This decade Hell Razah started with his Heaven Razah album which is truly a fresh collective of his lyrical peak. However, after its release, he suffered a brain aneurysm that would leave the majority of humanity returned to the essence. However, Razah fought, survived, his will reviving his mind, his mind willing his body and the karma of his thoughts supporting a therapy of recuperation. Today, Razah gains strength and vitality in consistent bounds and has made leaps in making the GGO (Ghetto Government Officials) a powerful force of young MCs of varying depths of consciousness, styles and hardcore tracks. With his new Hell Razah Music, Inc., he has collected a brigade of hungry MCs, producers and various Hip Hop workers of all fields and elements, with a great versatility of styles, content and rugged musical approach.
It is truly an honor to build with a brother who has scored much of my life the last decade and a half. Certainly, the need to review the major wax highlights in his catalog pressed upon the conversation. However as Razah explained the revelation of his situation saying, “I think I’m at my best right now. A lot of things that I trusted were revealed when this happened to me are now away from me now. So they can’t steal my blessings now.” Clearly, Razah was left on his own in the Hip Hop world, just as the rap industry had nothing to exhaust of him. The vocal support of other Wu-Tang members was heard and his Sunz of Man partners openly putting their energy and well wishes in media when available. However, his connection with his partner for Thug Angelz, Shabazz the Disciple, is still unclear.
Yet gossip isn’t journalism for the music of a counterculture broken into a subculture and fed as an alternate pop culture. No. The work of these words are as a documentation of Razah’s genius and an offered analysis of them. Hell Razah is one of Hip Hop’s greatest MCs and revered for making songs that are classic in technique and artful display as they are in dynamically leading a righteous charge. It is a righteous charge that originates with the people, in the grime of crimes, the glimmer of triggers and the lost hopes out of blurred scopes. As Razah leads the Ghetto Government crew, we must understand one of the most important catalogs in the deeper history of this Art.
Every year of Hip Hop music in the 2000’s is multiplied by 40 years. Every year the talented MC is forty years older after every top forty pop hit with some moderate display of MCing. Every track with horrid exaggerations of 808 claps and cheesy synth age the funk of Madlib, the digital experimentations of the RZA, the grittiness of DJ Muggs and cliché the classic break structure of Primo and the thick drums of Pete Rock. The Wu-Tang Empire is stagnant as Ghostface Killah’s Supreme Clientele changed MCing but not pop rhyming. Masta Killa’s debut is a quiet gem while GZA is a silent master rhymer.
The Wu Fam brings a resurgence with two projects. The Wu Meets the Indie album brings us the 3rd generation of Wu Fam with the world wide debut of Bronze Nazareth, the beat maker christened to evoke the classic Wu sound and an MC that will write like a machine made of the best Wu general parts and something extra. However, the other project that invigorated the Wu was the record of proof that the united Black Market Militia became. With Killah Priest, Hell Razah, Tragedy Khadafi and Timbo King you have four of the most talented lyricists who, til this point, were not fully appreciated in a multitude of ways. Killah Priest reveals himself as more than a mere lyricist writer as now his flows, alternate pacing and liveliness surprise here and become expected henceforth. Tragedy Khadafi, one of the most influential MCs in Hip Hop history, at this moment, is in the middle of executing one of the strongest catalogs of the decade. His work reaffirms the Queensbridge sound of vivid tales of crime to sharp elevations of mind as a historical sound. Timbo King, still not releasing his official debut yet, is finally exposed as the clever rhymer of vigorous wordplay. And then Hell Razah, who reaffirms the sharpness of his verses shining through a cipher of greats. Razah’s vocals are delivered with power and are left as consistent manifestos that justify the group’s title (“Welfare got no respect for my Moms/I found out George Bush was the same as Saddam/I’m a digital bomb/downloaded on the CD-ROM…”) and offer metaphoric visuals that make the LP unforgettable (“evil drink from the fountain of fear/Got men drowin’ in tears/ countin’ on his birthday years/We break bread at a table with thirteen chairs and long beards…”)
SUNEZ: 2005’s Black Market Militia album came as one of the strongest and uniquely –though logically– united MC crews in the decade. Tell me about this union.
RAZAH: I was in the studio with them. The way that started was it was going to be a Priest and Tragedy project. But Trag had William Cooper with him and Priest had me with them. So we were with them when they made the songs so we would get involved in them. So they’d say, ‘So what you wanna do Razah? You gotta hook for this?’ Yeah, I wrote something already while you was in the booth. I was listening and already wrote a hook. Then they hear it and thought it was dope and we’d record it. Me, Priest and Timbo were the Macabees and that’s how all of this started. I worked hard on them because I had to rhyme with Tragedy and Killah Priest. I was taking my time cuz I gotta come hard on the track with these two legends. They would tell me to do this again and that over. They were really good trainers. Those made the songs better instead of just a yes, yes yes. Too many artists just have friends with them in the studio when they’re recording that’s just going to yes them to death about everything they’re doing. They clearly know they shouldn’t be doing that but they still say yes, that was hot. I always was ‘be honest. I will never get offended.’ On “Renaissance” they made me do that one again.
By 2007, Razah’s Freedom was an underground classic—a superior album where Razah’s rarity as a lyricist of rugged righteousness, fluid flow and precise pacing can best be treasured from. Renaissance Child becomes one of the many works that can be called a signature work and is the first of two LPs that make him the best lyricist of the year. His beat selection is superb using over ten beatmakers for 16 tracks.
Lyrically, Razah is now a chronicler of horrid prophecy and a general that reads the manifesto for change. The titles, now Renaissance Child is deeper than cleverness but a look into his life and its purpose. Every verse Razah expects to impact the world, refresh the mind of the dumb and inspire the mind of the young. Edutained in nature, he destroys wack MCs while he exalts his power over the devilish. Verses are peak militancy (“I’ve been a threat since Benetton, gazelles and Balleys/The icon in graffiti in the Brooklyn Alley/touch hearts of the pharaohs in the Egypt valley/My Engineer can’t see me cause the booth is cloudy”) that highlight the oddity of oppression (“I’m where projects is crack mansions/It ain’t been this real since the Black Panthers/ We ain’t the Beatles making music for you Charles Mansons”). He defines his cipher of home with no apologies (“Build with the killers that’s broke, and unemployed/I ain’t tryin’ to go feminine and sell like Eminem”) and his socio-political commentary becomes distinct and prophetic (i.e. “Runaway Sambo,” “Chain Gang”). This is an album that solidifies his excellence and is only challenged by the next release that same year.
RAZAH: I got beat tapes from everywhere. I remember Doom came with “Project Jazz.” I asked for that style of beat. I knew where he was from and I did. I told him I need some soul shit. It was supposed to be me, Grand Puba and Doom on it. He was loving that and said he got Talib Kweli and I said ‘Kweli is dope.’ And Kweli loved the idea too. I sent it to him and he sent it back to me the same day.
SUNEZ: What happened to Puba?
RAZAH: It was too hard to catch him but when I got him it was when me and 4th started Article 2. So I got him on that.
Like Guru of Gang Starr, the consistency of natural gifts and sincere righteousness intended propel Razah to make complete works. With Blue Sky, Black Death producing the Razah’s Ladder LP, he is able to offer an amplified intimacy in his verses that lends depth to the previous works and features dropped. The title track and “The Cube” open an album of the adroit jousting that matches the intensity of Blue Sky’s driving bass lines. Their bluesy licks and soulful vocal clips let Razah’s mind define himself and tell of his experiences with the people on the street. The muted horns of “Most Merciful” lets Razah eulogize our lost people while the snapping break and cascading piano, guitar and vocal riffs on “Pray Together,” he personalizes these elongated eulogies to distinct capsules of times forlorn. Razah’s gift is the ability to be a word lens of sights, sounds and insights of peoples’ impoverished state. To then disavow it as our nature but explain how it is the way(s) we’ve been trapped. It’s a living spirituality in words that he defines as on “Written in Blood” (“It’s like a never ending documentary/ I knew eventually/we’d strike back mentally/ at one common enemy/My thoughts be a bomb threat/ to vets/ in the industry…”). Eventually the track “Audiobiography,” that details his Hip Hop career and experience as an unknown innovator sparks a classic album and one of the most disappointing rifts in the music.
RAZAH: Blue Sky, Black Death were in California. They introduced me to Baby Grande records. They wanted me to meet with Chuck Wilson. He said you got a lot of dope things already and we’d like to get you in this project. With the beats they gave me I had already been listening to them for a whole week. So then they told me they’d get Ill Bill, Sabac Red—I knew of them but I didn’t think they would be interested in working with me. I learned about Crooked I and now I see him working with Eminem.
Ultra Sounds is a battle reprise of Renaissance Child where his battle verses are center stage and the soulful loops and thudding backbeats are the definitive sound. These are literally a lost tapes that were never unfound as by this time, Razah has complete control of his work. The tempos are fast (“Burn Babylon Burn”) and the flows rising to the challenge (“Contractions”). The violence of the hooks as the strong piano bass bursts on “Renaissance Ages” only sharpen his adamant bombing of the fake (“It’s the art of seduction, a form of self-destruction/That got my people where they cannot function… Get a deal/ a few interviews/ then write like him/Got us feeling if you’re dark you should be light-skinned… I get offended when I see what they did to Jimi Hendrix/We invented Hip Hop with a sentence/now it’s a gimmick”). In a decade where the works of the MC and producer begin to be released in larger chunks, Razah adds a body of tracks that deepens the catalog with equal value as his distinctly composed albums prior.
RAZAH: When I did that I was just starting to build my label Hell Razah Music, Inc. That came because I had so much music left over from Renaissance Child that didn’t make the album. A lot of those songs were supposed to be on that album. Some of them are left over from Freedom of Speech or Razah’s Ladder. I had hooked up with my producer Shroom from Amsterdam who worked with Ghostface Killah later. He did that track “Superstar” [Apollo Kids LP].
2008 – T.H.U.G. ANGELZ w/Shabazz the Disciple
So much of Wu-Tang music from the first nine born to the affiliated fam is based on resurrection. When Razah united with Shabazz the Disciple, an MC of important flow with a gift of metaphor and display of gritty righteousness, was climbing up Razah’s ladder. A writer as myself, with the honor of the historian, was given a reference point with the incredible “Audiobiography.” Whether it’s original soaring vocals that reflect the wonder of such incredible street music history or the blues lament over piano keyed 1, 2, 3, Razah leads with a story of his origins that spell of familial loss and artistic gain. A contradictory development that is the essence of this Hip Hop, especially ours out of Brooklyn, New York.
From Red Hook Houses, Razah and Shabazz hit every subject and embrace of our good people lost in the worst situations, our worst excelling in the greatest of evils and the wild call to put them “Under the Wing,” show them the depth in a “Welcome to Red Hook Houses” and go beyond “The Obituary,” through the reaffirmation at “Apt. 7G” and “The Visit” to the “Jail Saga”, reviving the role of “My Brother’s Keeper” in a “South Brooklyn (Anthem)” of “Gang Love.” This was their introduction to the “Confessions of a T.H.U.G. Angel” giving us their confirmation that we can arise as the “144,000” chosen. A short work of brilliance at the ending of a putrefying decade where street music, deeper spirituality sans conformist religiosity and Black/Brown unity were considered old topics. As Razah had been inspired consistently by the revolutionary intentions layered deep in 2Pac’s verses and actions, Razah devised the T.H.U.G. Angelz moniker and became his brother’s keeper, giving Shabazz a forum for some of his best verses on this classic album of peak execution.
RAZAH: Everybody was a thug. That’s why I did the Thug Angelz. I said we’re not gonna do the Thug Angelz where they’re not gonna accept it as the expected but Those Humbled Under God. Thug Angelz was created from the Razah’s Ladder song “Audiobiography.” I did that one song then I shot the video. Now Shabazz was never on The Last Shall Be The First because Prodigal, 60 and Priest were like ‘that shit he pulled, I would never fuck with him again.’ I gave him a grace by working with him again on Welcome to Red Hook Houses. They kept telling me, ‘why you work with that snake after what he did?!’
SUNEZ: This is the “Penalty Records scam” you mentioned on the “Betrayal” track off the Razah Reborn album.
RAZAH: Exactly! What happened was we all went to Penalty Records as the group The Sunz of Man. And RZA told us he was starting Wu-Tang Records so just wait, don’t go to nobody. I’m starting this label and Priority is going to distribute it and you’re going to be the first group that I’m going to put out. We asked the manager that was running us around to all these labels so we went to Penalty Records. They thought it was dope so we all left out of the office saying we gotta go to Staten Island cause RZA said to wait. But this dude here looking like he knows what to do with our shit. So me, Prodigal, Priest and 60 we go back to Brooklyn but to decide how to go to Staten Island cause RZA had to talk to us about it all. Then Shabazz split up from us and by the time we got to RZA’s house, a phone call had already got to him telling him that Shabazz was there shopping for a deal.
SUNEZ: So he was at Penalty again?
RAZAH: When we went to Brooklyn to figure out how we’d get to Staten Island, he had taken his ass back to that label. And [Jimmy] Iovine called RZA. We just left and he’s going to go back to the label that we just said we’re not fucking with! They had to call RZA because the “Death Be The Penalty” record was produced by 4th Disciple and he was signed to Wu Tang Productions so nothing could be done with that song without RZA knowing. We get to Staten Island, RZA is telling us, ‘Iovine just called me about this 4th Disciple song Shabazz just brought them, “Death Be the Penalty” record and he wants to sign him.’ RZA wanted us on his Wu-Tang Records label then Killarmy. That’s why Killarmy was on “Soldiers of Darkness” with everybody. Then I didn’t get on that song so we did “No Love Without Hate.” He got Supreme to work on that song. “Soldiers..” was more of that gothic shit. Supreme was my producer that introduced me to all that shit. Now we all came from Red Hook Projects—me, Supreme and Shabazz. So I would hear little rumors about ‘yo, Shabazz is saying you left him. He introduced you to the Wu-Tang dudes and you stayed with them.’ And I have to say, he left my ass with them! He brought me around, introduced me to them and then went and signed a deal behind our back. That’s what happened.
When Blue Sky reached out to me to do work with me. I wrote “Audiobiography” by myself. That verse was supposed to be on Freedom of Speech. When they sent me the beats it was fire and I had a dope idea for it. When I did it I thought it would be dope to pull in Shabazz on this shit cuz he knows all this shit I was talking about because he was there for a lot of that shit. I reached out to him saying I got this project I’m doing and you would be like the only one that could get on it with me. He was with it and we ended up recording. Then the album dropped and the impact from the shit–
RAZAH: I got tired of people talking about me so if I put him on this song I know people would stop. Then the talk would have to be ‘He’s talking all this shit Razah did to him but he’s on Razah’s song now.’ And I was in control of all that shit. He didn’t know anyone-the producers or the labels.
SUNEZ: Did you think he was being sincere this time?
RAZAH: Exactly. I trusted him. When we came back from Paris and I found out that he went behind my back and was meeting with RZA to do the Gravediggaz. That’s why that hurt me so bad. The whole time we were in Canada and then we got to Paris, the whole trip was “Fuck RZA! They don’t care about us.’ So we put out Welcome to Red Hook Houses and do some Brooklyn shit. It was when we saw our video together we had thought of doing a whole album together. When I handed in the Heaven Razah LP to Nature Sounds is when all this happened. This dude was so sincere. We were in the studio crying recording songs. This is some shit that he always wanted to do, like a dream come true he said.
Records of veterans that the disrespectful may dismiss but really are the essence of mastery. The reality of Heaven Razah is an MC of aforementioned abilities and intentions now able to pensively portrait his themes. He has become the work he has promoted. His love of the Art, his fortitude in musical ethics, his cannonizing of the community, his remedies as principles and his battle supremacy a metaphor of all our potential. This is an MC’s themes merge as the character in song performed prepares the unifying revolutionary encountering spiritual enlightenment. The development is subtle and only those who live the works from men of talent and respect notice it.
Tracks like “Raised in Hell” and “Armageddon” fulfill expected themes while “Heaven on Earth” revives calls to inner growth for greater love. Still, the works are a summation of Renaissance Child, Razah’s Ladder and T.H.U.G. Angelz’ best intimacy, powerful battle blueprint and directed militant manifesto. Yet the glory is Razah’s ability to take his spiritual pensiveness and make soaring tracks. As on “The Arrival” where he delves into a spoken word flow that harmonizes our mind into turning his themes into a movement. The blend of metaphor and imagery become battle lines on another level (“My woolly hair’s electric/ My energy is halo/ my energy is fatal/More militant then NATO/If I was born in the past I would of inspired Plato/I’m independent, only signing to God’s label/The double-minded is unstable/ they’re prenatal/So I’m detaching your spinal cord for free cable/With a cesarean cut below Eve’s naval/My seven Chakra rotate around like helicopters/Then I’ll reverse with Kabbalah curses of witch doctors…”). His choruses are anthemic (“Book of Heaven Razah” -“It was written on papyrus paper/The Book of Heaven Razah/They say the author was an educator/I drop a jewel on a slave trader/He maybe catch on a year later/I’m on my way up the elevator/It was on written on papyrus paper/The Book of Heaven Razah/Or who’s our True Maker, Lord and Savior?”) while his metaphors have extreme clarity as on “Fear of God” or extend his life portrait as on “Cinematic.” His intimate build is profound because he never stopped speaking directly to us as on “Selah” or showing the better path non-didactically on “Dear Lord.”
Razah is a man that is an enigma in his words seemingly reveling in the glory of a mysterious god yet absolutely expecting us to be a direct reflection of that described greatness he exalts. Razah verses to us, even in the midst of his epic braggadocio, contain a vulnerability that isn’t a plea of weakness but an open confession that change is/must be possible. As Hell Razah became Heaven Razah, the peak is one of the most beautiful songs Hip Hop has offered, “Arabah.” His flow reaches a slight airy texture yet punctuates his battle punch lines tough and blend with an MC who has artistically created his enlightenment. The structure moves smoothly through the slower tempos from phrased bursts to spoken word. All of Razah’s gifts are here from his biographical notes, battle challenges, declarations of principles, socio-political commentary and spiritual revelation:
They say I’m deep, I’m a specialist
They say I’m deep, I’m a specialist
Most definite, I’ll have your head spinning around like The Exorcist
I battle presidents and leave ’em in a deficit
For all the peasants that was treated as a predicate
I was relevant, ’76 Heaven sent
Heaven sent, Heaven sent
I can hear the lost crying souls
See flying roads, eternal love off iron rose
True kings wear lion’s robe
Interpret Hebrew on papyrus scrolls
It’s like the words start glittering
Can you picture it?
It sounds innocent, damn but so militant
The vibe of the beat and the rhyme should be intimate
I strolled down memory lane to Minnie Riperton
You too limited based upon your ignorance
Son I’m unlimited mines is more infinite
You gotta sit back and vision it
Dred Scott with a millennium bop
We ain’t feeling the cops
Get off the strip son, you building or not?
They got satellite Google Earth filming the spot
I use my pen to publish the gospel of Mark 13 and 10
Before the world end, to the grown minds of young men
I’m like Daniel in the Lions’ Den
Hell or Heaven is just my environment
The body is weak but the spirit is strong
The truth is deep, but you can’t hear it too long
The body is weak but the spirit is strong
The truth is deep, but you can’t hear it too long
I’m Heaven sent
SUNEZ: How is all this music done at a pace most are not matching?
RAZAH: When I got my advances I bought equipment and booked more studio time. So all my music is on my hard drive from my studio time so no record label can control what I have left over. Once you learn that cause RZA taught us about that shit. When the label books the studio they own all the music. I booked all my studio time. Then the engineers told me what to do so I could do it all at home. Without the speakers, the control board and all and still make it sound good too? They told me how computers and the programs like Pro Tools are going to control all this shit.
SUNEZ: Tell me about the Heaven Razah album.
RAZAH: For that project, “The Arrival” was the first song I recorded. The owner of Nature Sounds, Dev 1, produced most of the songs on that album. Ayatollah did “Kids in the Streets” for me. When I was doing that project I was away from a lot of things. I had moved from New York to Pennsylvania. I had to get out of New York to work. Every time I would do something my phone would ring or someone was at my door. ‘Yo, Razah we’re going to this party’ or ‘Got this release party tonight. We goin?!’ That kept happening then my brother was living out there and said I could come see him. I went out there and noticed it was so close to New York and like this. This would be a good spot to make music. I said, ‘find me a spot. I’m moving out there.’ So I moved out of Brooklyn and I was moving to get away from the distractions. I was working on creating the Heaven Razah album but I kept getting distracted. I moved to PA and no one would come to see me. I was the driver so if I didn’t go get them they weren’t coming.
SUNEZ: What’s your process in recording?
RAZAH: I live with the beats before I record. I eat with them, clean with them, ride around, wash clothes, everything all while that beat is playing all day long. I don’t record reading it off the paper. If I have to read it off the paper I don’t do it.
SUNEZ: You went digi early? You’re also a powerful presence on the social media? How do you see all that?
RAZAH: The digital world is a gift and a curse. If you get on there to look for some girls, fads, you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for. So you’ve got to clean yourself out before you work with that. If you go on saying you want to find this out, see how you do that, you’re gonna find just that. You get on there looking for the type of things we know you’re gonna find that too. They know most of the people are controlled by digital phones. Cell phone numbers and emails are all that’s given. Watch TV all damn day long, cable networks run everything. The children don’t even go to school. You don’t even get a babysitter for your children now. Nickelodeon and Disney Channel are the babysitters now. They put a lot of ideas on how to control the kids’ future in the programs now.
SUNEZ: If Raziel, after Heaven Razah from Hell Razah, is that high peak, where are you at now?
RAZAH: Right now I’ve transformed to Heaven Razah now. Next is the Heaven Razah album as the artist then that’s gone give way to the Raziel album.
SUNEZ: Judging you by your ideas, insights and sound, you sound articulate, your ideas insightful but how is your health completely at this point?
RAZAH: I think I’m at my best right now. A lot of things that I trusted were revealed when this happened to me and are now away from me now. So they can’t steal my blessings now.
SUNEZ: What is MCing to you my brother?
RAZAH: If I would’ve came with a record on some shake your booty shit/shoot it up shit but here’s children listening to this shit and believing this. I’m not going to do that. MC to me means Musical Consciousness. Make sure that you constantly keep papers and pens around you because everything is part of your life story that you gotta write down. So you’re not finished. The word life is Living In Full Experience. A full time experience. Every day is going to be part of your story.
SUNEZ: That’s peace Almighty.
Knowledge the 1st part of this interview feature on Hell Razah HERE.