Since 2012 I’ve told anyone who asked that the best lyricist in the world is Ka. So the May 1st release of Descendants of Cain was a big deal for me. He was back to full form and the album dominated my listening. Fast forward to August and the buzz around an album with perfect cover art just can’t be denied. Everyone says it is “a masterfully NY album” and that is always something hip hop needs.
I don’t like it. The mathematics of its transition from track two to three don’t make sense. The first song is quite elegant, soulful with a touch of ambient music underneath a gripping audio clip. I don’t know who is speaking but that gruff smart voice says “How could you talk about your life experience through your art!? And these are vital times because people have to be restored.” From that we hear clacking and then one of the most important voices in all of music. The first full song on this album is Elucid’s to drive. Scrapes is one of the years best songs and I couldn’t get over it. I couldn’t handle that we went from Elucid to a new voice on track 3-Holyfield. You can’t introduce me to the primary narrator on song three! So I disengaged.
Something happened on the Call Out Culture podcast that set me off. Curly Castro asked Amani about the chorus on Holyfield, about the process of coming up with it. Amani paused, stumbled over words he didn’t have, and Castro jumped back in “You were just in the zone, huh?” Amani went on to explain that he writes and the next part just comes. He trusts the deductive path his train of thought is on and moves with it. So when he said “Ya’ll don’t hear me though, Evander Holyfield!” it’s because just before he said that he was dealing with “cats moving like crabs do” the ideas are all connected. That approach to the writing made me give the album another shot.
Once I fell in, I never came out. The audio interludes (example: 52 Vision) are so musical and well selected. Amani has a way of saying things in short hand that I exactly understand. On Throw The Fear it’s “Bear witness to a broken conscious. Absorbed by the nonsense. Ya’ll N_’s bored on some Dennis Rodman sh_t.” His phrasing is so raw but dynamic with intention, word choice that no one else would make but is true the moment you hear it. Meanwhile King Vision Ultra weaves in Monie Love and Maassai (from H31r) among haunting production you just won’t find anywhere else. King Vision Ultra curated the experience of the album like Steven Soderbergh mapping plot progression. All the while Amani stays in his train of thought, trusting himself and digging deeper. On Guillotine he says “F_ck a stake if it ain’t high, waiting for Jesus to hit the brakes. Make no mistake I got the drive to eat the pavement.” I can still hear his voice (from that song) ringing “Ya’ll addicted to trash narratives” every time my feed dumps garbage storylines on me.
An Unknown Infinite replaced Descendants of Cain in my listening habits. While Ka sounds like a wise old uncle who has seen things you can’t imagine, Amani feels like someone speaking from therapeutic meditation. Thinking through this world, as a great problem, with you not to you or at you. When I started actively sending out requests for interviews I specifically skipped Amani. In my mind, he left it all on this album. Anytime I wanted to talk I just needed to go back to it. No matter how many times I go from the title track to Guillotine (13 songs) I feel like we’re all doing it together as a team. King Vision Ultra, Monie Love, Elucid, Suede Jury, all play a part. Above all, I know that Amani believes what he says on Sun Screen “You want war because we want change. We got the power here.” The chill of the production and of voice may feel like pessimism but it’s a wave of ideological bleach, burning away the rotten bacteria woven into a life we’re better than. I needed it more than any other album in a year rotten with American bozoness.
Buy An Unknown Infinite and send it as a gift to someone you care about. Here is the link: