By Amari Newman
In Prisoner Of Mind (released July 2018), King Carter speaks on the state of being Black in a way that is painfully eye-opening and relatable. The 21-year-old Brooklyn-native touches on his troubled familial relationships, the impact of white supremacy on the Black community, and his battle with depression.
A large portion of the album’s lyrics focus on Carter’s relationship with his mother and father, with one of them being mentioned on every track. Many of the mother-related bars are quick references to her incarceration. In “Sacrifices” Carter raps “The judge wanna give a nigga life my momma.” While other lyrics exhibit the inspiration he has garnered from his mother’s sacrifice. In “My Pain,” he notes “You gave your all in an attempt to give us something better, just know that I’m grateful forever.” The father-related lyrics typically consist of stand-alone bars that touch on his absence throughout Carter’s life, and his son’s continued love for him despite that.
In “Can’t See The End” he touches on the oppressive American criminal justice system stating “Nigga we the new slaves, niggas stil on plantations, niggas owned by corporations,” explaining how prisons have become the newest form of Black enslavement. He then calls for retaliation from the Black community in “Came A Long Way” confidentiality exclaiming:
Escaping the gates of hell, everyone should rebel, resisting indoctrination, the new slaves just face it, overthrow the plantation, taking back what’s ours. Because we hold the true power!
The omnipresent theme in Prisoner Of Mind is Carter’s battle with depression. He reveals incredibly personal insights on the deterioration of his mental health. In “Bury Me a G” he raps, The struggle been real, The truth been hurting, Imma pull the trigger imma murk me, bury me next to my grandma down in Jersey. The raw emotion in Carter’s delivery only enhances the impact of these powerful lyrics.
The project is packed with non-stop lyricism, only “Not Today” has a hook/chorus, which is delivered by MIKE and Navy Blue. Carter’s barrage of bars is accompanied by otherworldly effects. Adé Hakim produced the majority of the tracks while others were produced by djblackpower, Darryl 10k, Laron and niggamaycry. Many of the tracks consist of piano samples that are chopped, reversed and pitched at low or high frequencies, and joined with quick, muffled and highly edited soulful moans and screams. This is accompanied by a minimalist kick and snare pattern, creating a spellbinding soundscape. Despite its unconventionality, Hakim’s production is never distracting, and keeps Carter’s lyrics in the spotlight.
One of Prisoner of Mind’s most notable characteristics is Carter’s presentation of his personal downfalls. He reveals intimate struggles, but withholds details that could be used to glorify it. This shifts the listener’s focus from situations Carter was in to the emotions he felt while in them, and how he plans to use those experiences to move forward.
Carter’s resolve to use his past traumas in fueling his future endeavors is most present in the final track, “The Tools to Get There,” where he rejoices being Black. He identifies his friends and family as important support systems, and expresses deep optimism that his future will only be better. It’s an upbeat ending to a dark album. His final words stress the necessity of coming to peace with one’s self before creating peace anywhere else: You can lie to the world, but you can’t lie to yourself.
Listen to and purchase Prisoner Of Mind HERE.