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BK & ASSOCIATES
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BK & ASSOCIATES (2002)
BK & Associates - Click to view! A soothing acoustic guitar and light percussion open the door to "Welcome to My World." This is the first track from BK & Associates, a side project from Ill Harmonics' production wizard Blake Knight. The track could very easily be renamed "Welcome to Blake Knight's Coffee House", as Knight serves up some smooth, laid-back hip-hop that's tasty enough for anyone to partake in. As a twist, the concept of this album was for Knight to produce all of the tracks and provide them to some of the hottest Christian emcees in the industry. The final result is skillful production combined with a guest list of Who's Who emcees. Knight stated that his goal was to create songs that would fit the style for each artist on the album. This must be the criterion for evaluation.

The beats on this record represent their creator very well. The majority of the tracks have a jazzy, laid-back feel. "Frisky Business," featuring Sivion from the Phat K.A.T.S., was originally a jazz instrumental transformed into a hip-hop song. Its smooth bass line is enhanced by a delicate drum loop and the jazz guitar played by Chad Gerber. The band Earthsuit also makes an appearance on the song "Where I Was". BK turns this record into his own poetry club as he performs in spoken word. The album's first single, "What I Love," (featuring KJ-52) has a distinct R&B feel with its catchy guitar riff and Knight tenderly singing the chorus. This is a sure hit. Overall, the production is very solid. The live instrumentation, the majority of it performed by BK, is one of the album's strengths. Another, of course, is the long list of talented emcees that appear.

Heading that list is the other member of Ill Harmonics, Playdough. His song "Babylon Suburbia" has a typical Ill H sound with its acoustic guitar and strong, steady beat. Play-dough more than holds his own lyrically. Other strong tracks include "Blue Room," (with Lojique) "What's Real" (featuring the Tunnel Rats) and Uprok labelmate Freddie Bruno's "Melodic Parabolic". The diversity of Knight is shown on these tracks. "Melodic" has Bruno rapping over a layered harmonica sample and a cleverly constructed drum pattern. This track is a surprising head-nodder. "What's Real" features an angelic vocal sample with a beat slightly slower than a typical Tunnel Rat number. However, BK and the Rats pull it off in incredible fashion. Emcees Peace 586 (recently returned to the crew), Raphi, Macho and Dax provide insight into the counterfeit world of hip-hop and the integrity of Christ. "All Around The World," performed by MG the Visionary, is the standout track on this album. MG brings his energy filled, fun-loving delivery to a beat with a definite Latin influence. This one demands repeat plays and should get some radio play as well.

While Knight does create very well for the majority of emcees, there are some songs that just don't measure up. "Frisky Business" should have stayed as an instrumental. The track is too laid back for Sivion. His verses make the song adequate, but there is no chorus, leaving the song with an empty feeling. The opening bars of "Theme Music" had me scratching my head. This song was designed for Mars Ill, one of the dopest underground crews out there. Unfortunately, the echoing keyboard loop and weak drums do not come close to fitting with Manchild's rhyme style - an emcee known for success with any beat. Even the turntablism by DJ Dust can't save this one. Finally, John Reuben's track, "Not That Serious," is just that. Recorded in Columbus, Ohio with local cats Bustone, Nathan Smart and Scott Bellows, this song doesn't make the cut. JR phones in his performance and the other emcees just can't overcome the repetitive bass line that has this writer pushing the skip button.

BK & Associates is more than a decent album. It is a project that only few producers could attempt and Blake Knight pulls it off with measured success. This album has something for everyone. Hip-hop heads will enjoy some great performances, the jazz cats will dig the production and the average hip-hop fan will love its smoothness. Take BK out to the patio, chill with some friends and have an espresso. Or just play it in the car - even your mom will dig it.
- Jon Corbin
July 2002
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