November 8, 2011

My Gut Reaction: DJ Muggs vs. Ill Bill - Kill Devil Hills (August 31, 2010)

DJ Muggs has made the most of his post-Cypress Hill career, alternating between projects credited to his Soul Assassins collective and collaborative albums with some of his favorite artists.  His Vs. series has featured names such as GZA/Genius, Sick Jacken, and Planet Asia, but today we're going to focus on his album with Ill Bill, Kill Devil Hills, because, otherwise, this post wouldn't actually fit into this month's theme, and that would be a problem for me.

Ill Bill Braunstein is a New York rapper, producer, and CEO of Uncle Howie Records, his own vanity label.  His career in our chosen genre has pretty much kept him locked in the underground scene, but he's worked with some of the bigger names in that field, such as his former group Non-Phixion, his current crew La Coka Nostra, as part of the duo Heavy metal Kings (with Vinnie Paz), and his own brother, horrorcore rap aficionado Necro. 

Kill Devil Hills, produced almost exclusively by DJ Muggs (with only a couple of assists, although none of them from Billiam himself), was released in 2010 to general critical acclaim.  It features guest spots from some of the game's bigger names, such as B-Real (of Cypress Hill), Raekwon (of the Wu-Tang Clan), Sean Price, and O.C. (of the Diggin' In The Crates crew), along with some of Muggerund's lesser-known but still accountable affiliates.  Thanks to the production, Kill Devil Hills could be seen as a perfect gateway into the world of Ill Bill, a rapper who hasn't yet found a conspiracy theory that he didn't find some small kernel of truth in.

Kill Devil Hills introduces itself the only way it ever could, with Ill Bill's conspiracy theorist character unleashing two verses over some fucking powerful Muggs instrumentation.  This shit is guaranteed to wake any audience up, it knocks that much.  Billiam runs down a list of his issues with the current state of the world today, but at least as of right now, he does so in a manner that doesn't alienate the listener: it's all done very matter-of-fact-ly, as though he didn't even care if you agreed with him at the moment as long as you're listening.  Nice work.

It makes sense for frequent Muggs collaborator Sick Jacken (of Psycho Realm fame) to be here, but the other two guest stars on "Trouble Shooters" appear to have won their guest spots in a lottery.  No matter, everyone sounds terrific on here, especially O.C. (where the hell has he been?) and Sean Price, who provides yet another hot verse.  Muggs lends his co-conspirators a simplistic beat, but it's a banger, and everyone takes full advantage of the gift they've been chosen to receive.  I question the song's placement this early in the sequence, though: one would think a track such as "Trouble Shooters" would be buried near the halfway point, so as to force the listener to slog through more of the project in order to reach their reward.  Regardless, this rocked.


Billiam somehow fits two full verses into a song barely two minutes long, and he makes them count, even though his discussion topic of choice, which should be really fucking obvious if you look at the song title again, may alienate all but his most devoted fans and/or Mel Gibson's character in that one movie he was in.  You know the one.  Yes, I'm talking about Chicken Run.  Anyway, Ill Bill wants people to wake the fuck up and pay closer attention to what is going on in the world, and I won't fault him that: it's a valid point and he makes it well.  It's just too bad the Muggs beat (co-produced with G. Rocka) on here fails as a medium for his message, as it sounds as though it was recorded very loudly to mask the fact that it was still incomplete at the time.

I love it when Muggs brings his Cypress Hill bandmate B-Real out to play on his solo projects, as it gives listeners an opportunity to hear him rip some shit over an instrumental that isn't necessarily of the "blunted" variety.  "Amputated Saint" is no exception, as B-Real keeps up with Ill Bill's pace effortlessly over a drum loop that simply knocks.  However, a couple of things hurt the overall effect more than they help.  For one, Billiam repeats four of his bars for no reason immediately after the chorus is complete, which came off more like lazy writing than it did an actual creative decision.  Secondly, the vocal sample played at the end will replace the whale in my nightmares.  No, really, it's creepy as shit.

I wasn't feeling this song.  The Muggs beat sounds alright enough, but the verses are so lyrically dense that the song is rendered damn near inaccessible (even though Bill mentions during the hook that "we're just talking", that statement doesn't forgive anything).  Billiam's lead-off verse is the best of the bunch, probably because he was smart enough to get the hell out of Dodge before everything goes to shit and the listener loses interest.  His La Coka Nostra bandmates Slaine and Everlast close things out, with Eric's raspy flow capping things in a creeptastic fashion.  "Jump Around" certainly was a long time ago.

Muggs veers into RZA-esque territory with the beat on "Giants Stadium"...and then chops it into oblivion, making it a unique creation all his own.  So the instrumental grabbed me, and Ill Billiam held my interest throughout his verse, which, thankfully, sidesteps the Illuminati talk in favor of straight-up shit-talking.  Guest star Q-Unique, of Arsonists fame, falters a bit, fucking up the flow of the track, but he doesn't sound bad: he just isn't as great a fit for the musical backing.  Makes you wonder what kind of damage someone from the Wu could have done here: is it too late to commission a remix?  Even for a mixtape?  Anyone? Bueller?


DJ Muggs throws everything he's got at the audience, creating a wall of sound that veers off in many interesting directions.  All Billiam can hope for is a chance to keep up, and he does so admirably, even with an overly-wordy hook that will test the patience of most of you two.  This wasn't terrible, though.

Kill Devil Hills takes another break from its conspiracy theories to bring you a straightforward narrative, this one focusing on a bank heist starring our host alongside one of the masters of crime rap, Chef Raekwon.  Over a funky, pulsating Muggs loop that is dope as fuck, Billiam and his invited guest describe a robbery in a way that would make Ghostface Killah beam like a proud father.  This shit was nice.  So nice, in fact, that I think someone should start a petition for the next DJ Muggs album to be a collaboration with the Chef.  I don't think anyone will disagree with me on this: it would at least make up for that long-missing in action Inspectah Deck/Muggs album that will never see the light of day.

It sure was awfully nice for Billiam to give Muggs (and co-producer DJ Khalil) his own brief instrumental interlude, wasn't it?

Bill's self-aware conspiracy theorist reaches the level of self-parody on "Ill Bill TV", which is so lyrically over the top that the entire thing has to be a goof.  Has to.  Otherwise, I don't think I want to live on this planet anymore.  I don't agree with the decision to release this as a single, since the only audience "Ill Bill TV" will attract is made up of folks who were going to purchase Kill Devil Hills already, but it was okay nonetheless.  The brief instrumental interlude that runs right before the next song was a nice, calm change of pace, too.

I thought this song was boring as shit.  So much so that I was tempted to write "meh" before I decided to boost the word count on this overlong write-up.  You're welcome!

14.  2013
Possibly the most paranoid track on Kill Devil Hills, and not just because the hidden powers that be have limited the length of our host's message to less than two minutes.  Billiam's one-verse wonder borders on the hyper-religious psychobabble that I typically can't stand from Vinnie Paz of Jedi Mind Tricks, and Bill fares no better on here, so no matter how much I enjoyed the Muggs instrumental on here, I can't recommend the track as a whole.  Go ahead, flame in all you want in the comments, say that I just didn't "get" the song, I don't care.  I get it completely.  I just didn't like it.

Speaking of Bill's Heavy Metal Kings cohort Vinnie Paz, he pops up on this title track alongside our host and a returning B-Real, who provides the best verse merely because he's simply bullshitting and not going the Illuminati route that Ill Bill regularly uses to drive to work.  Billiam also sounds good, by the way, but their ideologies clash a bit too much for this collaboration to fully click for me.  Ill Bill and Vinnie have more in common, but Paz's contribution isn't very good, not because it's weak, but because it's annoying as shit.  Luckily, the Muggs beat is so fucking hard, it absolves all sins against it.

Kill Devil Hills ends the evening on a very high note (no pun intended), with our host and Sick Jacken both giving the listener an idea of how drugs have affected their lives over a dope-as-fuck (still no pun intended) DJ Muggs instrumental that makes you wish that the track continued through eight additional verses.  I loved the contributions from both rappers (especially Bill's admission that, while he doesn't really do any hard drugs anymore, "weed is still a problem"), and I loved the fact that the hook is performed by Jacken in Spanish with no explanation required (well, the fact that the title is also in Spanish probably helps connect the dots).  The bits including recorded dialogue from Bill's Uncle Howie will also break your heart.  An excellent way to cap things off.

THE LAST WORD:  Illuminati talk notwithstanding, Kill Devil Hills is a winner.  DJ Muggs and Ill Bill have teamed up to give listeners sixteen tracks chock-full of paranoia, street tales, braggadocio, and reflection, and they do so without compromising their respective levels of integrity, which was nice.  Bill destroys most of the beats with his aggressive flow that demands to be listened to, even when he's simply bragging about getting his dick sucked in a bank vault by one of the tellers (see: "Chase Manhattan"), and Muggs continues his post-Cypress Hill career (and yes, I realize that the group is still technically together) by providing banging instrumentals that sound like the work of an ever-evolving artists who still seems to think that he has something to prove, even after all of the accolades and gold plaques.  Kill Devil Hills suffers from an over-reliance on guest stars at times, but that's really my only complaint.  This shit was nice.


You can catch up on the other DJ Muggs-related projects by clicking here.


  1. This album further proves that Muggs is doing nothing but getting better and more experienced in his production techniques. He is an amazing musician - one of the few from the 90s whose style evolved for the better.
    And damn... I remember the public outcry from Chicken Run... it got a bit out of hand!

  2. Just curious Max, why white rappers lol? They really aren't as good as black rappers.. white people have weak rap voices

  3. Got this on Itunes. Not a bad album at all, thanks for the review. I didn't even recognize OC either at the start. The track with Raekwon was not bad. Beats were consistent and have an nice aggressive vibe. A few of the (too wordy and slow) hooks ruined some songs, but nonetheless great album. Muggs has gotten better which is nice to see. Co-sign with Michael's comment. Cheers Max.


  4. Very nice review!Will R.A. the Rugged Man or Brother Ali be the next?

  5. 'Milleniums of Murder' sounds like the Bomb Squad-Wannabe beat, but it's still really good.

    'Kill Devil Hills' (the song), though, made me rewrite the definition of 'dusty, hard drums'. Even The RZA has rarely managed to bring such grime.

    Really good album, but out of all Vs. albums, Sick Jacken holds the belt.

    1. Derek ClaptonSeptember 17, 2012

      Absolutely agree with you on the Sick Jacken note (though I still haven't heard the one with Planet Asia). That album is just fucking murderous.

  6. Although this album should have been up my alley I tried and failed for two weeks to enjoy it. Reading your review makes me think I should give it another shot. I agree with Banksta: Sick Jacken's album with Muggs is incredible. It grabbed me from the word go and only got better with time...

  7. max do you still bump this? dope album

    1. The songs with Raekwon and Sean Price are actually on my random playlist, but no, I don't listen to the rest of it today.