In the three decades that Tragedy Khadafi has been in the game, he’s released a little over two dozen albums of material (EP’s, LP’s, solo and collaborative efforts). The NYC-based UK-raised beatsmith Endemic Emerald has produced tracks for the veteran Queensbridge emcee a significant amount of times since they met in 2013. With a string of collaborative albums already under his belt, having another doesn’t hurt at all. On that note, Tragedy and Endemic have brought to the masses their eight-track album, “Rebel Kings”. Though awfully short, as is the case with EPs, both artists bring the trademark grittiness of New York City hip-hop.
The title and album cover both evoke imagery of Black civil rights activists such as Huey Newton, H. Rap Brown, Stokely Carmichael, and most notably Fred Hampton. The latter’s voice is sampled in the beginning of the opening “Ardour” intro track. Endemic takes a vintage sample with guitars and light kickdrums for the Intelligent Hoodlum to spit his introductory rhymes. On “The Gold Standard”, fellow QB rapper, Foul Monday, lends his raps for an additional verse. Over a soothing R&B sample, both men rap about scattered remembrances of their shared upbringing. Endemic’s production takes the boom-bap route with harder snares and hi-hats on “Situation Lit”, over which Tragedy spits battle lines, government paranoia raps, and ridicules mumble rappers. “Auralizer” features DJ Akil and Endemic’s production here stands out with its layered orchestral samples:
“Reflections” is built from a vintage ‘70s soul sample and has Tragedy rapping about one of his youthful indiscretions. Kasim Allah is featured on “Raised You All” where his deep vocals are more apparent with his references and wordplay. The final two tracks have a decidedly cinematic feel, which is especially appropriate for the latter track. With “The Truth Serum”, Tragedy raps about how his upbringing contributed to the veracity of his rhymes with DJ Eclipse doing the cuts, and “Cinematic Tales” closes out the album with Tragedy making references to several motion picture films over thumping drums and a guitar loop:
With Tragedy Khadafi’s raps, I know what to expect and that’s not meant as a negative. Queensbridge is a foundation of who he is as an emcee, so he raps what he knows and does it well. As for Endemic Emerald, he’s a versatile producer who can make the most of a variety of samples to work with. Through and through, “Rebel Kings” is a solid, if not short, effort from both.