Fresh off the buzz of Joey Bada$$‘s politically-driven album ALL AMERIKKKAN BADASS, Brooklyn-based Pro Era is back with a collaborative effort from Nyck Caution and Kirk Knight, stylized as Nyck @ Knight. Nyck @ Knight was the result of a studio session in which Nyck and Kirk recorded to two tracks in 2013 and saved them for this very project. Nyck Caution – also known as Jesse Cordasco, explains in an interview that he hails from Mill Basin, which is a neighborhood in South Brooklyn. Although he came from a decent upbringing, he provides insight on what he saw growing up as a kid in Brooklyn—people around him were popping pills and becoming surrounded by the drug life. He had to make a choice between succumbing to drugs or finding a better path for himself. In his case, his path directed him to meet Joey Bad$$ and Capital STEEZ to form the rap collective Pro Era. On the other hand, Kirk Knight – also known as Kirlan Labarrie, states in a similar interview that he’s from Flatbush, a neighborhood known for its Caribbean roots. Although he did not have the resources to hone his craft at an early age, his brother suggested to study hip hop greats such as MF DOOM, 2Pac, Notorious B.I.G., and Madlib. Eventually, Joey gave encouragement to Kirk and started producing in FL Studio and Ableton Live. However, Kirk was inspired by Joey and Steez in their approach to the rap game. Similar to Kanye West and his transition from production to rapping, Kirk Knight became more confident in his penmanship and released his debut album Late Knight Special in 2015.
Each talented in their own right, the combination of Nyck’s hunger, passion, and drive and Kirk’s delivery and production provides hip hop heads a concise, yet impactful project that was sorely missing in today’s music industry. After premiering their first single “Off the Wall” at the House of Vans in Brooklyn, Nyck @ Knight gave fans a taste of masterful lyricism and production for their forthcoming self-titled project. The project itself may be considered a hybrid of conscious rap and East Coast hip hop due its gritty sound and messages relayed in the album. Drawing influences from Notorious B.I.G., Wu-Tang Clan, and Big Pun, each song takes the listener on a personal ride to Nyck @ Knight’s blood, sweat, and tears poured into this body of work. The dark and hard-hitting production complements the lyricism, flow, and delivery displayed by Nyck Caution and Kirk Knight. Similar to “Why I Love You” by JAY Z & Kanye West, “All Night” may be heralded in the same light as Nyck and Kirk rap in succession and complete each others bars. The ominous piano, opera-based vocal sample, and boom bap-influenced beat transfers the listener to the hard-knock streets of Brooklyn. As a fellow Brooklynite, I was captivated by the soundscape presented in a track about a young person coming up in the rap game. “All Night” is a good representation of bar-to-bar content and punches by Nyck and Kirk.
“No One Seems to Care” lets the album breathe with its soulful vocal sample looped throughout the track. Ironically, Kirk mentions the words “blood on the leaves”, which is a track title on Kanye’s Yeezus album. Intentional or not, uttering these words on a sample-based production may very well be an ode to the hip hop mogul himself. Chuck Strangers does the beat justice by adding a choppy drum pattern to allow Nyck and Kirk to ride the beat with their flows. They use the sample to their advantage by ending their lines with a word that connects with “no one seems to care.” “Dial Up”, on the other hand, follows suit with a mellow and distorted piano intro. Kirk Knight’s hook dips in and out of cadence, while the background vocals cuts through Kirk’s voice with lush tones. Although lyricism wasn’t the main focal point of this track, the flexibility of Kirk’s production, vocal ability, and rapping seems unmatched by similar artists.
With an underground hip hop vibe reminiscent to Wu-Tang Clan’s dark approach in production, “Perfect Murder” puts Nyck Caution’s lyricism in the foreground. Many pop culture references are sprinkled throughout “Perfect Murder” such as Ivan Drogo from “Rocky”, and a line from a Conor McGregor press conference. Although the content may not contain a hidden meaning at first, the references and punchlines gives the listener a closer look on Nyck’s interests, including videos games and sports. Pressing forward, a hidden gem and personal highlight of Nyck @ Knight captures the very essence of a well-put together hip hop jam. The melodic piano intro of “Headlights” transitions into a catchy chorus sung by Kirk Knight. As the song wavers on, Kirk gets more personal and explains how his family and friends are not the perfect support system that he once thought he had. Later, he also confesses that sacrifices made to make it to the top is a choice that came with the territory. The beat switch up at the end ties the track together with repetitive chants that echo and fade out.
“Audiopium”, the mixtape’s second to last track, was initially previewed on the third annual STEEZ day on July 7th, 2017. Dedicated to the late Capital STEEZ, Pro Era displays their lyrical prowess and hunger for the rap game. The chorus is a combined effort from Joey Bada$$ and CJ Fly that repeats in displaced spots to give shine on the rest of the Pro Era members. Nyck Caution, Dessy Hinds, Aaron Rose, Rokamouth, and Dirty Sanchez were given a platform to show their lyrical abilities that seamlessly flowed into the track’s ending. Taken from the Joey, STEEZ, and Smoke DZA cypher and the same verse from “Killuminati“, Capital STEEZ coined the term “Audiopium”, the title of this Pro Era-packed track. Nyck and Kirk placing emphasis on this verse may be evidence on how much Capital STEEZ influences the Pro Era culture to this very day.
Last but not least, Nyck @ Knight ends on a hopeful note with “Wake Up” in which Nyck and Kirk take turns to go bar after bar in cohesive fashion. Kirk implements turntable scratches in an old school hip hop beat—a sound that is sparingly heard in today’s hip hop world. Content wise, the dynamic duo’s strong suit is on full display while referencing Ab-Soul‘s “Turn Me Up”, Buzz Lightyear from “Toy Story”, and a deck of cards. The chorus revisits the thematic approach of Nyck @ Knight: staying true to yourself, focusing on your craft to be the best at what you do, and distancing yourself from the hypocrisy of society.
Stream the self-titled album Nyck @ Knight below or on Spotify:
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