EDITOR’S NOTE: Sankofa recently became a contributor to the Patreon for RapReviews. Although we appreciate his support it would be inappropriate to not disclose any possible conflict of interest at the start of this review. To wit: Sankofa did not request this review, not was he given an advance copy of it before it went to print. He provided a promo code for download, as he has routinely done since before becoming a patron, and the choice to do so is always his and his alone. Thank you.
If you’re confused as to how to pronounce the name of this album, “VLTR KMBT” should be read as “Vulture Kombat.” What is Vulture Kombat though? Well the easiest explanation is that it’s the group name for rappers ACT-1 and Sankofa when they collaborate. The press release throws out a whole lot of other ideas though. It says they’re paying tribute to Raekwon’s “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx,” although my best guess is that refers to the limited edition cassette tape that sold out before I even listened to this album. Speaking of limited edition, Vulture Kombat is also apparently a sneaker line that (you probably guessed this from the spelling) has a Mortal Kombat theme. If you search “VLTR KMBT” it leads you back to this album, so maybe the shoes are sold out too. Their love of kicks is obvious on “Move in Fly Sneaks” though.
This at least ties (no pun) their album to Raekwon, or more specifically his album’s frequently recurring co-host Ghostface Killah and his obsession with Clarks Wallabees. Clarks were well aware of hip-hop’s fascination with these kicks and leaned into it heavily for marketing purposes. Me personally? I’ve never been a sneaker head. I own one pair of Timberlands, and I’ve never had any brand loyalty to Nike, Reebok or Adidas — I just buy whatever fits the best when my last pair wears out if the colors don’t offend me. I’m not knocking it either though. Everybody collects something. Shoes aren’t what I’m into but I respect the deep cultural impact they’ve made in hip-hop over a six decade span (the 70’s to the present). I can’t say this is a deep overriding theme of the album though. In fact the lead single “Flowerpot Head” featuring Showrocka is totally unrelated to it.
Sankofa: “Experience a heavy loss without a diet plan
Stepping off, the demigod of rocking high command
No concubine, I conjured spirits that can overtake a weaker soul
Closure’s traits are ether’s hole
The speakers shudder in a spasm when I speak upon it
Never let a statue tell me or be a thief of wattage
Got some tattoos under the guns of Nick and Ted
I wonder if some can list regret, mister kiss of death
I hear the angels in my skull sing more
When I’m opening those gullwing doors, set to soar”
In fact Showrocka’s reference to “Chef-ing like Cuban Linx” is a closer nod to what’s in the press release for “VLTR KMBT” than any expensive footwear. Overall though it’s slightly disconcerting to hear Sankofa split the performance duties with another emcee. I’m so used to him rocking solo with occasional cameos from friends like JON?DOE that I was not expecting the shift to Vulture Kombat. Over the course of 38 minutes I grew accustomed to not only the tandem but the greater number of guest features compared to a typical Sankofa project. Jeff Spec was a personal favorite on “Japan to Atlanta,” a trip I wouldn’t mind making in either direction.
Ultimately though it’s the dense lyrical wordplay of Sankofa that I’m here for. He’s a rapper with an impeccable timing for making bars that fit any track he’s on, while never having to leave out any thought no matter how esoteric. Take “Unflameable” for example.
“The emperor striking tender nerves December third
My pen is church, splash placentas burst
Cement a curse competitors can get a dirge
Ultraviolet on the red alert
Rawhides the leather burnt, twist genetic squirms
Kinetic terms speaking to me, frequency of let ’em learn
Meal tickets punching past their weight class are fed to worms
The vase smashed, shards embedded in the mouth of the bear rug
Caught a fair one, diamond grills a tragic patch prepare tongues
So they don’t dare run
And I ain’t scared of none”
It wouldn’t be wrong to call his verbals “backpacker rap,” but I never understood that insult when a backpack could carry everything from spray cans and fat caps to blunts and a lighter. Why can’t what’s in the backpack be an Anthony Burgess novel and a VHS copy of “Escape From New York” then? Put whatever you want in yours. I’ll put “VLTR KMBT” in mine. There’s not much to gripe about here. Solid production, well thought out lyrics, a good co-host, and guests who don’t take down the presentation or overstay their welcome. I wish it was longer than 38 minutes, and that I understood the marketing scheme a little better, but those are my only beefs.