Album: BK & Associates
Label: Uprok Records
Rating: 8.5 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
Another Uprok release, and I’ve now taken to viewing everyone with a great deal of interest. Why? Well, they’ve put together such a run of dope releases over the past year or so – Mars Ill, Deepspace 5, New Breed amongst others, that you can’t help feeling that sooner or later the streak will end. Its not a hate thing at all, its just human nature. So like a rubber-necker at a traffic accident, I couldn’t help but check out the production half of the Ill Harmonics duo going for dolo.
This is an album in a similar vein to Pete Rock’s “Soul Survivor”, in that BK as producer has assembled several beats, and then invited his fam in to bust over them. In BK’s case, fam is mainly his labelmates on Uprok, and since the level of literacy from some of these cats has impressed me in the past, it’s almost a given that lyrically this joint will be impressive. However as a member of that profession that mainly “speaks with their hands”, its Knight’s beats that are gonna be going under the microscope.
Fearing the worst, hoping for the best… this is the story of one man’s encounter with Blake Knight and his associates.
Opening with a straight up acoustic instrumental track, certainly leaves you in no doubt as to the core of BK’s production tool of choice. The mellow acoustic guitar that became so familiar on the Ill Harmonics album, is still in full effect here. (Not a bad thing either, considering the quality of beats that were on display on that album.)
The first “proper” track is ‘Frisky’ and features Sivion from the Phat K.A.T.S. It extremely laid back, featuring a droopy bass guitar and a simple drumbeat, and little else. Its all very Brand New Heavies, and although a nice cut, perhaps not one that I would have opened the album with.
‘Babylon Suburbia’ however, is much more to my liking. Again its built around a simple guitar loop, but this time the beats have a little more oomph. This is obviously a factor in the emcee’s delivery too – this time its BK’s Ill Harmonics partner Playdough on the mic, and he drops a much more amped set of verses. This is much more like it.
The next cut however brings things back down again however. Quality-wise there ain’t a problem, its just the vibes and tempo that ‘What I Love’ give off. Its a little too mellow compared to the previous track, both in production AND in subject matter. The track itself is beautiful – emcee KJ-52 drops a celebraion of his faith in Christianity over a haze of guitar licks… its just that after hearing the previous track, and the one following this… it just seems a little out of place.
Ah… the next track. Mars Ill step into the house for ‘Theme Music’ and drop one of the hardest cuts on the album. Knight has managed to hook up a beat that owes a huge debt to Pete Rock – this one coulda came right out of the Mount Vernon basement. Its all about echo-ey effects, snappy snares, and a lovely little scratched chorus (provided by DJ Dust). Lyrically Manchild again provides value for money, ripping the track to shreds. Superb.
After being left on such a high from the Mars Ill joint, LA Symphony’s Pigeon John, Flynn, and Sharlok Poems don’t disappoint either, as they bless the mic on ‘Rhythm To The Rhyme’ with skills. BK’s use of the acoustic guitar here compliments the emcees voices and flows perfectly – a nice example indeed of the producer working in tandem with the rappers to find a track that brings out the best of each.
The album continues with ‘Where I Was’ – a spoken word piece by Knight himself, over a very jazzy break. There’s a very rootsy chorus provided by Earthsuit too. Its interesting, but ultimately one that may not hold the attention long term.
‘Melodic Parabolic’ and ‘Blue Room’ however will definitely have you coming back for more. The former features the deep vocals of Freddie Bruno over a cut that’s half Hiphop / half sea-shanty, driven by a mixture of accordian and harmonica effects and a heavy boom-bap. The latter keeps things uptempo, but is a lot more horizontal in effect. ‘Blue Room’ has another addictive guitar lick at it’s base, and gives off a very chilled out vibe as Othello and Moon compliment with a nice Digable Planets-esque performance.
The final quarter of the album finishes things off strongly. Uprok standard bearers, the Tunnel Rats finally put in an appearance, and again BK plays to their strengths. ‘What’s Real’ is an another banger – its a mid-tempo collection of thumping drums, hybrid Oriental-come-Cowboy-movie sound effects, and confidently delivered lyrics. Following this up would be tough, but somehow on ‘All Around The World’, Knight does it, providing MG! The Visionary with a bouncy, Latin-tinged cut that compliments his crazy, zany flow. Rounding things off is a simple bass-guitar-and-drumbeat driven track called ‘Not That Serious’. The lyricists of choice this time are the appropriately named Showcase Emcees, who certainly live up to their name, by ripping the track with an impressive display of skills.
So… the verdict? Well apart from the little hiccup in the sequence of tracks near the start, this is ANOTHER Uprok release that needs to be picked up. The streak continues… move along… nothing to see here…