Over the past decade or so, Ka has established himself as one of the most gifted poets in modern music. His discography over the years has been pretty much flawless, with albums drenched in symbolism relating to Greek mythology, Japanese culture and the Old Testament. On his 7th studio album Descendants of Cain, the legendary Brownsville, New York rapper carves a rich, dreamy and captivating soundscape, allowing him craft complex, thought-provoking and potent verses that are thematically centred around the story of Cain within the Old Testament. As someone who is unfamiliar with these religious stories, it took me quite a few listens to grasp some of the stories told throughout the project. Couple this with his insane lyrical ability, this album will be played and replayed for the next few years, and I look forward to studying this masterpiece for time to come still. This review will give a general overview on my thoughts on the project. If I’m to write a full analytical piece I’d probably need a few months before I can be confident in my thoughts.
Firstly, the production follows a similar type of aesthetic to his previous few albums. There is less emphasis on drums throughout, allowing each track to breathe, providing a delicate and almost ethereal sound for Ka to rap on. The piano keys and synths on the opener “Every Now and Then” are gorgeous and create a mysticism that is just so captivating, drawing me into the sound and his story. The gorgeous keys on “Patron Saints” are stunning too, while the vocal samples on “Sins of the Father,” with Roc Marciano, “Old Justice” and “I Love (Mimi, Moms, Kev)” provide an angelic tone that perfectly captures the mystical and fascinating aura of this record. The production is handled for the most part by Ka himself, with additional help from the likes of Preservation on “Unto the Dust” and “I Love,” Animoss on “My Brother’s Keeper” and Roc Marci on “Sins of the Father.” Each track flows beautifully from one into another, creating a smooth and tender atmosphere that gives Ka the space and opportunity to flow effortlessly and give the listener and time to digest each and every lyric. Even so, due to the sheer complexity of this man’s pen, it’s almost impossible to capture everything first listen, which makes Descendants of Cain such a fascinating and rewarding listen. It’s like a massive puzzle that gets closer and closer to completion with every listen. And speaking of the complexity of this album…
… his lyrics. It took me a whole week and an almost exhausting number of listens to understand quite a lot of the lyrics throughout this album. It’s a true example of pure, introspective and wildly intelligent poetry, and I’m going to do my best to give some of my interpretations on the lyrics and themes throughout the 11-track album. Firstly, the album title and cover is a reference to the story of Cain and Abel, who according to the the biblical book of Genesis, are the first two sons of Adam and Eve. Cain, being the older of the two brothers, envied the fact that God accepted Abel’s offering over his own, thus feeling a sense of discontent and disgust. The sinful actions of Cain make Descendants of Cain sound like a titled dedicated to the growth of evil throughout the world. Ka oftentimes puts himself in Cain’s position metaphorically, studying the downfalls and imperfections of his own character. For instance, on the mesmeric opener “Every Now And Then,” he opens his first verse with “Loved things I should have lusted / I rushed it, snubbed things I should have trusted.” Ka accepts lust as a part of his state of being, but tries to divide the line between love and lust, two differing emotions that can be construed as one and the same. On “My Brother’s Keeper,” Ka alludes to Genesis 4:9, where he asks “Am I my brother’s? /Am I my brother’s.” This is in reference to the following passage: “And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain had just killed Abel due to God’s dismissal of Cain’s offering of the grains he had farmed, preferring Abel’s sacrificial offering of a lamb. This was referenced throughout the track. Ka bridges the story of Cain and Abel’s story with current socio-political issues black people face in the United States. On the soulful “Old Justice” Ka says, “Sold raw, no more scraping the bottom / Brave the corner where ain’t no taking to Solomon / Read all with aggression, assuming they waiting to rob him / Thought he was moving solution, without equating the problem.” King Solomon of Israel was renowned for his wisdom and in particular the story of the Judgment of Solomon in which two women claiming to be the mother of a child took it to Solomon, asking him on a decision. He suggested that they cut the baby in half to be even, and he studied the reaction of each woman to decide who the real mother was to take the right decision. The way I interpret Ka’s line is that the social system for him and his family in the United States is so corrupted that taking his troubles to a higher power like Solomon, who was considered to be fair and intelligent, does not help his cause. On that last line, he states that despite the fact that he was trying to move and progress further from his neighbourhood, without being able to tackle the issue of institutional racism within the US, there is no use. The Roc Marciano produced and featured “Sins Of The Father” is exceptional too. “You know my stock was only good as my ingredients” he states in the first verse, which is such a good bar about the true fact that the environment has shaped the person who his is now. Roc Marciano’s flow and delivery is incredible, as he kills it with bars like “Reigned in hell or serve in heaven / Take from the world or earn your blessings / I heard verbatim from an angel’s message / My left shoulder there was Satan finessin’.” The angel and devil on your shoulder analogy is creative and shows the duality of man and their morality. The most emotive and personal track o the entire album is “I Love (Mimi/Moms/Kev).” The gorgeous, soulful vocal loop on this track is incredible, with Ka pouring his heart to his wife, mother and his best friend Kev. The whole track is tear-jerking, beautifully capturing the aura and spirit that embodies his character and soul.
There’s so much I can still talk about and digest, but as far as the main themes and lyrics of this incredible album, I think I’ve done ok. Descendants of Cain is a true work of art. Lyrically Ka delves into complex themes of love, lust, the duality of man and contemporary socio-political issues while displaying his ideas through the lens of the Old Testament and the story of Cain and Abel. His unique flow, tone and delivery over soulful, ethereal production is what makes this such an incredible listening experience. Ka deserves all the praise and credits for this, and I really hope everyone listens and supports because I’m floored, for real.
Purchase the album below via his website!