Ka’s Honor Killed the Samurai takes the listener on a ride through a musical landscape only Akira Kurosawa could imagine.
Ka’s Honor Killed the Samurai was the answer to my prayers to the heavens for an awesome rap album. The New York rapper released his fourth solo album earlier this month and it was through several acts of providence that I came across Ka’s music. Talk about pennies from heaven.f I wanted the melding of Chinese and Japanese pop culture and good, old American hip-hop I had to rely on my love for Wu-Tang Clan albums. To be honest, it was through my love of hip-hop (combined with my love for anime) that I made the transition into becoming a fan of Japanese folklore, pop culture, and cinema. The latter is probably my favorite way to consume Japanese pop culture.
If I wanted the melding of Chinese and Japanese pop culture and good, old American hip-hop, I had to rely on my love for Wu-Tang Clan albums. To be honest, it was through my love of hip-hop (combined with my love for anime) that I made the transition into becoming a fan of Japanese folklore, pop culture, and cinema. The latter is probably my favorite way to consume Japanese pop culture.
Akira Kurosawa is one of my favorite directors and while his gift for creating stunning scenes and orchestrating impeccable cinematography, the music in his films plays a major role in conveying Kurosawa’s message and setting the tone for the scene. While music is subjective and some people may be genuinely touched by a Taylor Swift album, Honor Killed the Samurai is like an audiobook about Ka’s epic journey through life set to music. Think Zatoichi the titular character in Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman if he could rap about his adventures, both good and bad. Whenever I put on this album, I imagine scenes out of Shogun Assassin or The Seven Samurai set to Ka’s languid yet forceful delivery.
If you were looking for straight up club bangers, this is not the album for you. Then again, Ka has always attracted hip-hop purists, a special kind of rap fan that spend their time with their heads looking for the most underground of artists. What Honor Killed the Samurai does have is short informative vignettes about samurai or Japanese culture narrated by a woman with a heavy Korean or Japanese accent. There are also audio samples from Japanese films sprinkled in for good measure. This adds a dramatic layer that further enables the listener to feel like they’re journeying through life like a ronin or samurai.
The beats on Honor Killed the Samurai are minimalistic and earnest, but they are far from simple. In fact, the entire album is both sophisticated and humble. Ka sounds sincere and even a little jaded but wise. For example, on “Finer Things/Tamahagene”, Ka raps about more than just roaming the streets wilding out. Ka lets his vulnerability show unabashedly but he’s so nonchalant in his delivery that it’s hard to pity him. He doesn’t want our pity, though. He wants us to understand honor, life in the hood, the hustle, the struggle just to be able to get a decent meal, and the internal conflict between good and evil.
If you hear Honor Killed the Samurai featured in the next Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez film, then you’ll know why. Listen to the album and tell me that you couldn’t see it playing in the background to The Hateful Eight or Kill Bill. Matter of fact, that gives me an idea…
Honor Killed the Samurai is one of my favorite albums of the year. I actually listen to it when I’m winding down, and I’m excited to check out Ka’s previous body of work. If you’ve been missing really good rap without all the materialistic propaganda shit, then you need to cop this joint.