New Rules. Jay Z changed the landscape of the music industry by having Samsung sponsor the release of Magna Carta Holy Grail, changing the way the Recording Industry Association of America certifies album sales. Sponsorships dominate the game, generating extra revenue and attention for established artists and helping upstarts get their big break.

With sponsorships come a polished, professional style and sound, the antithesis of what hip-hop was when it started out as street corner cyphers and neighborhood block parties. In a sense, it’s awe-inspiring to see Jay Z rub shoulders with Judd Apatow at a fancy art gallery, but for those who loved the spirit of what hip-hop represented in a previous time, it’s a little disconcerting.

Wizened by decades of surviving the rough-and-tumble neighborhood of Brownsville, Ka stands in stark contrast to this current trend. The 40-year-old rapper grew up during hip-hop’s infancy and watched it expand into the multi-million dollar industry it has become today, eagerly waiting for his opportunity to share his craft with the world, unbridled by corporate strings. Somehow, he has emerged out of obscurity with his last two releases, Grief Pedigree and the more recent The Night’s Gambit.

His gravelly, monotone delivery, polysyllabic rhyme style, and gritty sample choices bring listeners of his music back to a time when large swaths of New York City were not safe. The weighty lyrics and vintage sounding beats make each project a piece of fine art, made for slow digestion.

Ka is a one-man machine: he writes the raps, makes the beats, shoots the video, and even mails out the CDs himself. And he manages to accomplish this all while still working a regular job outside of the music. We got on the phone with the Brownsville native to find out Who is Ka?

As told to Dharmic X (@DharmicX)

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