[March 3, 2016]
Written by Jake Feder // Edited by Shay Mehr
Kirk Knight, an East Coast lyricist from the Pro Era collective, added his debut album to the almighty iTunes store this past October. The project, cleverly titled “Late Knight Special,” contains 12 tracks, five of which boast guest features by the likes of Joey Bada$$, Mick Jenkins, and more. The debut album’s cover art provides the listener with a bit of foreshadowing as to what to expect sonically; the enveloping blackness doubles as a gloomy backdrop for a precarious sign that seemingly manages to induce a feeling of comfort in the onlooker (whether that be Kirk Knight or yourself) while all the while remaining vicious with its reddish, blazing glow.
The first track, “Start Running,” begins with what sounds like an old interview excerpt; this inclusion of vintage audio snippets occurs more than once throughout the album. Something that does seem to remain constant throughout the project is a feeling of ruggedness that is usually only found within older projects, namely those recorded on vinyl. The third and fourth tracks (entitled “Brokeland” and “5 Minutes” respectively) especially play into this old school vibe by utilizing the boom bap sound that was so popular in the 1990s rap world. This aforementioned classic feel is juxtaposed with the sing-along nature of Knight’s rhymes in “Start Running”. This makes for an interesting pairing that falls somewhat flat, but doesn’t entirely take away from its merit. Knight progressively improves on this formula throughout the album, most notably on “Down”; he commits to the dichotomy and fleshes out a musical identity of sorts in the process. Placing “I Know” right after “Down” on the track list is an interesting choice, mainly because it flips the blueprint of sing-songy vocals over raw instrumentals that Knight had been trying to cultivate earlier in the album. The choir-like background vocals are contrasted with a gut-wrenching guest verse by Mick Jenkins (“Have you ever had to cool a nigga’s head when he had the fucking burner in his hand?”) and Knight’s fast-spoken moral quandaries. Perhaps the track’s most important facet, and what arguably makes it the project’s knockout lead single, is the fact that its various musical parts make for a very original combination of sounds. Knight tries to employ another interesting mix of sounds on “Scorpio” (mechanical noises over a synth-like backdrop). This aligned with Knight’s unusual delivery makes for a track that is certainly noticeable but may lack replay value. Moreover, outside of “I Know,” the album’s final track (“All for Nothing”) is the best display of Knight’s ability to smoothly bring together musical elements that usually seem at odds. He expertly crafts a cross-genre instrumental and uses it to doubly question his own musical efforts and comment on society. Knight is going to embark on a European tour on the 22nd of March. Keep your eyes peeled for tickets and showtimes.