“I don’t know karate, but I know ka-razy”

I’ve been listening to a shit-ton of James Brown lately and have been captivated by Brown’s on-record bandleading.  While the grooves are lean and funky, Brown improvises widely and effortlessly above it all, calling out horn breaks and bridges to his band.  “The Payback” is a great example of how the Godfather worked his craft in the studio (“I need those hits!”).

James Brown – “The Payback” from The Payback (1973)

Buy the Payback

Posted by Jordy



Filed under 1970s, Funk, Soul

30 responses to ““I don’t know karate, but I know ka-razy”

  1. SD:

    Not so fast. Please see this link:


    The Man is keeping one of our authors on the straight and narrow. But the rest of us are doing our best to keep mp3s comin’ your way.

  2. Jordy

    Yeah – just buy the goddang album.

  3. curtis3

    The line is “I don’t know karate, but I know ka-RAZOR” not “crazy.” JB’s deep southern accent is what makes it sound like “crazy.” Drives me crazy that Owen Wilson popularized the wrong version of this line.

    • shaaron

      Yes! Why do people insist that he was saying “crazy”. It’s definitely Ka-Razor! How would knowing crazy be any benefit against someone who knew Karate! Drives me bat-poop too!

      • Kierah

        I’m pretty sure it’s “crazy.” It means you don’t know a traditional form of fighting with rules and ethics, but you do know how to fight like a daggone lunatic – throwing garbage cans and swinging staplers and isht. Got it?

      • Mattias

        These guys knows Ka-racy for sure!


      • Blu blues

        No one wants to fight someone that’s crazy… karazor is a made up word.

    • Dre

      Indeed… The hair on the back of my neck stands up everytime I hear people say it that way. Had a brutha questioning himself for a minute…

    • Lamont Lewis

      Not even his Georgian drawl could be misunderstood when he uttered that line. He wasn’t the first to use the term ‘KaRazor’. It was Richard Pryor a few years earlier in one of his standup routines about growing up in Peoria, IL as a scrawny little kid who couldn’t fight.

  4. Joel

    lmao @ ka-razor o_O

    • Jiffy Pop

      It’s “ka-razor.” The line preceding ends in “favor.” Listen to it. It’s pretty clear.

    • A guy who fights crazy is undisciplined and doesn’t know how to fight. He is a punk who can be easily defeated. A man who’s good with a straight razor, however, fights with precision. He’s dangerous. You know karate? I know ka-razor muthafuka!!! Let’s dance!!!

      • Dre

        Well said!!!!

      • M Watts

        Karate being a form of self defense has a moral code of conduct, certain attacks being frowned upon as dishonorable. A crazy attacker such as a person backed into a corner facing a choice of life or death is a dangerous opponent, they have no morality, no code of conduct, and are unpredictable. Often they do not register pain or bodily harm, the drive to survive subjugating the minds natural responses in an attempt to live. And ka-razor is a made up word in reference to crazy so it would rhyme with razor.


    It’s kai razor, people used to hide them in thier mouths some people still do..

    So the line is I don’t know karate but I know Kai razor…
    – hope this helps

  6. Idiots

    Ca-RAZOR is spelled with a “C.”

  7. Step2me

    Maceo Parker solved the controversy. It is indeed, ka-razor,. Straight razors were a very common weapon in the south at the time James Brown was raised.


  8. Fred

    He also used to do a dance routine with his backing singers where they would mime slashing someone with a razor when they came to that line.

  9. Oh, shut up! There’s no such southern accent which would cause JB to pronounce razor as crazy. Even if someone had wrote the word k-razor in an early draft of the lyrics, so the hell what. JB clearly pronounces the word crazy as ka-razy in every rercording he’s ever made of the song.

    • You guys are stupid. It’s Ka-razor. And yes, it’s a made up word. JB is bragging about his prowess with a straight razor as a weapon. JB was a boxer. Boxers know how difficult it is to defend against someone skilled in the use of a straight razor, and yes, it was a weapon of choice among Black men in the south at the time that JB grew up. Particularly pimps.

    • Glenn Miller, your hearing is faulty. It’s Ka-razor.

  10. dave

    Ka-razee a hybrid of karate and razor? – meaning you might know karate but i know the art of fighting with a razor. I think this explains this issue.

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