GNK is a bold step forward for Bronx emcee YC the Cynic, the album title’s sentiment – God, N***ers, Kings – seen everywhere, from the album art, to track titles, to accompanying music videos. The young emcee’s debut album has a power and consistency that his previous mixtapes You’re Welcome (2010) and Fall FWD (2011) don’t have; his spring 2013 track “Hallelujah” ties in with similar themes as GNK, YC effortlessly weaving a thread between the two, showcasing an extensive knowledge of religion and history.
YC juxtaposes the GNK tracks “God Complex” and “Murphy’s Law” to compare his representation of the singular God vs. the plurality of n***ers (as seen in the title – God is singular, while n***ers and kings are both plural). “Murphy’s Law” groups YC with everyone around him, presenting them as mere men (again, note the plurality) – “Look at all the bullsh** I been through / Hopes and dreams that got chopped in two / Categories I’m boxed into” – while “God Complex” posits him as God. The latter track’s video shows YC in the clouds, akin to the sky or heaven, as we witness him exchange a hat for a crown, and vice versa. Also depicted is a large, talking pair of lips that take on a godly, divine presence, perhaps alluding to the idea of YC spouting God’s word.
He brings in the third element with “Molotovs at Poseidon”, where he views himself as a king: “I noticed you creeping, my job is keeping ahead of it / But how can I hate you, you f***ing heathens are heaven sent / There’s someone in back of you if I’m turning my back to you / Keep your practices practical while I practice benevolence.”
YC is slick to deliver his knowledge, taking his kingliness a step further in “Negus”, his underlying potency rooted in the coupling of bars like, “Picture Langston flipping language dipped in royal garbs / Marcus Garvey did The Garden in embroidered scarves,” with C-Murder and Snoop’s clichéd chorus, “I’ll ride for my n***as, I’ll die for my n***as.” From this track, he establishes a double entendre – the title having biblical origins and denoting the word king in the Amharic language of Ethiopia, while also connoting one of our country’s most infamous words, ultimately allowing YC to redefine the word in a truly unique way.
The rest of GNK flip-flops between YC presenting himself as God, a man and a king. And while almost every word and bar is saturated with this meaning, YC’s self-released album is still a joy to listen to, if not for his deep cadence, but for its impressive production by Frank Drake. This album is undoubtably YC’s best work.