“I fully supported the riot at the Capitol/ Them rednecks had the right idea, just the wrong motivation,” declares Brian Ennals on “Death Of A Constable,” a heady mid-album cut on the Baltimore MC’s full-length collaboration with experimentalist producer (and NPR composer) Infinity Knives. King Cobra is brimming with these sort of prickly sentiments, as Ennals rolls out a lyrical agenda that resembles an amalgam of The Coup’s funk-fortified Marxism and Paris’s militant tactics.
Across the 17-song project, Ennals’s punchy commentary is frequently bolstered by stretches of luminous production by Infinity Knives that bring to mind the fantastical idea of electro pioneer The Egyptian Lover spinning the Ohio Players’s “Funky Worm” at some hedonistic interstellar disco. Even when backing Ennals’s harrowing accounts of police brutality and amped-up allusions to tearing down the Western political system, there are patches of soothing melody nestled among the agitated P-funk bass lines and snapping snares that bring a curious warmth to the MC’s verbal volleys. Crucially, stripped-down instrumental interludes are also placed throughout the album, acting as a respite from the intensity of Ennals’s delivery and offering an opportunity for Infinity Knives to showcase the contemporary classical influences that murmur gently through his production. (To dig deeper, Infinity Knives’s 2020 solo debut album, Dear Sudan, is a similar showcase of the producer’s ability to play seemingly disparate tones and textures against each other in harmonic fashion.)
Enalls opens “A Melancholy Boogie” with the ad lib, “This sounds like 1982!” The comment seems like it’s meant to refer to the song’s slick disco-esque production and throwback feel, but it’s a sentiment that also supports a broader appreciation of looking to the past, both musically and politically. It’s this perspective that provides King Cobra with its gravitas: Ennals ultimately suggests it’s never too late to start looking to the horrors and mistakes of history in order to put the brakes on a world that too often might feel like it’s intent on spiraling into even more dour times. “The country is bleeding/ The cut isn’t healing/ At some point you got to just peel off the scab,” advises Ennals during his verse, before lambasting police brutality, rallying against those displaying swastikas on their property, and issuing the crux of the album’s call to arms: “You can’t have revolution without no civil war.”