August 14, 2009

Killarmy - Fear, Love & War (September 11, 2001)


Wu-Tang Clan affiliates Killarmy (the six man team consisting of rappers 9th Prince, Beretta 9, Dom Pachino, Killa Sin, ShoGun Assasson, and Islord, with most of their production helmed by 4th Disciple) released their third album, Fear, Love & War, on 36/Loud Records, a Wu-Tang vanity label that took shape after Wu-Tang Records and their relationship with priority fell the fuck apart due to low sales. Three years had passed since Dirty Weaponry, their ill-received but actually pretty good sophomore effort, and the six artists were ready to bring their war-tinged points of view, honed since Silent Weapons For Quiet Wars, to the listening audience. Singles had been released, videos were shot, and Wu stans were chomping at the bit.

Fear, Love & War was released on September 11, 2001.

I remember leaving work during lunchtime and being welcomed by empty freeways on my way to Best Buy. Back then, I used to hit up the record stores every Tuesday to check out the new releases (I miss having disposable income), and I was there to specifically pick up two things: Jay-Z's The Blueprint and the new Killarmy album. The radio stations along the way were of little comfort: Clear Channel Communications had switched to a national feed that kept everybody informed of the minute-by-minute real-life horror movie that was taking place in New York. As per usual, Best Buy didn't have Killarmy, not because it was sold out or anything, but because they have no business reason to stock any Wu-Tang efforts if nobody but me will ever buy them, so I made my way to Circuit City and picked it up. In the checkout line, the cashier complained to a coworker that the new DMX, which was originally scheduled to drop that day, didn't come in after all. All this, while footage of the World Trade Center crashing down to the ground surrounded me on all of the display big screen televisions. That image made all of the petty complaints of the world seem a hell of a lot less compelling. When I returned to work, I opened up both discs and played them both in their entirety. Jay's album clearly caught on more, not just with myself but with everyone, and Killarmy soon fell by the wayside, both for me and in real life: shortly after Fear, Love & War failed (through no real fault of their own: nobody wanted to hear rap songs about war, especially when one of the artists involved had a persona called PR Terrorist, after 9/11), the group called it quits, and while they all still record, hopes for a fourth group effort are less than promising.

1. INTRO
A rap album intro. I don't know what I was expecting to be any different.

2. THE PUSH (FEAT LORD SUPERB)
4th Disciple's beat takes a while to kick in, but once it does, it's dope. However, I wholly think that The Vultures would sound better on here than Killarmy does. Lord Superb's second verse is most curious, as he starts dropping the names of random Wu-Tang Clan members in an effort to remind listeners that Killarmy (and himself) are still Wu-affiliated. Hey, you know what? It didn't work.

3. MILITANT (FEAT U-GOD)
I actually really like this beat, even if it does remind me of the bumper music E! used to use for its E! True Hollywood Stories. Every rapper (even 9th Prince, strangely) sounds refreshed, probably because the song isn't long enough for everyone to rhyme themselves into obsolescence. U-God only speaks two words on the hook, which makes this even more of a highlight of Fear, Love & War for me.

4. ORIGINATORS
9th Prince goes out of his way to thank everyone who purchased the first and second Killarmy albums. Aw shucks, it was nothing: is my face turning red? He also handles this solo track admirably. I know, I was as shocked as you will be when you hear this and ultimately like it.

5. SKIT
...

6. SWEATSHOP (FEAT MADAM SCHEEZ & FRUKWAN)
4th Disciple tries to experiment a bit with the drums on this instrumental, but this song is only notable because of the guest appearance of Frukwan (from the Gravediggaz), who manages to outrap his hosts off of sheer energy alone. Sigh.

7. STREET MONOPOLY
Starts off okay, but grows increasingly absurd within the first verse, where 9th Prince, seemingly giving up on his rhymes, shouts "You ain't my brother/Fuck it, let's grab the nines and try to murder each other/Motherfucker!". And here I was expecting rhymes about passing 'Go' and collecting Community Chest cards. Killa Sin's third verse isn't bad at all: I'm thinking that he and Inspectah Deck should have been the sole performers over this Falling Down beat (and yes, I realize that Deck is not on the song; this just would have been a better instrumental than what the Rebel INS is accustomed to).

8. AFTER HOURS PART 1
Short enough to be a skit, but this is really a Beretta 9 solo shot. As this lasts for less than a minute, I don't feel that the inclusion of a chorus was entirely necessary, but oh well.

9. TRILOGY
I appreciate that Beretta 9 feels compelled to explain to the audience exactly what a "trilogy" is during the hook. As this isn't technically part of a trilogy, nor does the track feature three verses over three wildly different beats, this song was doomed from the start. You could have called it "Rap Song #4080" and it would have a similar effect.

10. FEEL IT
Killarmy attempts to recreate the feel of "Wu-Renegades", one of the more theatrical tracks off of their debut, with sampled vocals and a piano that runs rampant throughout the song. "Wu-Renegades" was the better song, but this one is good in its own right. 9th Prince sure seems to appear on more tracks than would make sense for a crew that's supposed to contain six members, though; when did The Rza's little brother become Killarmy's figurehead?

11. SKIT
...

12. WHATEVER WE WANT
This track was boring as shit.

13. SKIT
...

14. MONSTER
This song has the high energy level that most Wu stans love, appreciate, and have come to expect in their posse cuts. Producer Falling Down's constant fucking with the beat also elevates this track to another plateau. This was pretty enjoyable, and as an added bonus, it's the only track on Fear, Love & War that features at least five members of Killarmy (only Islord sits this one out).

15. THE HIT (FEAT 4TH DISCIPLE)
Only notable because producer 4th Disciple actually steps out from behind the boards and takes to the mic. Huh.

16. ONE TO GROW ON (FEAT 4TH DISCIPLE)
Goes through seemingly nine hundred different hooks before 4th DIsciple starts to spit a verse. He sounds bored as shit, too, but at least his lines make sense: Beretta 9 steps in and kicks a line that I couldn't fully decipher, but you can fill in the blank any number of ways: "A (?)'s got a big asshole/I got a gun in it". The fuck? At least 4th's beat sounds alright after being raped and pillaged in such a manner.

17. SKIT
Makes you believe that you're in for "After Hours Part 2", since the hook makes a reappearance, but then it suddenly ends, and "Day One" begins. Was this really necessary?

18. DAY ONE
Maybe someone can explain in the comments why this song is censored on the album. Could it be due to the sample ("Theme From Exodus", originally performed by Ernest Gold, if my sources are accurate)? Did the label just simply lose the original uncensored cut like a set of keys? Or is the song relatively weak and undeserving of this much attention? I'm going with the last one. 9th Prince and Dom Pachino switch back and forth, but neither man ever changes into an awesome butterfly, so the effort is fruitless. Also, there are four other guys in the group. Where the fuck are they?

19. SPOKEN WORD
You gotta be kidding me. A spoken word interlude on a Killarmy album? Thankfully, some music quickly appears underneath all of the bullshit, but still.

20. NONCHALANTLY
"Spoken Word" leads seamlessly into this song, which was nice. 9th Prince's reference to hijacking planes is poorly timed, given the release date of the album, but that's just an unfortunate coincidence. Rza's younger brother keeps the pace admirably (he has definitely stepped the fuck up), but Beretta 9's second verse drags down the party considerably, and Islord contributes some truly boring bars. This was a pure waste of a beat by The Infinite Arkatechz (yeah, I never heard of them either).

21. THE RULE (FEAT POLITE)
I just played this song, and nothing stood out to me, aside from the dull, thumping beat and the boring lyrics from the bored participants (including Polite, late of American Cream Team, Raekwon's former band of weed carriers).

22. LADY SINGS THE BLUES
The Infinite Arkatechz is melodic and dark, but overall, the song is only alright. Not a bad way to end the album, though.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Fear, Love & War is entertaining in spots, but for the most part, its sound is dated and unappealing. Killarmy seems to be fully embracing the Wu affiliation and rejecting it all at once, which is a questionable move for a crew who would not exist if it wasn't for the Clan's success. Killarmy moves away from the darker sounds of Dirty Weaponry and tries to revisit their scattershot debut, with mixed results. On the plus side, the skills of 9th Prince have grown considerably. But that isn't enough to give this project a passing grade: the album doesn't even feature a single song that has all six members, so it seems obvious (to me, anyway) that the crew was pretty close to calling it a day anyway, so their breakup after Fear, Love & War's release wasn't that surprising.

BUY OR BURN? Wu stans bought this one on opening day, but only those of you who are intrigued by the continuing adventures of the Wu-Tang Clan's B-team need concern themselves with burning this one.

BEST TRACKS: "Monster"; "Militant"; "Originators"; "Feel It"

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Other Killarmy posts can be found by clicking here.

7 comments:

  1. Never noticed that this got no comments. I thought this was their least cohesive release but it still had some good songs. I actually loved "The Hit." The sax sample that weaves in and out sounds truly beautiful. And while they should have made an actual song out of "After Hours," I still thought it was dope... Part 1 anyway. And I think Beretta 9 said, "...a goose got a big asshole..." but I'm probably wrong. I really hope I am!

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  2. I'm just glad someone finally got around to commenting on this album. It's not anywhere near great (or even good), but the songs I mentioned are worth hearing if you're into that sort of thing.

    Thanks for reading!

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  3. AnonymousJune 09, 2012

    this was actually a good album.. and i remember the first day i kopped it back in september 2001.. the world trade center tragedy far from kept me from enjoying this album.. i was bumpin this right in the middle of NYC!!

    but Max, i'm shocked at your silence on Track 11, especially when this skit boasted one of the sickest beats i've ever heard that lasted barely a minute and never heard from again. I wouldve atleast expected you to mention the beat..

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  4. This is easily one of their best albums....just from the production alone.

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  5. I searched the web high and low. Nobody can tell me the sample used in the intro. Best anyone can tell it's from a war movie but nobody knows which one.

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  6. The sample of "Day One" is a traditional Canzone Napoletana called Dicinticello Vuje by Rodolfo Falvo and Enzo Fusco and than sang by other various artists. 4th Disciple killed it.

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