his Grief Pedigree and Night’s Gambit LPs have amazingly accustomed our ears to hear a brother ill on interludes. But the disrespect for what a break is, literally what Black music in the entire western hemisphere is, from New York’s Hip Hop to New Orleans’ Jazz through Jamaica’s Reggae back through New York’s Salsa, the break is always there, an isolation to focus on the greatest linguistic feats of the vocalist.
Seeing them play, “Day 3” uses bass plucks and bottomed basslines of the end of every measure for Ka to flow aggressively. Building with Ka, he often notes the drums are already in his head. Then as Dr. Yen Lo, the drums are everywhere as Preservation fills each song with percussive (non-drum) elements that match the drums in Ka’s mind. The beautiful “Day 93,” where Ka makes another legendary hook of relevance pondering “I’m wondering if those sirens for me” is orchestrated with beautiful precise bottoming piano keys and Ka flows on a bassline rhythm of boom menace where the bongo claps give a snare and back beat. The pacing of the track increases and steadies at such a restrained pace it seems it’s at the eq of Ka’s subtle rising intensity. These Days are literally an ol’ 70’s art film where savage acts traumatize the characters and the depth of their coming to grips with it is the real screenplay for the scenery. “Day 0” with its 1, 2 deep bass hit, yelled whisper snare and vamping sounds mesmerizing allow Ka to give this movie the animation to the still shots of a tormented soul in the fight for a better way. Then the hypnotizing horns cascade in, signaling progression making it an obsessive addiction. Even the most clearest breaks as “Day 81” with its hard snap snare still have so much open space that Preservation lets the organs extend until he drum resets a next musical phrase. With every next measure its introduction is right on an emphasizing line of Ka’s punchlines. A consistently supreme production, peaks still abound as “Day 70” with its Soul humming groove track where the break crescendos in as a backbeat that cymbal crashes in and out lovely or the horn suite of “Day 110” that pushes Ka to triumph or the odd sirens in and out through sparse off key drum cracks and a bluesy guitar as hype man for Ka’s wordplay on “Day 22.”
The screenplay is beyond rhymed wordplay but a motioned picture, word by word, that dives into shifting double entendres (“If you don’t dig me it’s no biggie I’ma keep the faith” – “Day 0”) , offering extreme cleverness (“When she claimed ride or die/they aim to road test” – “Day 1125”), tossing battle commentary (“The frequency is weak to me if you can’t keep it clever/What they produce is fruitless/What I reap is better” – “Day 777”), then insights upon understanding with repeated viewings. For instance, Ka’s use of homonyms reaches such a masterful elusiveness that only the legacy of his previous masterpieces remind us this is the way. As on “Day 81” he verses, “Righteous bars, as far as your syntax, it’s insects/A raw writer, more spider, you can’t spin next/ Crime is how mind rewarded doubt/ Time’s a drought, climb that waterspout/ Itsy bitsy, slung to get crispy/ Almost choked in the web spun to fix me” where the suggested homonyms we hear also serve alternate meanings (i.e. rewarded/re-watered). Ka’s words plummet us into the enlisting of men into the self-service oppression deviously offered and “now civilians are blatantly soldiers.” Just as GZA saw much of himself when he put Ka on, like GZA, Ka’s word choices are exceptional as “scribe cause and effect/many die violating laws of respect/gun in my face/pause, didn’t sweat/brought grace in the place/raw intellect…shots pressed/block tests/scruples/burn flesh/learn best/from my pupil/blessing/each lesson/crucial…on my pen grip/descendant of Zulu/on my Premier(e)/appeared as a Guru…”(“Day 13”).
A lyricist of purest ethic, Ka’s secret strength is as one of this era’s great stylist MCs. It’s the way he says all this using a voice of distinct gravel aged in its consonants, pronouncing his words with clear enunciation at turns to then swiftly slang them, fitting them into rhyme sound or space bars with inflection on the vowels. His emphasizing is excellent here and he shines with Preservation’s arranging, using every drop out and isolation to display the techs. As his intense verses on “Day 3” lead to an incredible chorus bar delivered with doomed finality, “I deplore what I draw is not animated/I stand on that land where man is hated/ Outside where the scramblers waited/…And waited/…And waited/…And weighed it.” Ka has truly mastered the ability to direct you to his punchlines with the slightest changes in delivery (“Thirsting that commercials/ain’t no virtue on that TV/food, toys, cars/when tools deploy/dodge” – “Day 70”). Ka literally has minimized his own word count in his bars leaving the most essential and artful words in his verses. An obsessive worker on each rhyme to song, it allows him to focus on the perfect delivery and execution of each word to the letter. And we the listener have another orated book from an MC whose struggle with a long memory of hell (“Looked at my skin, felt everybody hate Brown” – “Day 13”), a fury driven to a righteous future (“I show them sustained success/I’m holding truth for, nothing but” – “Day 777”; “Till I realized wealthy is health and knowledge/Days as a knave, now paid for my brave” – “Day 912”) all in passages of the toughest poetry to treasure (“Thought we were worthless/ but my purpose/ record the saga” – “Day 110”).
An album filled with days and their mathematics, the sculpture slowly gains detail as the stanzas collide and interact with its living orchestration. A Zen flow of Ka’s rugged aphorisms doctored to illness by Preservation’s conversing compositions is all Days of Dr. Yen Lo incredibly is. Everything Hip Hop today needs to be.
It’s almost like the Art makes love, peace and happiness a tale that can’t be written. I remember a life filled with martial manners with no angst or silly auctioneering. My name’s published in the papers so I can taper the pressures and principle a rebellious way. Away from the anger mart of precise pitching on every niggered street. Peoples left preventing their own perishing excited to preserve the shortest legacies of prosperity. Deep in these trenches, the concrete is a grass that cushions with every crack and colors every opportunity as gray as it truly is. En el fiando de Bodegas, keys for food during a time when only roaches were gentrifying. The worse the smells, the more beautiful the voice, the more horrid the sounds, the more wonderful the drums. The vividness of atrocities’ immediacies only lend the lyrics the greatest timelessness. Hip Hop, a score for a film we won’t forget. Spare us some Days With Dr. Yen Lo…