Born in 1984 in Liberia, Dope Knife, Kedrick Mack, was born to his Diplomat father and his Liberian mother. He spent his youth traveling, having left Liberia after the civil war broke out when he was a child. His mother’s extended family was less fortunate, and he had to see them be left behind in the conflict. He’d later see her cry through his teen years, which left him feeling lonely. Dope Knife spent his time growing up in Canada, Singapore and Cameroon, in English schools, and getting exposed to culture all over the world. Dope Knife spent his time getting immersed into hip hop before he found his own flow, going to bboy jams and graffiti contents and getting immersed in the culture, and getting inspired by artists like Rakim, and Ice-T, as well as old school hip hop that was a part of his mother’s taste. Dope Knife’s flow definitely shows his deep political roots, inspired by the conflict of his youth as well as American experience. His music and works show a critical view of government and politics, and his boom-bap style is aggressive and enunciated and full of critical statements and truly dope lyrics.
As for Dope Knife’s mixed African upbringing and heritage, his album NineteenEightyFour, a reference to his birth year, he recalls falling down a well in Sierra Leone. He carries a scar on the back of his head from it. His mother would tell this story to her new friends, but Dope Knife, as an adult, would wait until he really knew someone until he told them about the incident. In that same sense, his 2017 album NineteenEightyFour was the final barrier into his music. He talks about this and his youth in his song Nothing to Lose in this album, rapping “ It all started at age six when I came to hate this/ Makeshift matrix, talkin’ bout fake shit” in reference to when he was a kid, around this time the Liberian civil war broke out. Later in his chorus he mentions war as well: “This ain’t funny so don’t you dare move/ There’s a war goin’ on, so don’t you dare snooze” and then later mentioning Black Lives matter and his childhood accident, rapping I was knowin’ no one gave a fuck about my black life/ Back when you was playin’ Half-Life (heh-heh)/A baby in the well was the way I baptized/Left a scar where I fell, but it made me mad nice.” This subtle nod to his past and the present together ties the theme of social justice together in the song.
As for his connection to more American topics, in his 2013 song The Stereo Type with an image of a Jim Crow era lynching as it’s cover, Dope Knife included skits that demonstrated racism. In a very “white” voice projecting fear onto seeing a Black man, and the same white voice denying someone a job for a suspicious reason…race. The song ends with the yell, “He’s got a gun!” and gunshot after gunshot, demonstrating the merciless killing of Black men and boys for no reason.
Dope Knife just came out with an EP this week, titled Am I Alive and it is, dope dope dope dope dope. His clear forthcoming bars give an old school conscious vibe that had me instantly hooked.
Dopeknife can be found on the podcast he co-hosts, “Waiting on Reparations” where he and his co-host talk about current events and hip hop, and how they intertwine with politics. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/waiting-on-reparations/id1516642543