If you’ve heard of Black Knight, it may be because of the unfortunate ‘Bibles in the Air’ controversy (Unfortunate because of how it was dragged out with such little resolution more than the issue itself). If you haven’t heard of him by name, there’s a good chance you’ve heard some of his creations. His production has been featured on everything from J’son’s “Growing Pains Intro,” to R.M.G’s “Welcome to the Family,” to 2012’s surprise hit, K.B.’s “Zone Out.” The man behind the audio attempts to escape behind the board in the most dramatic way with his debut album The Break In.
The party gets started with “We Do It,” an anthematic collision of multi-colored synthesizers and braggadocious vocal features from Milliyon and Kadence of Exodus Movement. It’s the type of glittering, bass-booming sounds that wouldn’t feel out of place as the background music to the lineups at your next ball game as the kinetic sparks reflect against the polished hardwood. “The Break In” is also a nice boiling musical pot, with tensed strings upping the energy when the booming choir chants pause for a breath. “The Blood” continues the sugar-free Monster burst of energy, this time with raucous guitars dueling with each other. There’s a couple times where Knight goes for this rap-rock fusion sound on his album and I don’t particularly enjoy any of them, but not for lack of glam. Not to be confused with the title track, “Breakin’ In” is another high energy clip that is sure to enhance many monotonous bench presses in the gym or dreams of glory pre-sporting competition. In contrast, the airy “Not Gonna Go” has the breeziness off walking out of the gym and getting hugged by that blast of cool air. Featuring D-Maub and Jesus Geek, it adds more flavor in an album that could be threatened to become bored with one voice.
You may have noticed that most of the conversation has revolved around the production with no real mention, positive or negative, on Black Knight’s role as an emcee. I suppose that’s fitting since that’s the case for most of the album. Knight is, probably admittedly, not much of a wordsmith, seeming to fill in the small bare space that his stadium-sized beats leave with lyricism that doesn’t impress but does its job as caretaker, with some bare boned exceptions. Call it Josh Freeman. The emcee fills in that gap with a studio filled with guests, homies and network connections. “Can’t Hold Me Down” features Sho Baraka, with a pedestrian verse from the Talented Xth emcee, Transparent and a thick hook by Melinda Watts that shines. “Lifejacket” features a similar template, with guest spitter J’son and an elevated hook by Shamaya equaling an above average result for this project. Young Chozen brings his lighthearted philosophy in the smiley “Bye Bye.” The unbridled optimism would usually find me hitting the skip button, but thanks to sheened production with some intriguing underlying elements (snapping fingers and cute voice samples) I found myself letting it pay it’s running time dues after repeated listens. The same can’t be said for the sunny “L.O.L.” despite, or possibly because of, the presence of mysterious guest SPZRKT. Some may love the bottle of sunshine and rainbow spray of radio-centric rock that the song shakes out, but it’s too Disney Channel for me to enjoy. Likewise with album closer “My Everything” although the worship factor in that number make it more excusable, if not enjoyable.
It may be because of the previously mentioned ‘Bibles in the Air’ mishap, but finding several cloned beats of radio hits on the project was extra disappointing. There’s absolutely no denying the biting off Big Sean’s “*$$ (Dance)” just a couple tracks into the album on “Swerv,” or Ludacris’ “My Chick Bad” being mimicked on “My Beat Bang.” Perhaps in the latter case the simile was intentional, with the idea of ‘redeeming’ it but just needing to come up with an excuse shows how unnecessary its inclusion was. There were a few other times while listening that I caught familiar sounds whose cousins was on the tip of my ear that I could never confidently place. Regardless, it’s a dangerous place for a producer to be, despite the seeming prevalence of it in the culture of commercial hip-hop as a whole.
Black Knight is a suitable producer, as a good amount of this project and his recent features on the Gravity Remix EP bear testimony to. When you’re looking for that ecletic, commercial-glistened sound byte to move crowds with, I have no qualms in calling him the man to talk to. But, as already mentioned, proficiency in the booth doesn’t always give you a good reason to step out from the board and in front of a mic. No matter how good the production, having the dead weight of average bars on the other side of the balancing beam will rarely equal out to a weight bigger than the median. Add in penalties for some gross imitation and you’re left with a rating that doesn’t do justice to Black Knight the producer, but is necessary for Black Knight the emcee to see.
Beat Selection/Production: 3.5/5