If you've been reading Best Rap Albums of 2015 lists, by now you're probably wondering: Who is Dr. Yen Lo?
Rolling Stone listed Dr. Yen Lo at #9 on its 40 Best Rap Albums of 2015. Tom Breihan of Stereogum listed it a #19 on his 40 Best Rap Albums feature. Even Earl Sweatshirt took to Twitter to sing its praise, complete with Kanye parody:
So who is Dr. Yen Lo?
It's the project by Brownsville Ka, or simply Ka, an enigmatic rapper from Brooklyn who's been making music since the Lyricist Lounge days of New York (the same scene that fostered artists like Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and even El-P of Run The Jewels). For Days With Dr. Yen Lo, Ka teamed up with producer Preservation. If this is the first you're hearing of the record, it's likely due to the it being self-released by Ka. Only available on vinyl and CD through his website.
The album's noir sonic texture, organic approach to production, and lyrical dexterity is not for the meek listener. There are no tracks on the record, only days which appear in no particular order, beginning at zero and peaking at 1125. The atmosphere of Days With Dr. Yen Lo is a no singles mentality; nothing is approachable for mass consumption. This is the dark diary of Ka, a "Heart of Darkness" type experience, that finds strained moments of triumph, but ultimately remains in a claustrophobic state of harsh New York stress rap.
In a year where the obtuse jazz explorations of Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly are widely praised as the most regularly listed #1 album of the year, there deserves to be room for an equally meditative and conceptual album. Stream Days With Dr. Yen Lo here.