Now the home is owned by three of the cousins he grew up with: Dion and LaVaughn still live there; Mikey is currently incarcerated. You don’t have nobody close sometimes to listen, so why not?” Today that struggle is different, and the city often has a different face. New York rapper Ka has carved out a small, unique corner for himself.
We was in the basement one day, we put it on and we went at it!” Suddenly, time is fluid, slipping backward, and the cousins start speaking a different language. “But real talk, I was on fire after that.”.
“The struggle is why we rap,” La says. “We old niggas, b!” Ka says. Their caretaking extended to many of the neighborhood kids too. His mind is firmly set on a better way of being, as the hook for the song “Just” makes this clear: I plea to treat all just, to get what we need we did what we must. As a listener, you have to do a little work: Ka’s bars are dense and the wordplay is the sort that reveals a new possible meaning to you each time you listen. “You step out in the street and [your neighbor] would tell your mother.” Things changed with the arrival of crack cocaine. Vinyl pressing. Gangsters being “trucked,” or decked with an unwieldy amount of jewels, like Slick Rick. A native of Brownsville, Brooklyn, NY, KA was part of the original grouping of Natural Elements artists on Fortress Records in the early 1990s. “She was the first one to put Lil Wayne on the cover; this woman knows hip-hop. The hours spent making himself one of genre’s greatest songwriters, the dollars lost to broken security deposits—they all add up to a life made for viewing through all the grimy, shattered lenses Ka has at his disposal.
It’s the sort of line that unlocks whole sections of an artist’s psyche for the audience, all in fewer than ten words. I never did that before. “When he came home, my pops was like the pops of all my friends,” Ka says.
All of his CDs are $10, with vinyl copies at $20 — the height of DIY accessibility. Ka cares about taking care of himself, and making sure those around him are living right too. Their cousin Lil Pop from the barbershop, immortalized in a shoutout on Biggie’s “Warning.” Busta Rhymes, who La says he used to beat up in grade school.
They own a home together, and though he has no children of his own, Ka parents many people, just like his father did: his baby cousin Shania and his godchildren Ashley, Tyrone, and Chase (ages 21, 14, and 4 respectively). The young man who rings us up wears glasses with thick black rimmed frames.
“I was leery of introducing her to it: everybody and their mother rhymes,” he says. But the house was crowded in its own way, packed to the gills with more than a dozen aunts, uncles, significant others, and kids.
I fought on that block.”. “For real.”. I needed to fill it, to record to fill the void for myself and many others that felt the same.”. With his latest, the Brownsville rapper cements himself as a preeminent stylist, his voice hushed but vicious, his production a grim rabbit hole of found sounds, minor keys, and few drums. Ka hasn’t slowed down since. We would like to show you a description here but the site won’t allow us.
It messed up the growth of the community.”, The late ’70s was when Ka first started rapping, after his older cousin La got out from the now-shuttered Spofford juvenile facility in Hunts Point. “I dedicated my life to fucking being an MC, now I’m a failure? Mimi and Ka officially got together the same year he quit rapping, and at first he kept his aspirations a secret. These days, he’s something of a self-identified foodie.
“That’s how wack I was: as soon as I left they got a record deal,” Ka says. “Remember when we was riding with the chrome spokes?” Ka claps him on the back. “FLAME THROWER: FDNY captain moonlights as anti-cop rapper.”, on the legendary radio show Stretch and Bobbito. We was watching him, but he ain’t have nothing on.
Reminiscing, Ka can’t believe that people new to Brooklyn are unaware of just how poor and violence-scarred neighborhoods like Brownsville and Bed-Stuy were just a couple of decades ago.
The small, basement-level space is tiled and bright, gleaming white. “It became less community and more just me like, ‘Yo, I’m getting money, fuck everybody else!’ It was because certain people were acquiring money. Ka is an emcee I will support and purchase albums from without even hearing a preview. “Ka should be celebrated as a New York treasure,” the rapper El-P wrote in a supportive tweet, adding, “Before writing a hit piece it’s good to ask yourself: ‘Has the man I’m trying to destroy saved more lives than me?’”. “I had to really focus. In the backyard in August, and across a series of follow-up interviews, Ka is adamant in his refusal to comment about the hit piece. Early model Motorola phones the size your head. “The smaller something is, the harder it is to make,” Seinfeld said, gushing over the careful click of a closing door from one of the “few dozen” Porsches he owns. “With love comes hate...can't have one without the other,” he tweeted himself the day the story came out. I caught the ringworms on that block. A list of fundraisers you can support right now. He worked his way up the ranks of the fire department for a decade until, just before making captain in 2009, he realized he was missing what had been a huge part of his life. Rather than holding him back, firefighting gives Ka’s music career clarity of purpose. A thousand dollars was a million dollars back then,” Ka says. One August afternoon, in the back of his house in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, he’s got a sort of cabana set up. There’s this story in *The New York Times Magazine *where the writer asks his subject, Jerry Seinfeld, why he still spends months on the road.
When he scoops me up on the way to deliver copies of his new album Honor Killed the Samurai for “my peoples and them,” it’s still early in the morning. “When we was 8 or 9 years old we was recording. I got tired of it so we left.” La tells me I can put it all in my article, and grins wide. “Just because you cook doesn’t mean you’re a chef.” But eventually, it came out. In the early ’90s, Ka made a name for himself around New York with a group, Natural Elements, and later as half of the duo Nightbreed.
Most of the Kama Sutra releases are pressed on styrene Reply Notify me Helpful [m204629] Master Release. “That shit is wack, man,” he sighs. La grew up around the same desperation as Ka. For me, it’s just life.”, When it comes to rappers who find success in their forties, Ka stands practically alone. From 1990 to 1998, he attended school at The City College of New York, in Harlem, taking just one class per semester while trying to focus on sparking a rap career. “It was a different environment for me,” he says. Old Nikes. People was hitting you with a buck fifty on your face, just for nothing,” he says, referring to a slashing requiring a great number of stitches.
If not for Fresh Air Fund, I’d have died in the smog, Ka raps on 2016 track “That Cold and Lonely,” referencing a non-profit that pays for vacations in the country for low-income inner city youth. “I wrote a lot, but stylistically, I didn’t have it,” he says. With Ka at the wheel, we cruise over the Manhattan Bridge and into the East Village, landing at one of his favorite restaurants, Superiority Burger. Dion reminds Ka that the support was mutual: the two used to sit on the stoop and talk through their problems, late into the night.
“I feel like I’m finally becoming self-actualized,” he says.
[The Fire Department] forced me to be around people.”, Ka rose through the ranks quickly.
Instead he tinkers away in theatres, dark clubs, and at tiny private gigs, making minor variations on jokes that sometimes take years to perfect. He’s drawn to the arts that require precision, he explained, like calligraphy—“or samurai.”.
“I wanted to be better, [but] I was the weak one in the group.” He quit Natural Elements, and soon after the group was signed to Tommy Boy.
“Every block I’ve lived on wasn’t my block,” he says. The irony of Samurai’s title is that, while the window dressing recalls feudal Japan, you rarely have to look back further than Giuliani’s New York to see the kinds of fiercely fought, morally fraught battles that rage in the background.
“As a kid, I always thought, Why the fuck we here? “Hip-hop is a genre that is very ageist, and it was a hard reality to come to grips with.” But he’s here now, and he’s got no plans to slow down.
His old partner in Nightbreed Kev’s name is pressed into the Honor vinyl, and when Ka mentions him, he tears up. According to a longtime friend named Scar, he had disappeared when he was studying for his entrance exams, then scored high on both the physical and the written portions of the test.
referencing The Rapper, 7", Single, KA 502. That shit is crazy!” he says. He knows Stamps.com backwards and forwards, and fills out each customs form for international orders himself. He later went on to form the group Nightbreed with friend Kev. “I can’t help it. That’s why I take so much time with my shit, I know that the people I was around was some of the best MCs. He was a member of Natural Elements, a group that eventually landed on Tommy Boy but made little impact; when he resurfaced, it was in 2008 with a quietly show-stealing verse on GZA’s Pro Tools.
He also practices good skincare: earlier, he draped a bandanna over his shaved head to protect from the sun beating down on it. There’s a speaker playing adult contemporary radio oldies. As a writer, it’s you and your pen and paper, with no one around, in silence. Dion is a construction worker and cherishes his weekends dearly. La asks Ka if he recalls what predated rims. Ka epitomized quality music and superb lyricism with his self produced albums. At the grocery store, they were regulars in the “no frills” aisle, and Ka remembers his mother coming home with bags of brown rice that they would pour out onto a table and remove pebbles from. I had a lot of weight on my shoulders,” he says. It’s a test to take, I’m going to study hard — eight, nine hours a day — so that I can move up and I can be a man of worth in this shit and respected in this field, and provide for my family and have my people proud of me. “There’s always better to reach for,” he adds. His voice is flat, gravelly but zoned out, like he’s trying not to directly confront the reality he describes. It ain’t too many fathers in the hood. Underneath its canvas roof, cushions cover wicker furniture. Especially in the ’70s and ’80s.”, “In the ’70s, the community raised you,” Ka continues. Growing up, Ka, whose stage name is the nickname his mama gave him, sometimes resented it. Ka released his debut solo album, Iron Works, in 2008, and it wound up in the hands of none other than GZA. While Natural Elements worked on their debut album, which was first delayed then ultimately never released, Ka moved on to form a new group, Nightbreed, with his childhood best friend Kev, who died tragically in a car accident in 2015.
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