Ka

We get a lot of records sent to us here at The A.V. Club. Fortunately, we end up liking some of them. In Playlisted, we share our latest recommendations.

Album: Grief Pedigree by Ka (out now on Iron Works)

Press play if you like: Stark hip-hop that rewards close listening; New York rappers who actually sound like they’re from New York; dusky beats; quiet menace

Some background: Ka’s self-released 2008 debut Iron Works didn’t make many waves outside of the Brooklyn rapper’s closest circles, but it did catch the ear of the Wu-Tang Clan’s GZA, who featured the little-known MC on his Pro Tools album later that year. The two rappers are kindred spirits: Each rhymes in a stern, emotionless monotone with dense wordplay, a novelist’s attention to detail, and a curt disregard for showmanship. Ka’s vision, though, is even grittier than GZA’s. He raps as if he’s hiding a razor blade under his tongue, never raising his voice beyond a hoarse, carnivorous grumble. It’s a remarkably authoritative voice, and on his sophomore album, Grief Pedigree, he trusts it to carry 11 barren, self-produced tracks almost entirely devoid of hooks, gimmicks, or levity—bells and whistles that would only detract from his cold street tales. Ka’s flow is steady, but his rhymes are all motion. “Both feet on the gas / Nothing on the brake,” he raps in the opening bars of “Vessel,” “Cuffing on an eight / Cupboard bare but I swear tonight there’s gon’ be something on the plate.”

Try this: Ka’s rugged flow and his enthralling storytelling are Grief Pedigree’s primary attractions, but his odd, minimalist production is a draw in its own right. So gaunt it practically feels unfinished, “Cold Facts” is his queasiest, most stirring beat.