Yay or Nay: Days with Dr. Yen Lo

A couple years ago, Brownsville rapper KA reemerged as a whole new MC. Many of you may not know but he was once a part of 90’s/early 2000 underground rap collective “The Natural Elements”. At that time, he rapped aggressively , using his coarse voice to spit fairly average braggadocio rhymes. He never made much of an impact back then so when he vanished , like so many other rappers from that era, no one really noticed.

Flash forward to 2008, and he popped up on a GZA album and released “Iron Works”. Still, not much was said until four years later when a video for a song called “cold facts” started making the rounds. In this song/video we found what seemed like an entirely new rapper. The production was as bare as can be. Just  a loop with a little percussion. The rapping was done at loudness you might hear in a library. KA rapped calmly, like the old wise dude on the block who had seen it all. His words were meticulously arranged. It would have appeared that the man had found his voice and style. The album that followed that single was “Grief Pedigree” and it was great. Keeping with his game plan KA talk rapped over bare loops. Barely a drum on the entire thing. He followed that album with “The Nights Gambit”, which was very similar to the previous record. Dark, stark and relentless in it’s mood.

Well, KA just released a new album. It’s called “Days with Dr Yen Lo” and it’s a collaboration with producer  Preservation. To be honest, Preservation’s beats could easily be the same beats KA was making himself. Bare back samples with little or not drums. And here’s where I want you to let me know how you feel. Ka is now 3 albums deep. He’s fortified his sound. Dude is unquestionably great at what he does. But do you think he needs to expand his horizons? How many whisper rap songs over beats with no drums can one man make? Or, perhaps, it’s a style all his own that he can run with forever? I’m curious to see what you think. Here are some selections of his new album:

This one kinda has drums on it!


Now, I’m a guy who’s always loved weird rap. And KA is no exception. he manages to make avant-garde rap without seeming pretentious. In fact, he’s unapologetically a street MC. I think he’s great. But, even with that in mind, I’ve kinda reached a point where I need something a little different. I feel like a boom bap dinosaur complaining about the lack of drums but it does wear thin on me after 3 full albums. So, while I can listen to this KA album and recognize how good it is (it is very good, in my opinion) , there’s a tiny piece of me that’s let down by the lack of evolution to his sound. Judging from the response to this album, that could just be me. From what I’ve heard, people are loving it. Which is fine cause it is without question a good album. But what do you think of KA at this point? (you can pick more than one answer)

Song of the day 2/16/12

No Downtime By KA
A while back, I highlighted a song by Brooklyn rapper KA. He’s a dude that was around on the underground circuit back in the mid 90’s, down with the Natural Elements. His recent reemergence not only surprised me cause I hadn’t thought about him in over a decade but cause he came back a new man. In his Natural Elements days he was a raspy voiced yeller who hadn’t really found his niche yet , both lyrically and stylistically. However, in 2012, the man has found his stride. His new album “Grief Pedigree” just dropped and I suggest all of you out there who are fans of dark NY street shit, check it out. Just a heads up though, this is not your typical boom bap rap album. KA’s approach is one of quiet fury. His voice never raises above a conversational level and the beats are minimal to the point where there is basically no snares on the entire album. Well, that’s not true. There are snares but they’re used more like a metronome than a means to bob your head. This is not an album you will be bumping in the whip before going out to the club. This is the album you wlll be playing in you headphones while walking home from a night out in the dead of winter.
The song I chose is probably the most upbeat track on the album (if that’s possible) but if you wanna hear more, peep these two videos and it’ll give you a better idea of what to expect. I love it. So, you know, maybe you will too.