December 25, 2009

My Gut Reaction: K.I.N. - Knowledge Is Now (2010)

The San Antonio underground hip hop crew The Vultures consider themselves to be their own version of the Wu-Tang Clan: many affiliated artists and groups that combine to form the Alamo City Voltron. When I listened to the collective's second album, 7 Rings Of Saturn, earlier this year, I was amazed at the lyrical dexterity of the crew, as well as the dank, dusty beats that primary producer Ruler Why was able to conjure up from the ether.

So when given the opportunity to listen to the first album from Vultures offshoot K.I.N., I predictably jumped at the chance.

Ruler Why has likened the duo of K.I.N., made up of rappers Ruin and 7ish, to the relationship between the Wu and North Star, the West Coast affiliate crew that nobody gives a fuck about, up to and including the actual members of the Wu. Although I can see where he was going with that, I disagree: I have my own comparison, which I created while listening to their debut project Knowledge Is Now, that I will reveal somewhere within the review itself. Ruler Why takes the reigns for the majority of the album's production, with assists from Reiner Hass and KOOLaction behind the boards, while Ruin and 7ish are accompanied by various other members of the Vultures clique.

In short, if you're a fan of Jedi Mind Tricks or early Wu, this may be your shit. But for those of you who like your reviews to be long winded, please continue reading.

Still not a fan of rap album intros, but the drums on here are fucking hard.

Even though it sounds nothing like it, the Reiner Hass beat reminded me of John the Baptist's work on Killah Priest's “The Professional”, although this is much darker. Ruin takes to the mic and simply destroys the scenery with his opening verse, leaving his guest to pick up the pieces. This was a pretty dope track, even if the “hook” was entirely unnecessary.

7ish spits a one-verse wonder over an instrumental that sounds nothing like the previous track. Truth be told, the beat from “This Is K.I.N.” sounds more like Armageddon than this one did: this song sounds more like the peace that could only come after the end of the world. 7ish sounds pretty damn good, though.

Ruler Why's subdued beat is a good contrast for the aggressive rhymes from everybody involved. Even the hook doesn't stick around long enough to become annoying. Ruin rips shit, but Sun Elo steals the show with his “amorphous” flow: bonus points for using the word amorphous within a rap song's context. This wasn't bad.

Over an organ-driven loop (one which hides in the background, so as not to trip over any of the artists), Ruin provides a commendable first verse, but all he really does is set up the dominoes for his guest, Jus the Destroyer,to fucking demolish. The instrumental treads the fine line between repetitive and interesting, but I still would have liked this to have been a bit longer. But then again, why does every rapper think that a rap song needs to be at least four minutes long?

This shit is pretty awesome. Ruin spits like one of the lost members of Sunz of Man, back when they were still relevant. (Maybe that statement was mean, but I'm fucking serious.) KOOLaction's dark beat is begging for a posse cut featuring the rest of the Vultures: maybe if I write it down, it'll actually happen. Still hard to believe that these guys are based out of the same city that considers the Alamo to be something to remember, but it's called creativity.

So far, I'm appreciating how none of these songs overstay their welcome. There wasn't anything bad about this track, but, unfortunately, it was a bit forgettable.

You can't swing a dead cat around without hitting a rap album interlude these days, but unless it's produced by Prince Paul, they're typically unnecessary. And what the hell are you doing swinging a dead animal around, anyway? The fuck is wrong with you?

Ruin and 7ish, performing without any guests for the first time on Knowledge Is Now, both kick a single verse over a sweeping Ruler Why production that sounds as if it was lifted from an epic Ben Hur-esque flick. In truth, the beat may be a bit much for the artists involved: I walked away from this humming the instrumental, but I can't remember any of the lyrics, aside from 7ish kind of losing me when the word “tabernacle” is fumbled. Also, how funny and apropos would this be if it were actually entitled “Man's Laughter”?

Reiner Hass provides a simple beat, but it fires on all cylinders. The Wu-Tang-like way that each artist tries to outdo the previous one is pretty fucking infectious: the only other time this year that I heard something similar was on the Slaughterhouse album. The hook is a bit goofy, though. The Destroyer takes home the prize, but everyone deserves a lovely parting gift.

While the imagery of “keep[ing] Saturn City (the group's handle for their home city) safe” while “protecting the universe” is hilarious to me, Ruin and Jus tear through this dark beat like a pit bull chomping on a Zhu Zhu Pet. The hook is a bit wordy, but this is independent hip hop we're discussing.

The Psycho Les vocal sample was unexpected. The beat contains the kind of hard drums that are missing from hip hop today, and the piano keys looped around them provide a haunting environment for all four rappers to spit within while searching through the haunted house for signs of paranormal activity. Jamar Equailty, one of my favorites from 7 Rings Of Saturn, takes over the track in such a forceful manner that it's a wonder it wasn't just his song to begin with: he demands your full attention. This shit was just fucking good.

I didn't really care for this one. The beat was dramatic enough, and the fact that Jus directly references Inspectah Deck only furthers the comparison between The Vultures and the Wu, but the hook turned me off completely, most likely by sounding like something Inspectah Deck would come up with today. It wasn't as bad as some of Kool Keith's choruses, but still.

Ruin and 7ish's vocal styles and chemistry reminds me of Killarmy's 9th Prince and Dom Pachino (or PR Terrorist, depending on what day of the week you catch him), and I don't mean that as a bad thing. It's probably unfair for me to continue using the Wu as a reference point when discussing K.I.N., especially if you hate the Wu, but their influence cannot be denied.

The creepy vocal sample at the halfway point will replace the whale in my nightmares.

While this isn't technically an outro, “The Wrath” concludes the K.I.N. saga with one hot verse from each member. It leaves you wanting for more, which makes Knowledge Is Now pretty goddamn successful.

THE LAST WORD: If you liked 7 Rings Of Saturn, then you'll like Knowledge Is Now just as much. And if you have never heard of The Vultures, but still claim to be a hip hop fan, you owe it to yourselves to give them a shot. Ruin and 7ish, with their opposing styles, mesh well with the music, which is provided mostly by Ruler Why, whose production isn't as epic in scope as it was on 7 Rings Of Saturn: instead, it appears to be ever evolving, providing a perfect counterbalance to the rhymes. Simply put, if I was a producer, these are the kind of beats I would wish I could make: Ruler Why, along with Reiner Hass and KOOLaction, use the Wu Elements and Stoupe The Enemy of Mankind as a jumping-off point to create their own cohesive sound, and K.I.N., along with their extended Vultures family, step up their lyrics to prove that they deserve to be on Knowledge Is Now. I would have preferred that Ruin and 7ish shared more tracks together (the two men only seem to share the stage on six tracks out of sixteen), but whenever one of the criticisms of an album is that you want to hear more of it, that can only be a good thing.

There are no freebies this time around, but you should visit The Vultures here and pick this album up. It's Christmas, people! You may as well spend it with some music you're bound to enjoy. Oh, and your family and friends and shit.


The Vultures – 7 Rings Of Saturn


  1. Ruler Why, you tha shiiit

  2. Whenever you say something is bananas, it is. I just checked The 7th Ring of Saturn cause I hadn't heard of The Vultures or K.I.N before this morning...and wow. I'm blown. I heard a few tracks that were up on MySpace and now I can't wait to get this album.

  3. umm this looks n sounds dope but where can i get this? I checked Amazon to no avail. and usually Amazon is where i go because it has everything.

  4. Click on one of the many links within the post, and you can buy it directly from the artist.

    Thanks for reading!

  5. these aint wu affiliated artist right?

  6. Thanks again Max, for an awesome review! To support and buy the album you can go here

    -Ruler Why

  7. If you search up K.I.N - Knowledge is Now, the first link is this review. The second being the artists MySpace page. You're review is now more relevant then the artist. Just kidding! Already placed my order.

  8. i checked out one of their songs on their myspace, their ultra dope!!, im supporting these guys

  9. glad to see people liked the album...big up to the whole 7RS crew for put'n me on the album. peace to the GOD Ish and Ruin.


  10. Yeah i have all shit of The Vultures, great crew!!Peace 2 the 58 Muzik & Psytology Fam, Germany-US Connected! by Rafaelz!

  11. this is jus the destroyer. it is 6 am and i dont know what i am doing here but thanks for the review i have to get back to my jackie chan movies (police story 1) oh yea also if you like a bit of science fiction, conspiracy theories, manga, aliens, killing reptiles, comics, cartoons blended w/ raw rhymes & and mad blunts. check my page im going back to my control room peace.