May 14, 2008

Killah Priest - Heavy Mental (May 10, 1998)


Killah Priest is part of the Wu-Tang family tree, although that is a generalization that he would probably not admit to. He was (is?) a member of the first Wu-Tang affiliate group to release an album, Sunz Of Man. He was present in the studio when the Clan was recording their own debut, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), and he was taken under Gza/Genius's wing, which netted him a solo song on one of the best albums in the history of music, Liquid Swords. (I mean that last statement with every fiber of my being.) But for whatever reason (probably monetary: we all know how The Rza allegedly works by now, right?), Killah Priest spent a good chunk of his career shunning the Wu-Tang logo; he didn't just try to crawl out of the Clan's shadow, he actively told anyone who would listen that he was a solo artist and would have been successful even if the Wu-Tang Clan had never existed. (In recent years, he's eaten those words and has been welcomed back into the fold.)

Judging by some of his cameo appearances and his debut solo album, Heavy Mental, I have no doubt that Killah Priest might have forged a career on his own. Might. But the truth is that there are literally hundreds of thousands of underground rappers in the world that spit the same quasi-religious hyperviolent babble that Priest excels at, but none of them will be releasing any successful albums anytime soon. Let me broaden this example a bit: there are literally millions of people in the world that got their jobs or their position in life because a friend helped them out in a time of need. Killah Priest was granted a unique opportunity because his friends became suddenly successful, and out of loyalty they gave him a shot at something that it may have taken him years, if not decades, to do on his own, and that's if he was successful. And he was even given access to the group's fanbase: I would bet money that every single person that ventured out and bought Heavy Mental in 1998 (and it went gold, so there were a lot of you) was a Wu-Tang fan that already owned all of the other, "regular" albums, and felt this disc would be a natural extension of their CD collection. So for Killah Priest to publicly condemn the Wu-Tang Clan amounts to blasphemy in my book. (But at least he recanted. Other rappers that were once in the fold that would have absolutely no career without the Wu's brand (*cough*Dom Pachino*cough*) are still too stubborn to admit that they were given a leg up on the competition.)

But when Heavy Mental was released, Killah Priest was all about the Wu (their logo even appears on the album cover), and, as a result, it remains his biggest-selling album to date. Of course, this is the only Priest album which embraces cameos by various Wu members and his Sunz Of Man brethren; beat-wise, this is his most accessible project, with Wu-Element 4th Disciple providing over half of the instrumentals. His quasi-religious hyperviolent babble has never sounded so refreshing.

Anyway.

1. INTRO
I'm usually willing to let Wu-Tang albums slide with their intros (with the exception of disc one of Wu-Tang Forever), but if you go with the assumption that nobody knows who or what a Killah Priest is, ideally the intro should address that issue immediately, which this does not. However, if you take my theory (mentioned above) as gospel, then I guess it makes sense that the intro doesn't actually introduce anybody: you would already know who Killah Priest is before buying this magnum opus.

2. ONE STEP (FEAT TEKITHA)
I always liked this song, which served as the second single. However, I hated it when the Alchemist utilized the same sample for a Dilated Peoples song, since their track (which sucked, by the way) drew attention away from this far superior composition.

3. BLESSED ARE THOSE
This song suffers from the debilitating Ras Kass disease, in which the rhymes are of a completely different caliber than the shitty beat. If Y-Kim's beat were a liver or a kidney, the lyrics would reject it.

4. FROM THEN TILL NOW
Y-Kim sure loves to talk shit about The Rza (and the Wu in general) and brag about his collaborations with Wu-fringe artists, but he only scored two tracks on Heavy Mental, and they both suck. Coincidence?

5. CROSS MY HEART (FEAT GZA/GENIUS & INSPECTAH DECK)
For a Wu-Tang posse cut, Killah Priest's first single is surprisingly weak. This song was also utilized as one of the singles advertising the Caught Up soundtrack, a film that I barely remember existing, save for Snoop Dogg and Kurupt's theme song, which sounds much more substantial than this piffle.

6. FAKE MC'S
Meh.

7. IT'S OVER
I didn't really need to hear the thirty-eight second intro. Priest could have jumped straight into the song, and all parties involved would have been satisfied.

8. CRUSAIDS
Don't be fooled: this is really just a skit.

9. TAI CHI (FEAT HELL RAZAH & 60 SECOND ASSASSIN)
By far the best fucking song on Heavy Mental. Fantastic use of Thelma Houston's "Don't Leave Me This Way". The production credits read 4th Disciple, but I remember there being some talk on the Interweb around the album's release date that indicated The Rza may have had a hand in creating the beat. Overall, a great song, even though 60 Second Assassin's verse is essentially unintelligible.

10. HEAVY MENTAL
More of a spoken-word track than a real rap song. That said, I've heard worse. It helps that there is something that resembles a musical backdrop behind Priest's verse.

11. IF YOU DON'T KNOW (FEAT OL' DIRTY BASTARD)
Don't get two excited, you two: ODB only appears on the chorus. But the mere fact that Osirus is on a Killah Priest album is enough to warrant applause. It helps that the beat sounds great as well.

12. ATOMS TO ADAM (FEAT SHANGHAI THE MESSENGER)
Shanghai's guest vocals may have been more tolerable to me if he didn't monopolize damn near the first minute of the track. It's a shame, because this beat is as dark as the cave in The Descent, and Priest usually shines over instrumentals like this.

13. HIGH EXPLOSIVES
Sure the hook makes no sense (he just swipes a few of his lines from a different song and makes it into a chorus), but the song still sounds good, even if the beat is a tad simple.

14. WISDOM
At least on this album, Killah Priest's ear for beats wasn't forged from tin. Because of what I just wrote, I'm not really looking forward to the rest of his catalog, but I'm a fair and just person, so unless your name happens to be Curtis Jackson, I'll listen to anything without bias. (For those rappers that have sent me messages through my e-mail, I will get back to you; thanks for your patience. For all other aspiring rappers, or if you just feel like letting me hear your artist's stuff, drop me a line.)

15. B.I.B.L.E.
This is the same song that ended Liquid Swords on a high note. It was good then, and not a damn thing has changed.

16. MYSTIC CITY (FEAT KAVALIER_
Not every song in existence needs to have a sung chorus, Priest.

17. INFORMATION
I just listened to this track and couldn't recall one thing from it if you pulled a gun on me.

18. SCIENCE PROJECT (FEAT HELL RAZAH)
I was bored at first, but once the drums kicked in, my attention span was recaptured. As such, this song is actually pretty good.

19. ALMOST THERE
A very pretentious intro leads into a song that compensates greatly for my inconvenience. It even brought me a soda, since it thought I was thirsty.

20. THE PROFESSIONAL
I love this song. The beat is unorthodox and completely different than what you would expect to hear from a member of the Wu-Tang Clan or their affiliates. A fine way to end your debut album.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Heavy Mental is surprisingly good for a quasi-religious hyperviolent rap album. Most of the concepts are delivered without a single ounce of subtlety, but the music itself makes the majority of it palatable. It can't be recommended to all audiences, though, and not just because of the profanity; not everyone is going to be in the market for a serious album in this club-banger-happy world. All in all, though, Killah Priest does pretty well for himself his first time at bat.

BUY OR BURN? I can only recommend you buy this disc if quasi-religious songs about chopping people's heads off with swords is your thing. (I'm only half joking.) Definitely do not pick this up if you want some mindless claptrap to play in the background while you're trying to get that cute girl at the party out of her panties; she's likely to hear the lyrics and realize that Killah priest is smarter than you. And she may chop off your head, which may ruin your evening.

BEST TRACKS: "Tai Chi"; "One Step"; "If You Don't Know"; "B.I.B.L.E."; "The Professional"

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Read all of the Wu-Tang Clan write-ups by clicking here.

12 comments:

  1. When I listened to the album 10 years ago, I was expecting to hear that Wu sound because Priest seemed to be close enough to the Clan... and I got diasappointed. The only thing that made me curious about were the lyrics... Anyway, this album sounds good today with solid beats and a different point of view...

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  2. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessMay 14, 2008

    After hearing Liquid Swords, I was hoping to hear the "I judge wisely/ as if nothing ever surprise me/ lounging between two pillars of ivory..." Killah Priest more than the B.I.B.L.E. version. This album contains a fair mixture of those techniques and ranks with Killarmy's first two as my favorite Wu-Affiliate work.

    Funny that you should mention Ras Kass...well, not really he gets a lot of mentions on your blog. Unfortunately they're primarily about how his songs suck despite his talent. Anyway, I wanted to mention that I particularly enjoy Killah Priest's work with Ras Kass and the rest of The Four Horsemen because he uses his faster, more aggressive flow in that setting. My favorite song he's ever done with a slower flow is The Saints with Nas, although that's mostly due to the visual illness of Nas's verse. Any fan of Killah Priest's subject matter should track down that song, The Saints, and see how Nasty Nas does it. His verse is about 10 years old and it shits in the pimp cup of every rapper working today.

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  3. Back in 1998, I was disappointed as well (I just realized that I posted this blog almost ten years to the date of its original release - that's weird). I spun it once or twice, chalked up "Tai Chi" as the only good song on there, and left it to collect dust, since I was looking for more obvious Wu-Tang beats and less preaching. But you're right, kay, Heavy Mental does sound better today with some time having passed, and I appreciate it more now.

    Most felonious, I agree with the Four Horsemen comment, but I will reiterate that I am not looking forward to reviewing the rest of Killah priest's solo catalog, for I remember it all sucking monley balls. (That comment's intentional.) I do actually mention Ras Kass a lot on my blog, don't I? Considering I have yet to recommend actually buying one of his albums without hesitation, there must be some underlying psycholgical shit going on there.

    Thanks for reading, both of you. Your comments are always appreciated.

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  4. AnonymousMay 20, 2008

    Killah Priest is da shiznit!

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  5. AnonymousMay 24, 2008

    EVERY ONE OF YOUR REVIEWS HERE SOUNDS LIKE IT WAS DONE BY A COUNTRY AND WESTERN EXPERT, WHAT A FUCKING KNOBHEAD YOU ARE!!!, COMPLETE IDIOT, YOU HAVENT GOT A CLUE WHAT YOUR TALKING ABOUT, LEAVE HIP FOR THE REAL FANS, BECAUSE YOUR NOT INTO ONE BIT, YOU SIMPLY DONT GET IT. WHY BOTHER?

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  6. Apparently, RZA chopped up the piano of Tai Chi, and later sold the beat to 4th Disciple, which added his own finishing touches. The result is a masterpiece.

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  7. The assumptions in this review are wack, Killah Priest now Priest, has divine wisdom and knowlege which revelates through his music thats what brought him to his level of sucess, so listen up. and Still Standing firm and strong. Wu-Tang is just that a clan no man greater than another every brother helping another. bunch of noodles on here speaking.
    Watch out for all new releases from
    GOODHANDS RECORDS.

    peace eb
    www.myspace.com/svdigital

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  8. I really disagree with alot of the opinions in this review, obviously the reviewer just has different taste though (e.g. he said that Blessed Are Those and From Then Till Now have shitty beats, I think both beats are incredible).

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  9. What sane person doesn't like From Then Till Now?

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  10. i actually rate this as kp's better release and although the tai chi instrumentals were overly dope i'd regard from then till now as my favourite track on the joint. if i was to criticise anything it would have to be the reviewers literacy abilities. with all the typing/writing you have done for this blog i'd expect you to be a fucking wizard with words but instead you are sadly misguided by your own inhibitions. have a good evening.

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  11. "Sadly misguided by your own inhibitions"? Awesome! Thanks for reading...a post I wrote over three years ago!

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  12. AnonymousJuly 19, 2012

    First off, I LOVE your reviews Max!! Second, the opinions in your reviews are either dead wrong (Fake MCs.. meh?? really?? OK LOL) yet super hilarious or dead right with a tinge of overkill (Killah Priest foolishly condemning the Wu). Either way, your reviews are far superior to anything from XXL and the like.

    From Then Till Now is an amazing track, one of the best beats on the Heavy Mental LP, yet i'm not surprised you didn't like it. And the fact that you were disappointed in Heavy Mental back in 1998 is in itself hilarious. When i first copped Heavy Mental back in '98, it was a literal godsend. That album impacted me immediately..yes it was that good!! not to mention the fact that it also seriously helped to offset that turd (the Pillage) Cappadonna dropped around the same. time

    But one thing I realize is that in the end you are somewhat trolling, which i think alot of people may not get.

    Keep up the great work dude, and keep on being you!!

    peace

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