‘Orpheus vs. The Sirens’ finds common ground between Greek and street lore
Patrick Witteman | Friday, September 7, 2018
Ka is 46-years-old, which makes him archaic in a hip-hop scene otherwise dominated by a generation of Soundcloud-based, rainbow-haired vibe makers. He currently works for the New York City Fire Department, and he writes rhymes in his spare time. In short, he does not fit the established, modern-rap archetype. This has not stopped him from gaining a cult following through the release of albums like “The Knight’s Gambit” and “Honor Killed the Samurai” — projects that thematically center on chess and samurai, respectively. On “Orpheus vs. The Sirens,” Ka joins forces with Los Angeles-based producer Animoss to create the rap group Hermit and the Recluse and a concept album that finds common ground between Greek mythology and street lore. The mythology theme is established both in and outside of the tracks, with references to famous Greek characters and stories throughout the entire project.
On the opening track of “Orpheus vs. The Sirens,” Animoss samples dialogue from the TV special of “Jason and the Argonauts.” Orpheus — the persona taken on by Ka — justifies his place on the famed Argo by explaining, “Of death I am knowledgeable / Danger I do not fear and I can give you music / Music that will tame wild beasts, lift men’s hearts to heaven.” Ka assumes the role of Orpheus, and we, the listeners, reap the rewards of his dense lyricism and Animoss’s artistic production.
Continuing with the opening track, “Sirens”, Ka rhymes effortlessly while alluding to figures in Greek mythology 11 times in total. Although this may seem gimmicky at face value, Ka’s masterful rhymes and clear understanding of the allusions prevent the references from feeling forced or out of place. My favorite reference to mythology in “Sirens” is, “It’s hard to love, and if only God could judge, who needs juries? / Weighin’ the crime, still payin’ for mine, haunted by the Three Furies.” Animoss’s sampling of strings on this track compliments the fragmented life experiences we receive by Ka, through mythology.
On “The Punishment of Sisyphus”, we find Ka contemplating the predicament he fell into growing up in Brownsville, New York. In Greek mythology, Sisyphus believed that he had outsmarted the gods. That, of course, was not the case, and Sisyphus was eternally condemned to roll a heavy stone up a mountain, only to have it tumble down after reaching the peak. Ka explains, “War with foes, felt we always chose the wrong decision / Holding torch was shows of force, never resolution.” Ka identifies with Sisyphus, as he hopes to cease a cycle of street life that seems impossible to break. Ka hopes to lead youth in the right direction, with lyrics such as, “Did well not to fell, could tell seeds relied on me / Relied on me.” Like most tracks on this album, the production that Animoss brings matches the emotional intensity of Ka’s fight against the life cycle of Brownsville.
The album comes in at 10 tracks, spanning 33 minutes, making the album tight, concise and meaningful. Between the aesthetic of Animoss’s production, the quotable-dense lyrics of Ka and the successfully executed Greek mythology concept, “Orpheus vs. the Sirens” is one of the most memorable hip-hop releases of the year. I highly recommend that you give this album a try, especially if you are a classics major.
- Artist: Hermit and the Recluse
- Album: Orpheus vs. the Sirens
- Label: Obol for Charon Records
- Favorite Tracks: “Sirens”, “Fate”, “Atlas”, “The Punishment of Sisyphus”, “Hades”, “Oedipus”
- If you like: MF Doom, Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep
- Shamrocks: 4.5 out of 5