The diversity of MCing is astronomical yet the average fan merely searches for immediate charismatic appeal wherever it comes from. Whether from the phoniest, element dishonoring bastard that drakes and waynes through songs, we are impressed by the instantly gratifying or what does not challenge us. This is the method by which Pop music becomes and greatness in that category is the clever mistake of the entire genre’s existence. Really, it is a mere wasteland for those that will whore to the whims of the programmed simpleton.
N0w then, Hip Hop music is built on the praise of the immediate punchline, the instant addiction to the rightly repeated break but over its development its longevity is not. It must survive by thriving not merely by breathing fiscal hit to dismal hit. This thriving is epitomized by the longevity of one of the greatest and most prolific lyricists Hip Hop has ever produced, Killah Priest. With a catalog that is best known for the densely beautiful Heavy Mental debut LP in 1998, many have not noticed that he released over 100 songs in 2009 of original material including the amazing Elizabeth and The Exorcist LPs and two mixtapes of original material (I Killed the Devil Last Night & The Untold Story of Walter Reed). With PWOWR then, Priest is not necessarily breaking new ground but he is fulfilling a legacy in lyricist LPs from Heavy Mental through The Offering (2007) and Behind the Stained Glass (2008) through his last long player, 2010’s The 3 Day Theory where he has earned the right to be easily argued the greatest lyricist of all time.
A technique that has become extraordinary in Priest’s work is the ability to image such a large universe interacting in constant back and forth via the verbatim photographs of the present and the imagery of ancient times. He often jumps times as on “Fortune Teller” or “Lord Marduk” versing, “From Atom to Adam to a tomb, life beginning, the womb, the cradle, the casket, the crater, the planets, the Sun and the Moon from Neanderthals to cannonballs, Moses stood on the rock, the burning bush, return of the Kush, from worlds now and worlds to come…” or the jazzy horns scatting through the action sequence of his verses filled with sound effects on “The Document.”
Then there is “The Winged People” tales of the Annunaki, the often fantastical extension of the knowledge that we are indeed composed of stardust and thus naturally made of the same elements that compose the entire universe, where the Original man is originally a traveling spaceman who had constructed ancient civilizations. The trap of spookism is something this writer would not advocate as the angle for the listener lost in. However, Priest’s imagery and abstracted detail is beautiful here and reinforces that a knowledge of self is also through the quest for wholistic connection with our entire past, a past we are still wondrously searching through. This knowledge of self is to see the complete connection between the reality of Ein Sof and the Original man as God. For Killah Priest it is definitive where “might” is deleted when he builds, “God became Man so that Man can become God” (“Listen To Me”). And this writer must affirm it as well.
The Priest theme has always been a knowledge of self through this vital connection. That the hell the Black and Brown man goes through is not to be taken on face value. That we are to see our current moment so much smaller than it really is by taking away its harshness of brutality. Yet, as it takes away its brutality in visualizing it as minute in the scheme of all things then we see that all things are our reality and so the reality of All is us. Thus, how can we be powerless when the only power is indeed us. Priest regenerates his verses on this point simply and effortlessly (“Why seek without when the reward is within…this is just a rap wordplay/something I learned from the curb one day” – “Energy Work”). His sincerity has never wavered, has never been condescending and is always in touch with the best of men within the worst of ciphers (i.e. “Salute”).
Priest on Pwowr also wars with the worst of the secular cipher (“Fortune Teller”) and transcends even the revolutionary worldly ways (“I gather this astro-theology versus Castro philosophies…”) for an even deeper answer (“The Tower”) where a metaphysical emptiness exists and we may just be. Yet the reality of today’s questions are acknowledged (“The Question”) and solutions offered (“I write scrolls/took the clothes off my future/form a lyrical Kama Sutra within my medulla/extracted the negative like a juicer/attracted to Anet as a I seduced her/ now I’m staring naked at my thoughts exposing the body of my memories/ my mind genitals connected with space minerals and released relativity/from male to female changing chemistry/inside that my visibility/ gave me the ability/ to be visually/ lyrically/ when I squeeze the pen…”-“The PWOWR (Problem Solver);” “If you a leader of your crew they wanna kill you you/ see higher than your team they try and shield you/If you talk about the problems in your hood they wanna replace you/ If you try to do good they hate you/With this mindset what do you do/ Which path do you choose?/ Either way you have to pay dues/ They say we all born to lose/ We set up to fail/ I’m on my rooftop/ Victory! I yell…” – “Ein Sof”)
As a pure lyricist, the gift also extends to using his vast mastery of archaeological and metaphysical knowledge and the exquisite detail of life to battle dynamically as on “Super God,”cryptically on “The Spell” or with epic proportion with Ghostface and Inspectah Deck on “Devotion To The Saints” (“The sky’s open ‘til I reach three or four dimensions…the afterlife chapters I write with great Kings and spiritual forms hearing from beyond…I emit through gems of light or lost jewelry…”). Musically, it is completely cohesive with excellent musical choices if not the most dynamic breaks of thickness we were treated to with DJ Wool’s work on Priest’s last near classic LP, Elizabeth. Here, the productions are literally sonic vessels that melodically mimic the hypnotic vibe of Priest’s understanding wisdom. Once Upon A Time in China’s theme to “The Question” to the Asian flutes on “Mentalude (Just My Thoughts),” the bass grooves and reflective horn resonating through “Love Is Life,” the sharply tambourine’d snare on “Salute,” or the tough bass drums on “Peace God,” all more than add to the orchestration of Priest’s words dynamically powerfully. PWOWR, a double LP is the ideal forum for such a rewarding, deep thinker as Priest and one of his greatest albums that is best compared to his own immense catalog.