Killah Priest - Behind The Stained Glass

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Behind The Stained Glass is too much cutting-room floor concepts and make-do production. Core fans may rejoice at the new content, but in the search for Priest wisdom as of late, all texts point back to The Offering.

2007 witnessed an impressive-but-underplayed resurgence from Sunz of Man front-man Killah Priest in The Offering. Joined on the microphone by Nas and Immortal Technique, the work catalogued well against the major label releases that made Priest the most successful of the Wu disciples. Striking while the iron got warm again, Behind The Stained Glass attempts to follow suit from last year, but comes across as the traditional deft penmanship that the Brooklyn emcee has given us for a decade, but limited production fails to let the truest light shine through the glass.

"Profits of Man" is the biggest gift on this seventh solo album from Killah Priest. Rarely crutching his Wu affiliation 10 years later, Priest breaks character and explains his career's descent from major to independent, his parting ways with RZA, and deep appreciation for mentors GZA and Masta Killa. The second verse moves from specific to abstractions, as the listen is allowed to put together the pieces of who is the man who may or may not have sold his soul. The same brutal honesty shines on "I Am." With an Ultramagnetic MC's-inspired chorus, Priest looks at his rise to power and fully-developed identity. Although the rhyme timing is sacrificed for word choice at times, Priest's artistic parallels to Nas and Tragedy Khadafi come across with historic language and slow, careful self-analysis. This is the careful writing that drew so many in to Killah Priest's conscious on Heavy Mental, but is as sparse on the rest on the album as it is in greater Hip Hop today.

Production has forever made Killah Priest's writing evocative. Whether RZA, Tony Touch, Just Blaze or Sam Sneed, more seasoned beatmakers have best known how to create the score to this emcee's vast imagery. Godz Wrath, a Netherlands collective who just cut their teeth on The Offering seemingly can't take the weight. "A Hood Nursery" manipulates careful string arrangements, but implements altered pitch recordings that lose the listener and hold back the song. Meanwhile "Looking Glass" uses cheap keyboard high-hats and simple chords that take the deep writing and make it feel demo. Similarly, "I Am" relies on a tired tempo and computer program bass drum that cheapens the chorus with a thin sound and muddy up the verses.

Without question, Killah Priest is a unique and seminal voice in Hip Hop. His religious interpretations, social commentary and historical references intertwined with sophisticated vocabulary make him an essential without the "dumb is smart" trends of late. Still, a plethora of group and solo material seems to have clouded the catalogue of the veteran. Behind The Stained Glass is too much cutting-room floor concepts and make-do production. Core fans may rejoice at the new content, but in the search for Priest wisdom as of late, all texts point back to The Offering.

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