Killah Priest

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Elizabeth Review

by J. Allen

It's hard to believe that the release date for Wu-Tang Clan cohort Killah Priest's Elizabeth: Introduction to the Psychic wasn't chosen strategically, as it's difficult to imagine a more appropriate time for its unveiling than right before Halloween. There are enough creepy vibes, mysterious murders, spooky spirits, and supernatural monsters teeming from these tracks to fill a dozen horror-film festivals. But as anyone even casually familiar with Priest's output knows, he's not about graphic, Geto Boys horrorcore -- there's a more spiritual/philosophical context to the fright-night feel of Elizabeth. For the work of most rappers, the response "What the hell is he talking about?" would represent a failure to communicate, but for Priest, it's probably right in line with his intentions. Despite the album's titular portent, he doesn't try to tell any linear stories here, striving instead to stir up a mix of wonder, fear, and thrilling confusion in listeners? It's not even clear exactly who Elizabeth is -- from the cover photo and the few hints dropped, an educated guess might be the 19th century Empress Elisabeth of Bavaria, but closer examination makes even that possibility seem unlikely. Like everything else here, she's most likely a product of Priest's fertile, fiendish imagination. Throughout the album, he freely mixes dashes of religious, historical, and mystical imagery with the occasional touch of gangsta sensibility, though this is the furthest from street-real you can possibly get. It's a dazzling trip that finds "the queen of the water spirits" rubbing shoulders with alien abductions, descriptions of elaborate (Medieval?) torture devices, cosmic philosophy, and references to Priest's connection with the Black Hebrew Israelites. The musical framework is similarly far removed from the landscape of mainstream rap. You'll find no jeep beats or shout-out pop hooks here, and the settings incorporate everything from classical guitar patterns to excerpts from the soundtracks of obscure cartoons. The fact that Priest is able to make all these disparate elements work together, not to mention the fact that they work consistently across a double-length album, surely puts him in the running for some kind of Mad Genius of Hip-Hop award.

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