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Killah Priest

View from Masada

(MCA)

Killah Priest is in the second tier of the Wu-Tang family, one of the many MCs affiliated with the Wu but not an actual Clan member. And he shares the same problem as some of the other affiliate MCs: He has a fair amount of talent, but no idea what to do with it.


Priest’s appearances on other Wu albums aren’t bad. On the two Genius/Gza albums, he sneaks onto tracks and drops abstract rhymes with that mysterious anonymity that helps make the Wu the unique force that they are. But while that quality is all right when numerous MCs are coming and going on a track, it doesn’t help him carry an album all by himself.


On View From Masada, Killah Priest’s second album, he seems to have no idea what he wants to accomplish or what sort of personality he wants to present to audiences. The title comes from the fact that Priest has decided to rename himself Masada and recreate himself as some sort of spiritual leader. To Priest, Masada is an acronym, and a rather meaningless one; it stands for “Mostly Analyzing Situations and Drama Artistically.” Yet outside of the title song and a few others, he hardly mentions Masada or spirituality; nor does he do any analyzing. The lyrics throughout the record are a mess, as Priest shifts personas constantly. One minute he’s trying to be a thug, the next he’s criticizing thugs; one minute he’s telling MCs to be true to who they really are, the next he’s comparing himself to Jesus Christ.


View From Masada is the portrait of a personality conflict, someone who has no idea who he is…yet he spends half the album rapping about how MCs should be themselves, which makes the whole thing kind of funny, actually. The production here is even more of a head-scratcher. The backing tracks for the first six songs are virtually identical: minimal, midtempo tracks with some strings here and there, sort of a lame attempt at the usual Wu style. But from there it gets even odder, due to how mismatched the beats are with the MCs. The worst track in this regard is “I’m Wit That,” where the MCs are rapping fast and energetically, yet the music is this slow, cloudy mess. And the sticker on the CD indicates that this song will be one of the singles! If I had Priest’s ear I’d have him strongly consider a remix.


As bad as all this sounds, there are a few tracks here that actually work, like the first single “What Part of the Game?” (with Rass Kass) and the oddly Puff Daddyish “Rap Legend.” Taken on their own, these songs have a certain amount of charm to them. They’d fit onto mix tapes well. But on the whole this album is chaotic and boring. If Killah Priest really wants to be a “rap legend” he needs to do some real artistic analyzing before his next album.

Dave Heaton has been writing about music on a regular basis since 1993, first for unofficial college-town newspapers and DIY fanzines and now mostly on the Internet. In 2000, the same year he started writing for PopMatters, he founded the online arts magazine ErasingClouds.com, still around but often in flux. He writes music reviews for the print magazine The Big Takeover. He is a music obsessive through and through. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri.


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