Hermit and the Recluse Orpheus vs. the Sirens

[Self-Released; 2018]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: orphic hymns
Others: GZA, Ghostface Killah, MF Doom, Roc Marciano

They comme çi comme ça / Want a world of superlatives, come see Ka

Ka has always been concerned with the stuff of life, like how to tell a life, and in its telling how to free a life from the tales that jail it. All this through pleas and whispers that wax the ominous over such weighty, spacious mists, quivering in shadows, spirits, and shivers. Recasting the rhapsodic bombast of classic boom-bap into introspective bluster, Ka, like Orpheus, isn’t content with kindling the covert or illumining shades in the art that is night’s opening. Rather, they both look back in the night at what the night hides, seeking in the disclosure of the essentially hidden to see life as it (dis)appears in the night. Ka already occupies the underground like Orpheus the underworld, and what use is it to convey what is hidden in the dark to the light that sustains its submission?

Underground doesn’t merely mean the furtive, seedy secrets of a retreat into silence, as if unheard were enviable, nor is it all what, under-heard, might from the hood’s shadow find elation, lightly rising in a theater’s light or congregation, or on a corner find a crowd. Underground, for instance, is when Ka raps, “The space on how we place, like Earth and stars, choose wise, decides it’s titans versus the gods.” Like the versus the verse, or the struggle its singing, what is under the ground is what decides the ground, be it on a single life — “For years accepted this living prison, just thought we was cursed/ If mommy couldn’t buy me nothing, why she bought me to earth?” — or on a world — “Weight of the world on my shoulders he ain’t drop it yet.

Against those “ready-made plights” — “’unfortunates’ is what they called us ‘cause our fortunes at birth,” “survive ruins, was it my doing or fate?” — Ka is “bowed and vowed” to a mythology that forsakes fate and brightens birth. Even when the ground under which the underground is subdued consists of concrete and its labyrinthine cracks, as perilous and mercurial as the sea the seeking surpasses, the self-mythologizing that Ka composes on Orpheus vs the Sirens constitutes a minoritarian epic that resounds with the properly poetic catharsis that might purge the constraints from a life’s definition. To say, as in Ka’s first verse, “I think it’s fine to relinquish mine for the life our seeds.” Or, like Blanchot says of Orpheus,

His gaze is thus the extreme moment of liberty, the moment when he frees himself from himself and, still more important, frees the work from his concern, frees the sacred contained in the work, gives the sacred to itself, to the freedom of its essence, to its essence which is freedom.

In the heart of the night, in the silence beneath us, in the dark night of the heart’s blight, its unwound underworld — there where the lush, woozy beats that Animoss conjures to convey us to the loss and losing of the world’s weight — Ka, like Orpheus, turns around. There, like Orpheus, Ka looks back. Although there’s no Eurydice to be dissolved under the veil of a name or a song, nor even an underworld proper whose entrance song might secure, there is still a voyage to the edge of the world — “Inherited a ready-made plight/ Was too heavy, not many made light/ Come from regal people, fell from great height/ To track back to royal, had to break night” — there is still a voyage through, to the end of the night, through the end of the night. There Ka turns inward to where a life is grasped in the intimacy of its invisibility.

…and since I haven’t yet spoken of the vs the Sirens — “the Sirens, the Sirens, the Sirens,” “‘Till the roar of the silence, we at war with the tyrants/ Blocks of outlaws, but all we watch out for is the Sirens” — here’s a Kafka parable. In it, Kafka revises the myth. The Sirens do not vanquish the hero with their song. Perhaps because of the hero’s “look of bliss,” his self-enclosed singularity, they forget their singing. And even though their silence is more seductive than their song, the hero hears neither. Orpheus, however, in another myth, merely sang more beautifully.

For a world without police or their sirens.

Oh, don’t stop. Play on, please…

Most Read