Thursday, September 10, 2009

Another Chamber (Part 2): Killarmy

The Militant wing of the Wu Tang Clan consists of Rza’s younger brother 9th Prince, Islord, Dom Pacino, Killa Sin, Beretta 9 and ShoGun Assasin with Ohio based producer 4th Disciple. The christened Killa Army carries out their concept as a crew of revolutionary guerillas embroiled in urban warfare against oppressive white power. The title of their relentlessly dark, paranoid debut Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars, released just after the second Wu-Tang Clan album in 1997, was lifted from an NWO document brought to light in the 80s detailing a plan for world domination. Imagine Dead Prez as a collective from Staten Island who dropped out of middle school and spent the early 90s studying Enter the 36 Chambers and the first round of solo LPs.

Like OB4CL 2 their work serves as a kind of Wu Tang monument, taking the chaotic insanity birthed by 9 kids fucking around in Staten Island and nailing it down. They’re surefooted practitioners, complete with speech impediments, well placed film snippets and a familiar grit that feels true, but something is lost in the intentionality. You feel them trying to replicate a style that thrived on alternating menacing and fun spontaneous energy, trying to catch lightning in a bottle and it results in a tangible aura of retread. There's also the actual content to consider, close explication reveals jibberish. It’s a familiar muddle of the Old Testament, The Nation of Islam, a black supremacist on the corner of Linden and Utica ranting at pedestrians and an NRA pamphlet conveyed through barely literate, clunky metaphors and misused words that sound smart. Killa Sin is the standout, boasting the closest thing to a solo career anyone not in Rza's immediate family has had and even he could be described as competent at best. Legend has it Method Man did some ghost writing for their debut, which could be the funniest concept in the history of Rap.

At the end of the day we're here for the beats and 4th Disciple certainly delivers. Rza contributes 2 tracks but it feels like he was behind the entire album, Disciple's impression at times exceeds Robert Diggs at his very grimy/beautiful best. (See: "Clash of the Titans", "Blood for Blood", "Wake Up", "Full Moon" but you could literally pick almost any track off the debut at random, it's that consistent) The production smacks of Forever era Rza sensibilities at his slick orchestral biggest. While at the worst excessive moments of that aforementioned double LP the lushness flirted with overproduction, here the big gorgeous beats are tempered with practiced, largely hookless grime. With Wu finances in the state they must have been in by this point the quality of vocals feels intentional, a majority sounding like it was recorded in a clapboard booth insulated with egg cartons. The kitschy echo effect is laughable. Either this was an intentional, somewhat brilliant flourish or the Army was given carte blanche with their budget and decided to cut corners on production cost. Either way it contributes to the subterranean, hellish aesthetic they’re clearly gunning for.

Dress to Kill

Clash of the Titans

Blood for Blood

Seems it Never Fails

Wake Up

Full Moon


elmattic said...

Nice run down. I likes me some Killarmy but you definitely laid down their flaws.

Zilla said...

I used to religiously listen to Silent Weapons on cassette on the bus and train coming home from high school. For some reason, that album sounded extra menacing and paranoid on cassette. And Killa Sin was that dude! "Frisco, liver than disco, pack a nickel plated pistol, and keep my block hot like burning Crisco!"