The New York Post Tries To Malign An MC For Having A Day Job
Authenticity as an MC could very well be the most highly championed quality of a skilled rapper outside of creativity and writing ability. Throughout Hip-Hop’s history, “keeping it real” has been held up as a banner by which to measure the worth of a rapper’s persona and those who’ve been outed as faking the funk, frontin’, or hiring ghostwriters have been made the victims of an attempted character assassination, not only by fans and critics but also the media.
Sometimes those efforts are successful. Artists like Chingy and Christ Bearer have come out publicly to argue that rumor and reports written about them have ruined their careers. Other efforts have been futile, with no contemporary example as prevalent as Meek Mill’s 2015 accusation that Drake does not write his own lyrics, which turned into a drawn-out kerfuffle that most would say backfired. Rick Ross has also been the subject of a long-standing campaign by critics to discredit his status as a street-hustling rapper. In 2008, a photograph surfaced online which seemed to depict the MC graduating from a corrections officer academy on his way to working for the Florida Corrections Department. In fact, even the New York Times published a report on what then appeared to be his undoing but which proved to be but only a minor inconvenience, as far as his Rap career was concerned. “Impenetrability of image, that old signal of Hip-Hop authenticity, somehow no longer seems to count,” wrote the Times‘ Jon Caramanica at the time.
That sentiment seemed to be echoed by Drake’s ability to survive his ghostwriting scandal, a fact particularly interesting considering that he has long been touted as an artist who frequently pours his own emotions and feelings into his music. But today (August 22), the authenticity argument has reared its head once again and has aimed a particularly vicious campaign at the reputation of an independent artist. And, based on the language used in a scathing article in the New York Post, it seems that Caramanica’s argument might only apply to superstar rappers like Rick Ross and Drake, whereas independent artists can be dissed at a level so bloodthirsty, career extinction could mean much more than a blown reputation as an MC.
Yesterday (August 21), the Post ran a cover story purported to “expose” Brownsville, Brooklyn MC Ka as being a “FDNY captain who moonlights as anti-cop rapper.” The headline alone resulted in outrage from Heads, for several reasons. For many, the fact that Ka’s alleged anti-cop sensibilities even earned him exposure on the famed publication’s cover is ludicrous, given the gravity and importance of other news happening in the country. Secondly, many criticized the Post for blatantly upholding an unspoken tenet that the criticism of police is not only shameful, but grounds for public excoriation. Furthermore, the story’s headline is seen by most as being exceptionally inflammatory in that it seemingly argues that a member of New York City’s Fire Department is lambasting the Police Department, which could be spun to mean grounds for immediate termination, thereby ending Ka’s tenure at his day-job.
The article itself, written by Susan Edelman, is one which calls into question not only Ka’s authenticity as a rapper, but also his ability to adequately perform his day job, which is protecting the people of New York City. “A Brooklyn-based FDNY captain leads a double life as a Hip-Hop artist whose songs are peppered with the N-word, drugs, violence and anti-cop lyrics,” Edelman begins. The opening statement alone seems to support a false pretense, namely that rappers who work “regular” jobs during the day are incapable of critiquing said jobs or the societal constructs in which they operate. She quotes lyrics from a 2013 song by Ka – which, in a fact draped in beautiful irony, is called “Cold Facts” – to include the line “fuck them cops,” in an attempt to highlight his apparent disdain for the police.
Shawn Setaro, longtime Hip-Hop journalist and host of the Cipher Show podcast, tells Ambrosia for Heads that he thinks the goal of the paper is to promote a pro-police narrative. “The end game is to enforce a groupthink about not criticizing cops,” he says, criticizing “the part of the article where they pointed out his finances, as if he can’t be a rapper because he’s middle class.”Arguing that the entire premise of the article is “nonsense,” Setaro also says the paper “just really wants to scare their suburban readers about Rap and the cop killers.”
As Edelman reports, Ka is “Kaseem Ryan, 44, a veteran firefighter who commands Engine Co. 235 in Bedford-Stuyvesant.” Those are cold facts, but much of the remainder of her article is built on cherrypicked quotes detailing his social media behavior in a way that supports the Post‘s narrative. Similarly, disparaging quotes from “disgusted” members of the NYPD are included but noticeably, there are no quotes from Ka himself, his supporters, nor the coworkers with whom he spends so much time. Including any of those would result in a balanced “expose,” but Edelman’s article does not seem to borrow much from the ideals of journalism.
One of those supporters seems to be Killer Mike who earlier today on Instagram posted the following:
In full, Mike’s statement reads:
“So Susan- who is a writer- doesn’t seem to get that like a Walter Mosley novel, Ka creates beautifully written fiction giving us wonderful and tragic looks into mystery and the underworld. I think Susan does understand this and think she knew that when she used these wonderfully poetic Songs that a NYD Fire Capt writes in his spare time when not saving lives to shame him. He cud easily have a record deal and be a legend with a cult following like MF Doom but, instead he like Charles Bukowski lives and works with regular people while also being a writing genius. I know Susan sees this and ignores it too, although using eloquent language and subtleties to call Ka an “Ungrateful Nigger”. A shame too, considering she is a woman. I feel Susan should be an ally considering sexism and racism are supported by the same systems. She should know what being so angry you want to explode feels like and having to confess that in journal only. This man is a hero every day. As a fierce defender of Good cops, I have to say Firemen and Teachers deserve the same and more considerations. A firefighter knows each day brings death as a possible outcome but when it comes they must run to it to save others just like a cop. They have to be fit- mind, spirit and body and all they get is burns, burn out and like cops and teachers are under paid as well. Like Teachers they aren’t really mentioned until it’s extreme or it’s an issue with pay. I salute Capt Kaseem Ryan for being a real life Super hero who saves our lives by day and Gives us words to comfort our pain and anger at night. Susan is slime for what she wrote and inferred but she has to live with that. From the world of rap & the real world Thank U Capt. Reed aka Ka!”
This month, Ka released his latest album, Honor Killed The Samurai. He has previously worked with Wu-Tang Clan’s GZA and Roc Marciano, in addition to years with Natural Elements.
Whatever her motive, one thing is clear: Ka has come under fire for juggling a day job and being a socially minded MC.