Thursday, July 19, 2012

Album Review: Killarmy "Dirty Weaponry" Part I

ALL RISE! That means you jackhole. Get up. We are gathered here today to review my favorite hip hop album of all time. This is not debatable. It is a fact. So grab a seat, guard ya grill, slide your headphones on, and let's take a journey into pure hip hop (and a 10,000 word review...I'm not kidding, this is part 1, part 2 is here). Please be seated.

When I purchased this album I expected absolutely nothing from Killarmy. I thought their previous work was dull with some signs of hope, but I never expected to really like it. But not only did I like "Dirty Weaponry", I played it constantly for like a year. I mean like on "repeat all" no eject, son. It's still on my mp3 player and gets pulled into the mix regularly. It's still dope fifteen years after it dropped. Killarmy rose from the ashes of their first album and trimmed the fat. Tightened their scope. Whatever! The RZA isn't listed anywhere on the notes for this album, so was he the fat that weighed the first album down? I don't know. And 4th Disciple, let's talk about that guy. As an official member of the group (or whatever), and he took the lead for Dirty Weaponry and really pulled it off. 4th Disciple, if you're this talented, why are you not doing this more often? Not only that, Islord (who was missing for most of the first album), is in full effect this time through, and he bodies all his verses. . .I think.

This album didn't perform as well as the first one, but it still did okay. It has a genuinely shocking video (which I'll review at another time because I'm sure I could write a million words about it since it is basically a terrorist training video (yikes)), and only a few guest spots.

So let's stop screwing around and get to the trax...paaaarrrrrrttttt 1!

1. "Galactics"

"...War is the worst thing, and unfortunately one of the most essential things in the world, he said. My father was definitely a very eccentric person, and as a boy I was too young to understand why my father constantly spoke about how and why wars began..."

Right away we're back on the military theme that Killarmy loves so much. The album kicks off with a genuinely interesting sample from somewhere and it sets a nice tone for what's to come. Now, I shouldn't have to point this out, but the war/military theme has three points: first, it's just good. Second, it literally talks about war and peace, something universal to everyone. Third, it is a reference for hip hop. Killarmy are soldiers of real hip hop. EVERY WAR REFERENCE = HIP HOP REFERENCE. Keep that in mind as we progress. Who is the war against? WACK MCs.

After a high energy transition from the tranquil intro, the beat kicks off in a spectacular burst of energy, as does the initial chorus:

"YO. Killarmy in ya Galaxy, in ya Continent, in ya State, in ya City /
Take 'em to war, Throw ya grenades, the shit is gritty /
Rollin' tanks, carry shanks, while y'all n----s shoot blanks
live on gunpowder road, back down, dealin' with ranks"

How's that for scale? Killarmy is EVERYWHERE, and they're clearly not playing. So a quick note on form here, instead of rolling through the chorus twice (as one would expect), we get the chorus repeated but the second run through is cut off by Islord giving the Killarmy salute: a rugged "YO!". Islord absolutely kills it, he lets everyone know how this album is going to be from the first line:

"What's the science on them crab ass n----s out here / in this rap shit / turning this shit into some shit / step into my chamber / I'll hang ya...."

That's the theme for this album, OF COURSE we're still going to be heavily militarized, but the focus is on fake rap, and the clowns who take hip hop and use it for money.

If Islord uses his first verse to describe who Killarmy is against, Beretta 9 uses the second verse to establish who Killarmy is: "Never timid, break the speed limit, state laws, and glass jaws...". And I'll just make another quick point. One of the Killarmy trademarks is to completely fuck up the pronunciation of a word. Not just to make it rhyme, but who knows why...they just say the shit completely wrong. I like it. It's like early Wu when RZA would leave little production mistakes in the final cut, a screwed up piece of production or a jacked up line makes me like the team even more.

Dom Pachino is third, his verse follows another run through of the chorus, and since the track slides right from the chorus (which he spits) into his verse, it's not clear (at first) if the chorus is being extended or if a verse is starting. It's brilliant and I think the credit belongs to 4th Disciple for another genius production move. That's two choruses in a row handled expertly. Anyway, the verse is good and when 9th Prince comes in to close out a great track you know it's going to be good from the jump off Killarmy salute: "Yo!".

Since this is a special review, I'll take the time to discuss 9th Prince's verse. First off all, his references are fantastic (The Last Starfigher, Building with Noah, Battlestar Galactica, etc.). Next, his rapid spit is quite chaotic, but at the same time focused. It's like he has so much to say that that he is getting tripped up, so it just comes out rugged. Finally, his closing line is amazing "I Smother MC with pillow, let him die in silence", that shit is just brilliant, because that's what we want from fake MCs: silence. Extreme silence.

How good of a song title is "Galactics"? The best. This is going to be a long review.

2. "Allah Sees Everything" feat Killah Priest

"Throw a mic through a stage floor / And hear the crowd roar"

At first glance, this track may appear as Killarmy bending their style too much to the style of their guest Killah Priest, but I think that the science on here is legit (hip hop wise). But before we get to that I want to point out how great this beat is. The trumpets are perfect, but the loop that runs under the verses is the right balance for the team and their ruggedness and it works for the stoic (ultra-mellow) spit of Killah Priest. The right music is a good thing because this is one of the few tracks on the album that follows a traditional format.

So, Allah seeing everything. That's quite a thought and a large concept for any artistic medium, and I think that Killah Priest and Killarmy are taking the concept and twisting it differently. Killah Priest means that God, the creator, sees everything that happens without exception - the literal interpretation. I mean, he might mean that, it's hard to say because he only spits the three words of the chorus. The Killarmy boys, on the other hand, twist it to the abstract and imply that perhaps those who are true MCs see the moves of fake ass rappers. I don't know.

So we have three verses, Dom Pachino, Islord, and 9th Prince each deliver strong verses with memorable lines. For example, Islord:

"What's today's mathematics, son, you can't quote?
You get ya throat chopped by the sword I possess"

"The flavor that the god branded on ya dome
With the microphone
That's multiple like a lifesaver,
Coming from all angles / that hit ya pressure points
And ya joints like a chiropractor
That leave ya paralyzed"

Study it.

3. "5 Stages of Consciousness"

As soon as the break beat sets in it's clear that this strong is in the competition for best track on the album. Then the fucking incredible horns come it, followed by some dope intro-talk. If the first track explained how large Killarmy was (Galactic), this track explains how deep they get and it is the dopest intro ever:
"5 stages of consciousness right here:
You got your conscious /
You got your sub conscious /
You got your super conscious /
You got your magnetic conscious /

Then we infinite, right? (Keep on movin') 

Ya mentals ain't heavy enough
(the god's show and provin')"
After that we have a six verse song, which, once again, changes the established hip hop format. This time we have no chorus except for an amazing movie sample. It keeps the song moving and eliminates the wackest part of most hip hop songs: the chorus.

I know this may sound unbelievable, but all six verses are good. Killa Sin starts off and ties this song back into the previous one by restating that "Allah sees everything", so nice move there. P.R. Terrorist is second and closes with this gem:

"With five stages of consciousness, that's swift and change like the weather
some crime forecast is rough draft, write off the pad, allow me to add
construct the subject just like math, ran you off in the first half
This quarter wont last, finger leaning on the trigger, guns blast (Blaow),
 super-consciously this track smash"

Amazing. And without a second of hesitation Beretta 9 comes in with "Harpoons for hard times..." and yet another verse is wrecked. So far we've had three MCs drop strong verses without a break, once Beretta 9 finishes, we have our first break in the form of a sample, and it's a fantastic one:

"The government...calls us traitors..or deviants...because we believe that we have the right to be ourselves..."

Boom. Now we're right into ANOTHER bad ass verse from Islord...

"Hey Yo! Three years trapped in the belly of the beast
Got me on some, fuck the laws, fuck the fed coats.
Fuck the judge, cause they don't give two shits about us,
black man, woman and child.
How we living?
Over here trapped in the worst part, when things like this happen on the regular.
Innocent bystanders get trapped off on the streets of my stomping grounds
Where constant war pops off, like wine bottles on the regular
Like clockwork to be specific

Isord drops that in a kind of rough cadence, bringing a rugged element into the track. 9th Prince, who comes in next, is both rugged and off cadence, to the point that it  distracts from the pattern already established and provides a welcome dissonance. The MCs seem to be organized in a way to escalate the chaos with each verse, while elevating the quality of the track.

"'Revenge the general', thats what I quote,
 and tape up grenades to your head
And watch your brains explode"

See? Dope. So Shogun closes the track out very strongly, and we ride out on some ill shit.

4. "Unite to Fight"

This is as close as this album comes to a misstep, and even though I know this is a good song, I'm still tempted to skip it when it starts because the first few seconds don't seem to foreshadow a good track. But once the shit gets going, it's mad ill.

The rocky intro I mentioned at first seems like a watered down Wu beat plus a lame chorus: "Are you down for the cause? Or are you down just because?" Okay. Kind of dumb. Plus, we've got guys saying "Unite to fight" which is also pretty lame. But, surprise, after fifteen seconds the track finds it's feet and delivers at a level on par with the rest of the album.

This song is just Shogun the Assassin and 9th Prince, so all the pressure to deliver is on them (and 4th Disciple, of course), even though it's a short track. 4th Disciple pulls a trick that he pulled once before and has Shogun deliver the chorus and then pull right into a verse, and, as a listener, it is confusing for a second whether we are hearing an expanded chorus or a verse. Especially since Shogun drops the chorus "Unite to fight" into the second line of his verse. Nicely done. Nice form. The kung-fu samples run through the whole track and also serve as a secondary chorus. In addition to a dope stand alone line pulled from Beretta 9's verse on a track coming later "Red Dawn": "...with a banner to your respiratory. . . best prepare to die when you step in to out territory."

9th Prince delivers a great verse, but 4th Disciple ramps up the volume on the "siren" effect and it really adds to the track. By the end you'll actually be enjoying the stupid "unite to fight" line.

5. "Murder Venue"

LET'S KEEP GOING! Don't give up yet.

This track kicks off with some gunshots (it is Killarmy, so, no duh), over the top of a crowd cheering. As with the previous track, the music seems odd and creates a fear that this track will be weak. That is until the chorus drops:

Hey Yo! Everything is real like blue steel /
being pulled a sold out concert"

That is real. And it's delivered by Islord with such a carefree flow, that it's impossible not to like it. And as soon as Beretta 9 starts spitting, the beat that at first seemed so hopeless suddenly comes into focus as a truly grimy beat worth listening to.

This time everyone spits capably with no standouts except for Killa Sin who ends the song with a ill set of lines:

"To see the gods fold, never that
We hold the black metal for golden rap
Where the soldiers at? Dealing with math
We still up on that, killer combat
Form the righteous uprising
Two flies within the eyes of minds of civilized men
Got fake n----s posing like they Heisman
We push through like linemen
Sack your quarterback on consignment..."


"..turn concerts to a murder venues"

How in the fuck did they come up with that shit? If this is a filler track, then it's the best one ever. This ain't no Twinkie filling, this is stuffed crust shit.

 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

SO WE'LL STOP HERE. Why? This is kind of the turning point of the album. Compared to most of what we'll look at next time, these songs are mello. Even with all the machiene guns and explosions and constant combative tones and talk, these songs are MILD compared to what's in store for part 2.

In ya galaxy

1 comment:

  1. Can't wait for Part 2. I fuckin love Islord's hook on Murder Venue. Stuck in my fuckin head for the rest of my life. Shit is too dope. TOO dope.