by Dan O
When I spoke with Brian Ennals and Infinity Knives about King Cobra they expressed how difficult it was to make, how it almost didn’t come out. The more they listened the more fragmented sprawling and disparate it must have sounded. As they spoke I couldn’t help but think about the movie Pulp Fiction. Tarantino’s first film Reservoir Dogs plays with telling a story out of order but not like Pulp Fiction. My generation thinks of it as a masterpiece but Tarantino was terrified he had dumped a disjointed mess no one would connect with. When you provide the audience something they understand the emotional personality of but still need to work to digest several times in order to get the details you have something special BUT if you give them utter confusion it will be disregarded. The line dividing the two is thinner than it looks from the outside. King Cobra and Pulp Fiction might seem like an odd comparison but it fits for me and has all year. I’m going to give you three common traits.
If you remember ball gags, rape, and Tarantino saying the N word far too many times Pulp Fiction did its job. It is a movie determined to burn itself into your brain. Violent imagery is the ticket in. I don’t mean strict violence like gunfire, I mean violent in sudden visceral shifts that shock you. King Cobra speaks a similar language that isn’t just frustration, it’s significantly more desperate and raw than that. Listen to Bluffin’ where Brian Ennals roars “Leeching @$$ preacher man came to collect. You see they want you to beg, they want you to borrow. I hope Joel Osteen dies tomorrow.” King Cobra pushes you to think about things in different ways without ever suggesting. It shouts. “I ain’t seen God yet so I pray to the cops. F* B*’s get money like Elijah Muhammad.” This is from The Not So Tired Sounds of Brian Ennals and shows you how much is happening within the violence of the phrasing. It’s a comment on religion and the absence of divine help in terrible situations while contrasting that against how ever present and unhelpful the police are. After that, a jab at the corruption present in the legacy of Elijah Muhammad and if you know about him…it really links the previous two statements. This is all to say that nothing is gratuitous. While the jaw dropping stuff hits hard the impact is the result not the mission. Profanity is not a tool being used it is something both creators feel all over them. King Cobra is about sorting, processing, and living with the profane.
Reviewers have had a hard time nailing down a simple angle to describe the sonics of King Cobra. It’s not just hard hitting 80’s flavored hip hop (Premium Malt Freestyle & Death of A Constable). People who really love Pulp Fiction love the moments of beauty in it. Uma Thurman dancing to her stereo with air guitar or Maria De Medeiros glowing with love for Bruce Willis character Butch. This is how I think of Tyler Moonlight and Allison Clendaniel’s roles on King Cobra. While The Culling to Milk & Codeine are beautiful they carry the same emotional impact of the hideousness Brian expounds upon. The world makes us yell and break stuff but it also forces us to tears and the prettiest moments on King Cobra are music for your tears, for your loss. I can’t break down all of the directions Infinity Knives takes this music because to be frank…I’m not as smart as he is with music. Knives is a composer that pulls threads from all directions and adores the art of extreme misdirection. Juxtaposing opposing sounds against each other to create a new experience that feels like it felt to live through 2022.
Clarity of performance-
Having listened to a lot of interviews with the two of them I’ve heard Brian describe Ice Cube and Chuck D as major influences. This makes sense. The era of emcees who roar at you about real problems in the world feels like a lifetime ago. We live in the era of personal branding which makes a lot of Conscious Rap feel aware of the world only as part of the mission to find a better spot in a competitive marketplace. Cube told me things on record that no one else was going to explain. He wasn’t always right but he gave you where he stood where he’d been and I’m glad I heard Black Korea. It was shocking and offensive but informed of real tension in the world I would need to interact with. The ultimate Ice Cube moment is clearly Sambo’s Last Words. The whole album Brian kicks down titanic world figures and whispers about the death of his father. The mortality of his mother. Death is bopping gently behind all messages. Sambo’s Last Words is Samuel L Jackson as Jules end scene in the restaurant. Choosing to reject the binary of B’s v. Queens N’s v. Kings and engages with the world like Jules talking down Tim Roth and Rosanna Arquette. Choosing a path “Let me tell you how to live. S_ really ain’t that deep, F_ as much as you can, love your kids and pray you die in your sleep.” His last message is what the album is all about: seizing optimal outcomes. Reject the red tape left to us by bloated corrupt ill meaning institutions and do your best to die in your sleep. Seize every moment with your kids. Have joyful sex with people who can’t wait to have joyful sex with you. As a composer I have to give Infinity Knives a lot of love because not only did he create the best sounding album of 2022 but he knew the meaning and pushed Brian to make The Bushman, pushed him to dig so deep he would find what we have here.
If you don’t have it buy King Cobra now: