Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Killarmy's "Silent Weapons For Quiet Wars"

Ah, the summer of 1997, to this day the best summer I ever had. That summer I was introduced to Killarmy, via the classic "Wu-Renegades". It was either in July or August when I was at my homie Marcellous' house, and that video came on. Not only did the beat draw me in, it was the lyrics as well, and you know me, I went crazy when I heard it (I definitely wanted to hear it again). I recall going back to Marcellous' house a few days later, and if my memory serves me correctly, it was him or my other friend Andre who recorded the video and had it cued up and ready for me to watch when I came over. To say that all of this effectively had my anticipation of the album at a fever pitch would be an understatement. But, before I go into additional details regarding my story, allow me to introduce you to Killarmy and its members (these descriptions come straight from the album insert):

Killa Sin
"Street specialist trained in urban warfare"

9th Prince
"The last lyricist of today's genesis"

Dom Pachino
"Lyrical Pioneer"

Beretta 9
"Marksman assassin of Killarmy on some fuck it, let's go to war!"

Shogun Assassin
"Seek and destroy"

"Thief of Bagdad, specializing in disarming military weaponry"

Due to 9th Prince being a younger brother of The RZA, there's the obvious Wu-Tang affiliation here, with Killarmy being the first of the affiliates to release an album. Heading into late 1997, this album was heavily on my radar, and the longer it took me to cop it, the more I wanted it. I remember going to Wherehouse Music in either September or October, and I didn't have the money at the money at the time, so I asked one of the store clerks if I could listen to it. Although he had to take the plastic off the CD and put it in one of the players, he was gracious enough to let me listen to it. I played "Wu-Renegades" and "Swinging Swords" at least 3 times each. I was almost in tears leaving the store because I didn't have the money to buy it, smh+lol. Several weeks before Christmas, I had a few dollars, went to my local "Crockett's Records Tapes & CDs spot and bought this album along with Mase's "Harlem World". For some reason I had to return both CDs, which I was NOT happy about, because it turned out that, unbeknownst to me, I was on the verge of receiving the Killarmy album as a Christmas gift, and when I got it, words couldn't explain how excited I was! From December 97 till April 98, this album was under VERY heavy rotation. It was the only album I was bumping at the time, which shows how great it was. And that brings me to the album, FINALLY, lol.

Release date- August 5, 1997

*My descriptions of the songs may be brief, and that's only because the subject matter may not have been fully present, but they make up for it with a running military hip hop theme throughout, which will be covered.

All songs produced by 4th Disciple, except #8 and #16

1. Dress To Kill
Killa Sin, 9th Prince and Shogun Assassin

"Grab ya army suits and ya fat black boots/Military gear and go out like troops!" -9th Prince 

I did a countdown of the top 25 best album openers in hip hop history last year, and this DOPE opener was in the top 10. When I first heard the hook above, followed by the beat dropping and Killa Sin's opening verse, I could not stop bobbin my head! Seriously, this is how you start an album and hook the listener from the get-go. It succeeded very well in that regard.
*5 out of 5*

2. Clash Of The Titans (Featuring Street Life)
Shogun Assassin, 9th Prince, Dom Pachino and Beretta 9

"You're lost in the nation wit no mental vision/Unseen strikes your vital like precision/I'm camouflaged in at large wit ammunition" -Shogun Assassin

"I slice wieldin a sharp instrument, sharpened in the temple of pyramid/Used to drill holes in the minds of the ignorant/It's my assignment, burn up the climate, using rays from the sun/Dom Pachino, mad man, assassinatin tracks with Shogun" -Dom Pachino

My long time friend Shaun would be the first to tell you that whenever I bumped this song, I would start smiling and bobbin my head when the beat dropped, and to this day I still do that. Following "Dress To Kill", this was a dope song, featuring equally dope verses from all involved. Maybe it was his delivery, but I felt Street Life's verse, while good, could've been better.
*4 out of 5*

3. Burning Season
Killa Sin and 9th Prince

This was not your average hip hop tale about gunplay, but rather being necessarily strapped when you're in any type of struggle, recognizing and realizing the real that's out there. "It's all for real, cause everything is real/Don't sleep on the average cat who's packin steel". 
*4 out of 5*

4. Blood For Blood
Dom Pachino, Shogun Assassin, 9th Prince and Beretta 9

"Blood for blood, keep the unity thick like mud" -9th Prince

From time to time, I honestly skipped this song back in the day, but after a while it grew on me the more I listened to it. I understand the "blood for blood" mentality.
*3 out of 5*

5. Seems It Never Fails
Islord and 9th Prince

 "Don't go against the grain or mad pain will be felt/Watch this underrated expert do his work" -Islord

Considering that he was locked down during the making of this album (and when it was released), I considered this a showcase song for one Islord in his first of two appearances on the album.
*3 out of 5*

6. Universal Soldiers
Killa Sin, Dom Pachino, Shogun Assassin and 9th Prince

"Yo, kill to protect and arm myself wit intellect" -Shogun Assassin

This joint right here is military styled hip hop at its finest. Dom Pachino has the best verse on this one, but overall everyone involved did a tight job.
*4 out of 5*

7. Love, Hell Or Right
A skit consisting of a conversation within the group.

8. Wake Up 
9th Prince, Islord and Killa Sin
Featuring Hell Razah and Prodigal Sunn
Produced By: The RZA 

"Wake the fuck up or get broke the fuck up/The wisdom we apply son, soak this shit up/If it was cess y'all niggas would smoke this shit up/So wake the fuck up or get broke the fuck up!!"

That hype hook sums up this song pretty well, assisted by Hell Razah and Prodigal Sunn from Sunz Of Man, another crew of Wu-Tang affiliates. Straight dopeness all around over this bangin RZA production.

*5 out of 5*

9. Fair, Love & War
Killa Sin, Beretta 9,  Dom Pachino and Shogun Assassin

"Adrenaline, cats be amped up for action/Goin to war, no time for relaxin" -Beretta 9

"3 point two time design, combine wit steel wind to blow ya mind/Counterterrorism wit precision" -Dom Pachino

This one reminds me of "Universal Soldiers" and it's just as dope. 
*4 out of 5*

10. Wu-Renegades
Dom Pachino, Killa Sin, 9th Prince and Beretta 9

Yes indeed! When I first saw this video, which will be posted, I went crazy, I sure did. That's how tight it was then and trust me it still holds up today. Pachino, Killa Sin, 9th and Beretta all come through with razor sharp verse over one of 4th Disciple's best beats ever. Classic material.
*5 out of 5*

11. Full Moon
9th Prince and Killa Sin

An introspective side is shown on this one, which finds 9th in full spirits due to the pending return of his brother from being locked down and Killa Sin reminiscing over the lost of his father. Very good, albeit fast paced, song.
*4 out of 5*

12. Under Siege
Shogun Assassin, Dom Pachino and Beretta 9

Man I still love the way this beat comes in as Shogun starts his verse. Good song here, nothing more or less.
*3 out of 5*

13. Shelter
Beretta 9 and Shogun Assassin

Seeking out shelter to block out the stress that life can bring, I hear that. Another good song.
*3 out of 5*

14. Camouflage Ninjas
Shogun Assassin, Dom Pachino, Beretta 9 and 9th Prince

"Keep calm, and don't expose any weak points
We'll all line up and fight together
I say we must all stay together as a single unit
We advance as one, remember, the only way to win is to stay together!"

I simply love this joint right here, so admittedly my rating is largely based on nostalgia, plus it's a dope song, almost sounding like an "unofficial trifecta" with "Universal Soldiers" and "Fair, Love & War".
*5 out of 5*

15. Swinging Swords
9th Prince, Dom Pachino and Killa Sin

"My tongue is symbolic to an axe/I used to be caught up in a world of Mad Max/Now come against the consequence of the 9th Prince" -9th Prince

Featuring a well timed Billie Holiday sample ("Swing, Brother, Swing"), I thought this was SO dope at the time, and of course, it holds up today. I think of what GZA once said when talking about the "Liquid Swords" song/album, "it's all about being sharp with your tongue". That definitely comes across here.
*5 out of 5*

16. War Face
9th Prince, Beretta 9, Shogun Assassin and Killa Sin
Produced By: The RZA, Co-Produced By: 4th Disciple

Soldier where's ya war face?! Talk about a song that could used to get you hyped prior to a major sporting event or just something to get you hyped in general. I actually like this one a little more during the course of this revisit.
*4 out of 5*

17. 5 Stars
9th Prince, Beretta 9, Shogun Assassin and Dom Pachino 
Featuring Masta Killa

"5 star general, givin killin orders/Militant assassins surround the headquarters" --9th Prince

Masta Killa, the lesser known member of the Wu-Tang Clan, then and now, stops by for this low key, yet amped album closer. It was a nice gesture/move to put Masta on this one, showcasing his low profile skills and giving a nice bit of credibility to the crew.
*4 out of 5*

Wow, this is always a NICE nostalgic trip down memory lane every time I bump this album. Before I get to my closing remarks, allow me to speak on a few things. First, the lyrical content. Like I said up top, what the album may lack in that area, it definitely makes up for it with it's military minded theme. All members are swift on the mic, and you can tell there's a strong Wu-Tang influence throughout. In what I don't think has been done this GOOD since, Killarmy incorporates a Wu-Tang sound, along with standard, but dope rhymes over dope beats, all from a military hip hop state of mind. I'm not sure if any of these cats had any military experience (that's still unknown at this point), but whether they did or not, the material here is so catchy and precise, they do a fine job of taking the listener on a lyrical journey on the battlefield without sounding forced. And speaking of dope beats, this had to have been a coming out party for the underrated 4th Disciple. After working with RZA on such classics like "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx", "Liquid Swords", "Return To The 36 Chambers" and "Wu-Tang Forever", it was only fitting that 4th Disciple was given the platform to create a sound that fit Killarmy perfectly and he delivered in spades. This is quite possibly the finest production work of 4th Disciple's career. And one more thing. With all due respect to all the members, I feel after this, we really should've got a Killa Sin solo album, likely before their 1998 sophomore album "Dirty Weaponry". He definitely had what it took to make a very solid solo album, and backed by equally solid production (RZA, 4th Disciple, True Master, etc), we could've had a winner in 98.

Overall, this is a 4.5 star album, definitely a long time personal favorite of mine and it'll always stand the test of time. Mad props and respect go out to Killa Sin, 9th Prince, Shogun Assassin, Islord, Beretta 9, Dom Pachino and 4th Disciple for this precise piece of work.

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