Most emcees would sell their soul to debut on a classic album the way Killah Priest did on Gza’s legendary album “Liquid Swords”. Right out the gate, KP’s first song “B.I.B.L.E.” was an instant classic. You couldn’t have asked for a better start to a career. However, after his critically acclaimed debut album “Heavy Mental”, Killah Priest’s career struck hard times. With such pressure to follow up a great album like “Heavy Mental”, along with overbearing record label influence to produce a more commercial sound, KP’s sophomore album “View From Masada” was a complete disaster. Diehard KP & Wu Fans rejected the change in sound, which sent Killah Priest’s career in shambles. A year later KP released his third LP “Priesthood” which was a nice comeback album that had its share of standout moments but unfortunately went overlooked. Now KP is back with his fourth album (in six years) where he finally tries to put to rest the ghost’s of the past.
Every artist who comes out the gate as strong as Killah Priest knows its hard to conjure up the sounds of the past and try and satisfy your loyal fans who lust for that distinct sound early in your career. Most of the Hip-Hop community realizes that KP is a remarkable lyricist who is able to dazzle listeners with his vivid imagery and precise wordplay. However, every time Killah releases a new album, it is going to be compared to his finest effort “Heavy Mental”, which is unfortunate, but a harsh reality in the Hip-Hop game. It is this standard that KP has not managed to meet, which is directly related to the production on every album since his ’98 debut. Besides “View From Masada”, Killah Priest always brings his lyrical A game to the table. However, lyrical talent and all, Killah Priest has not been able to gather the necessary producers to make an outstanding album since “Heavy Mental”. And with his fallout with the Wu made public, it seems as if Killah Priest is stuck between a rock and a hard place.
On “Black August” we once again get a similar story, standout lyricism from Priest but inconsistent production from relative unknown producers. It is sad to say, but if the production aspect on “Black August” would have met Killah’s lyrical creativity, we might have gotten an outstanding album. Too many times we witness KP bring a nice concept to the table or lace us with creative and insightful lyricism, only to be brought down by dull production. “Excalibur”, “Robbery”, its accompanying remix, along with “Musifixion” & “Do You Want It” are all prime examples. The worst of the bunch comes from “Do The Damn Thing”, where one has to wonder what Priest was thinking trying to rhyme over a jiggy, club sound.
For some the disappointment in the production area will be hard to overlook. However, once you do, you will realize that lyrically and creatively Killah Priest really does a standout job on the album. The first couple of listens with “Black August” may not do much for you, but the longer you stay with the album the more you will be able to delve into the albums lyricism and appreciate it more. KP has always been regarded as a good lyricist, but one aspect of his game that goes overlooked is his storytelling ability along with his knack for producing great concept tracks. The standout tracks on “Black August” are proof of this statement, as its evident KP put a lot of time and effort into crafting tracks such as “Déjà vu”, “Daylight”, “Dark”, “Come With Me”, “When I’m Writing” & “Time”.
Killah’s first single off of the album “When I’m Writing” is a throwback to the good old days of Priest. With an infectious beat and hook, the Jahson produced track is the perfect comeback song for Killah Priest. KP’s flow on the song is just as impressive, as he glides through the track with his insightful lyricism. “When I’m writing, flows go through me, right into my pen. When I’m writing it’s the artist within. When I’m writing I’m in tune with Solomon books. When I’m writing it’s more than just a song and a hook”.
And indeed when Killah Priest does write, it is more than just a song and a catchy hook. Killah Priest is a true lyrical emcee. He works hard at his craft, spending a lot of time conjuring up various concepts and lyrical gems. KP is one that will not just settle for your average songs most push out today. This is evident on the vivid storytelling tracks such as “Time”, “Déjà Vu”, Come With Me” & “Dark”. “Déjà Vu” might very well be the best Killah Priest track in years, as Priest flips the “Déjà vu” concept into his own story of murder, retribution and regret. The haunting track tells the story of a young man robbing and killing an elderly man only to relive the situation over and over again through different points of view. “Déjà vu” is truly the standout track on “Black August” and is proof that KP hasn’t lost a step in making spectacular songs like he has done with “B.I.B.L.E.” & “One Step”.
“Come With Me” is yet another vivid tale from Priest, who asks each listener to take a trip with him through the ghettos and slums of America. KP paints a picture clear as day of an urban environment filled with crime, poverty and distress. “Enter with caution, it’s the hood, dark and haunting. See those crack heads with dead eyes, their souls been tormented. Look at the old man throwing up his body organs. Smell the odor in the air cause of dead corpses. Let’s keep walking, keep observing, I’ll do the talking. This is the hood they don’t visit often. This is the world after nuclear war ends”.
“Dark” is yet another conceptual gem on “Black August” as KP tells the tale of his birth into this world. The vivid and deep story depicts his mother struggling through the months and days leading up to KP’s birth. “A dark December eve a mother conceived, a species, some sort of rare bread, believed to be of god’s seed. The royal blood flowing through her genes, the answer comes to her in her dreams; the child you bear is a king. He is the heir, the magnificent chair, also shall wear the ring, until I give him a pair of wings”. In the following lines Priest runs through the months of his mother’s struggle fighting off those who wish to kill her child (Killah Priest), until the child is born in the month of August. “Dark” is truly an amazing effort from Priest, as the original and creative story will go down as one of his best lyrical works.
For longtime Killah Priest and Wu fans, “Black August” will be a nice return for the overlooked emcee. While the production holds it back from truly being great, the album is still filled with some of KP’s finest work in years. The concepts and stories of “Déjà vu”, “Dark”, “Come With Me”, along with such standout tracks like “When I’m Writing” & “Goodbye” are more than enough reason to look into the album.
Sometimes we just have to accept the past and realize that some artists will never duplicate the sounds they produced earlier in their career. It is obvious Killah Priest will never produce another album on the level of “Heavy Mental” unless he gathers a better lineup of producers. But if Priest continues to lace his albums with such lyrical gems as he does on “Black August”, most will settle for that.