Known for his gritty, sometimes eerie, echoing sounds, Kirk Knight has been responsible for producing some of Pro Era’s best music including Joey Bada$$‘ “Big Dusty” and “Hazeus View”. As a Pro Era fan I had high hopes for Knight’s début album, but after listening to “Late Knight Special” it seems that this LP is an opportunity missed. Instead of injecting the Hip-Hop genre with credibility and listenability (which Knight seems to have brought to various other performer’s tracks) his solo album seems to be a collection of different songs cobbled together without any coherence. Knight’s style on “Late Knight Special” varies between golden-era-esque, R’N’B-ish, it features guitar strings and even cosmic philosophy, but this lack of harmony doesn’t always blend together and the finished product unfortunately comes across as inconsistent and sometimes jarring, as though the construction of the album was some kind of afterthought.
The album begins with “Start Running” which sports a smooth and relaxed style which is quite appealing. After the next song “Heaven Is For Real” (which is also enjoyable) comes the stand out track “Brokeland” with its thumping East Coast mid-nineties vibe, slightly reminiscent of Rampage’s “Wild For Da Night”.
“5 Minutes” featuring Joey Bada$$ also features Knight’s throwback sound complete with a clinking piano sample and a gentle angelic vocal, but unfortunately this is where Kirk’s trademark sound ends. The album then veers off into a more contemporary style with the next track “Knight Time” and this modern vibe is also present on “I Know” and “Dead Friends”.
But amidst these listenable tracks there’s also a lot of weirdly mediocre R’N’B-infused Hip-Hop, and regrettably they begin to overtake the album. “One Knight” for instance features a completely passable and somewhat middle-of-the-road Hip-Pop-slash-R’N’B chorus. That’s not to say I dislike all R’N’B-infused Hip-Hop, “Start Running” had a singing hook and that was pretty decent, but these songs are anything but, and unfortunately this tolerable yet ordinary approach begins to overpower the mood of the LP. “Scorpio” is a tad better and slightly catchier when compared to something like “Down” but it’s still pretty mediocre. I can’t stress how much I hate the song “Down”, a nasty track that sounds like some Timbaland reject from the early noughties, compared to this, songs such as “The Future” with its laid-back R’N’B vibe is a masterpiece. The album then ends with “All For Nothing” a slow song that’s not really that memorable and this spiritless finale in my opinion lacks a much needed climax.
For the biggest portion of the album, Knight tries to be more Hip-Pop than Hip-Hop and it’s this revamping that lets the album down. I’m all for varying styles and changing moods, but they do have to gel together. “Late Knight Special” seems to be two fifths great and three fifths not so great, and the lacklustre songs take over the overall character of the album (“I Know” is one of the few songs from the second half that is worth listening to). There are a few tracks out there by Kirk Knight such as “Good Knight” (featuring Joey Bada$$, Flatbush Zombies, and Dizzy Wright) which seems to be inexplicably missing from this release, even “Give ‘Em” could have been included, that way the album might not have felt like it teetered off.
Maybe Kirk Knight is trying to showcase his skills as a Producer and as a Rapper, but because of this variation of tone and technique he kind of falls flat on both duties. “Late Knight Special” is not a bad album, but its not great either. It’s worth a listen but it’s not something that’ll be played from beginning to end or over and over, different people will pick out their favourite tracks and add them to a “mood” playlist. The album starts off promising and for about five tracks it’s a great listen, then it starts wavering, ultimately it’s disappointing like CJ Fly’s mixtape, we all know that Kirk Knight and Pro Era are capable of better.