Killah Priest

The Wu-Tang family tree is a twisty, ever-expanding one. Just when you think you've got the names down of the nine guys who make up the Staten Island tribe, here comes an album by the Killa Beez or G.P. Wu or Killarmy or Remedy. As with any rap artist or group, the friends and the friends of the friends and all of their mamas just saunter in on their talented brethren's coattails and drop some shit of their own. With the abundance of Wu-affiliated albums out there, it's surprising that there aren't full-fledged Wu-Tang sections in record stores.

But right next to Cappadonna, Killah Priest is the best-known tangential member of the Wu-Tang dynasty. Starting out as guest player, contributing on such revered Wu-Tang solo joints as Ol' Dirty Bastard's Return to the 36 Chambers and GZA's Liquid Swords, Priest hooked up with Clan producers 4th Disciple and True Master and broke out with his '98 debut, Heavy Mental.

But it's his ability to carry off a whole album without a guest shot from one of his elders that makes the Brooklyn-born MC stand out. (His 2000 release, View from Masada, was a flurry of fury and aggression that made the listener really believe he could jack you for your shit.) As other spin-off MCs and groups do an offshoot project and fall off the radar faster than you can say Canibus -- a tradition that includes Sunz of Man, the side project Priest did with three other Wu-associated MCs back in '98 -- Priest (or Masada -- following in the Wu-Tang tradition, the rapper has another alias handy just in case he needs to go underground or something) has three albums' worth of rap that certify his staying power.

Killah Priest may not exhibit Method Man's roughneck charisma, RZA's tenacious leadership skills or Ol' Dirty Bastard's bug-fuck craziness, but the dude has enough vigor in him to make it as his own man. At a Lyricist Lounge show in Hollywood last December, the audience was well versed in Heavy Mental, but as his latest, Black August, drops next week, Killah Priest is looking for more hard-core parishioners to join his flock.

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Craig D. Lindsey
Contact: Craig D. Lindsey