Nov 3, 2015

Review: Late Knight Special - @KirkKnight; A Niles P. Joint

Over the past few years, Hip Hop has seen a resurgence of young dual threat emcees/producers. I have been watching three in particular, and since I’ve already covered Bishop Nehru and Raz Fresco, it’s time to analyze the final section of this three headed monster. Kirk Knight cut his teeth with a membership in Brooklyn collective Pro Era, specifically producing for Joey Bada$$’ major label debut. His production style fit Pro Era’s signature Beast Coast grime and he showed skills as a budding rapper. Somewhat surprisingly, Knight decided to forego the mixtape route and dropped Late Knight Special as his debut album. My boy Ramsey previewed it earlier and now I’m here to bat cleanup and check it out in depth.

Since Knight’s body of work isn't as long as peers’ as of yet, this serves as his long-form introduction to the world on the solo tip. He starts out with a celestial sound on both Start Running and Heaven Is For Real. The former makes good use of a vocal sample about teleportation music through harps, with a standout bassline and great drums. Speaking of great drums, the snare is excellent on the latter. I think there’s also an uncredited by Kris (formerly T’Nah Apex.) Both show a great scope of his beatmaking talent. Kirk gets straight hype/gutter on Brokeland which was the first single released some time ago. It’s very ODB/Wu Tang inspired, or so it seems. The hardcore aesthetic continues on 5 Minutes which features team captain Joey Bada$$. The horror movie piano works as it creates a soundscape that is somber yet has replay value. Joey complements the song without overshadowing his boy. Thus far, the songs have stylistically come in pairs.
Here’s where things go off the rails though. Knight Time is a turn up type track. It has the dreaded machine gun drums that I hate and is a 180 degree turn in approach. One Knight (Kirk really likes wedging his name into song titles) has very good guitar work but the beat is too busy and is the obligatory smooth single. This would be forgivable but he goes down the same route THREE SONGS IN A ROW with Scorpio and Down. They’re almost interchangeable and mostly forgettable. At this point the album feels more like a collection of songs than anything truly cohesive. More on this later.

Mick Jenkins shows up on I Know which is decent but suffers from drums that use too many modern motifs. The hi-hats are just distracting, which is a shame because the rest of the song is dope. Chicago is in the house again along with L.A. in the form of guest spots from Noname Gypsy and Thundercat on Dead Friends. It’s just what it says it is, a sentimental reflection on dead friends. Noname continues to slay every guest appearance she sees and Thundercat lays down some glorious guitar riffs. The Future features this guy called The Mind who is apparently some sort of genetic hybrid between Kid Cudi and Chance The Rapper vocally. Despite the guest’s style biting, Kirk lays down some solid reflective bars. The album closes with All for Nothing. It’s probably the best song on the album and gives the best indication of Kirk Knight’s potential talent on the mic and behind the boards. It’s a very intricate song both instrumentally and flow-wise as he switches it up within the song without it sounding gimmicky at all.
I mentioned before that this album was kind of all over the place It seems like Kirk Knight was torn between pleasing the older fans who liked his crew’s classic style and the younger ones in his age bracket who enjoy trap/drill music to get them hype. It’s good that Knight strives to be versatile but at the same time you can’t help but notice that the album is almost broken up into thirds, with each one sounding different than the others. Editing and song sequencing plays a big part in this gaffe; the album as a whole doesn’t have one consistent vibe. This is compounded because he went for broke and released a studio album before wading into the treacherous waters of the rap game with a mixtape or EP first. Even his crew mates have treaded lightly instead of immediately diving in.
At the same time, you have to remember that Late Knight Special is still his first solo project. While ultimately disjointed, it does have some gems that show what he’s capable of both as an emcee and producer. This album is ambitious if nothing else. The wetness behind his ears will go away and the ride will be smoother the next time around. It’s a testament to the adventure of youth when the world was infinitely possible and you could try everything once before settling down. While it didn’t always work, Kirk Knight has more than enough musical prowess to hammer out an enduring berth in Hip Hop.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Multimedia Journalist, Founder and Chief Editor of WTM Host of A-Side B-Side Podcast and more. I like to talk about stuff and write it down. Sometimes to a microphone. Either way, I need you to feel this.

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