Real Hip Hop should deliver a message, tell a story, and most certainly strike a nerve. An art form often sold short, disrespected, or misunderstood, through adversity faced, it has still become one of the most popular forms of music over the last 30 years. Straight out of what many consider the golden age of Hip Hop, the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s, Brooklyn’s own Killah Priest has also left his mark on the scene, telling his story in various ways on the mic.
Known for his powerful lyrical style, he is a respected Wu-Tang Clan affiliate who has worked with an array of other MCs including RZA, GZA, and Ghostface Killah, just to name a few. Continuing to pour his heart and soul onto tape all these years later, Killah Priest still has something to say, and you should be listening. We recently caught up with the accomplished MC to talk his experiences working with members of Wu-Tang Clan, the 20th anniversary of his 1998 debut album, Heavy Mental, future music, evolution, plus more.
Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in music for over 25 years now. From your early work with Gravediggaz, GZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and many others, to your solo work and beyond, you have certainly accomplished a lot through the years. First, briefly tell us, how would you describe your musical journey?
Killah Priest – I would describe it as beautiful and interesting. It was beautiful and interesting at the same time. The genesis of it… it just happened. It was a beautiful time in Hip Hop. I got to meet so many people, and it’s been great!
Cryptic Rock – It was a great period for Hip Hop for sure. As mentioned, people first got a taste of your style on Gravediggaz debut record, 1994’s 6 Feet Deep, as well as GZA’s 1995 album, Liquid Swords. What was it like collaborating with them at that time?
Killah Priest – It was beautiful moments. As far as with Gravediggaz, we were at Firehouse in New York. RZA was working on this track, “Diary of a Madman,” and he called me to jump on it – I had never heard a beat like that, the beat was eerie. I came in the studio and already had a rhyme in my head, I jumped on it right then and there, I didn’t even write to it, it was something I had already. It was beautiful meeting everyone that was there.
As far as Liquid Swords and working with GZA, I was in the studio with him all the time. We were in the studio playing chess or whatever. The same thing, RZA threw on the track “4th Chamber,” Ghostface Killah came in, and that’s how the magic happened. We were actually joking and battling each other before we got on the mic and I just came out with ‘judge wisely.’
There was a song I had called “B.I.B.L.E. (Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth),” and GZA always liked the song. He did the most generous thing I could experience, for a person to put a song on their album is the most respect that you can get. I don’t think anybody would do that during these times, but that was a beautiful thing because we respected lyricism. I always looked up to GZA as the best MC, so that was very good for me for him to do that.
Cryptic Rock – That is a huge honor for him to include the track on his album. The track, “B.I.B.L.E. (Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth),” would also be on the debut solo record Heavy Mental in 1998. That album did very well and recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. Tell us what it was like working on that debut.
Killah Priest – There is so much to that. I had that album for a minute, for like a year, we kept just making new songs. It was something special working on that album. Me and 4th Disciple traveled out to Cali. The last songs, “Information” and “Wisdom,” were done at 4th Disciple’s crib. It was travelling, new experiences, and you hear it throughout the album.
Cryptic Rock – It really is a great album. Since that time, you have remained prolific with your artistic output releasing new LPs consistently. Lyrically, you have always offered some very thought-provoking content. Have you always felt very strongly about bringing such a strong message that is educational and spiritual as well?
Killah Priest – Definitely, and thank you. Music is a word and I just put down whatever is inside of me at that time and what I feel. If people can relate, then it’s all good. I think there are a lot of people that can relate out there. When you’re speaking from the heart, everything’s real.
Cryptic Rock – Agreed. Also what is great about your lyrics, perhaps someone may not know where you are coming from, but you provoke thought. People are going to want to research what you are talking about.
Killah Priest – Thank you and that’s our mission. I put it out there and it was up to the listener to research it and take it in. I always thought outside the box, I don’t like to be confined in one little area, so I always like to think outside the box. As long as there’s music, ear play is always good to think outside the box. Also, search outside the box.
Cryptic Rock – Right, that is a good way to be, because you don’t want to limit yourself. You have continued to collaborate members of Wu-Tang as well as many others through the years. Everyone has something different to offer. With that said, everyone has something different to offer. What do you take away from your lengthy list of collaborations?
Killah Priest – Always evolve. I’m always trying to stay a step ahead of myself. I am always thinking of evolving and moving forward as time does. There are so many new ideas, so many adventures, and so much old stuff that is becoming new. It’s beautiful! That is what I take from it, always evolve.
Cryptic Rock – In life, we are always evolving.
Killah Priest – Yes, we definitely do.
Cryptic Rock – Always busy, what is coming up next for you? Perhaps a new album?
Killah Priest – I have a couple of albums coming soon. I have just been stacking up and storing. I also have a podcast coming out where we talk about marijuana – I have my own strain. I am doing a whole bunch of such. Music wise, I have a couple of albums.
Cryptic Rock – It will be exciting to hear the new music. Can we expect that in 2019?
Killah Priest – Yea, 2019, I’m coming out with a bunch of albums, it’s gonna to be good. I just think to just give them music now.
Cryptic Rock – Yes, times have changed dramatically with how people consume and listen to music.
Killah Priest – Right, it makes it easier for an artist like myself, because I’ve got material and I can just put it out. It’s all good because I’m constantly creating.
Cryptic Rock – In that respect it is good, because you can put it out there right away.
Killah Priest – I’m enjoying it. You have so many ways online to reach your fans straight up.
Cryptic Rock – Those are some of the positive aspects of the internet world. As we spoke, your lyrics have always been very strong. With Hip Hop, it should always be about the lyrics – the message, the story. It seems like the mainstream stuff labels are pushing toward would-be listeners nowadays does not seem to bring that. What are your thoughts on this direction?
Killah Priest – It’s the same old thing. Everyone’s doing the same flow, the same old pattern. Give me something different, give me something that’s gonna change it up. Like I said, I always like thinking outside the box.
Cryptic Rock – Diversity is good. Right now, there are a lot of things to talk about going on in the world. It does not seem like the mainstream labels are showcasing much Hip Hop with thought-provoking lyrics.
Killah Priest – Yea, exactly. Sometimes it’s straight garbage. I wouldn’t call complete garbage, but yo, please don’t do the same old thing. We talk about the lyrics, because that’s what it was. It’s called MCing. Everything I get into I’m really passionate about. If I’m gonna rhyme, I’m just gonna put passion and myself into it. Hopefully the results come out good.
Cryptic Rock – They most certainly have and continue to do so. Since you are so passionate about creating music, what is some of the music you grew up listening to that influenced you?
Killah Priest – I listened to a lot of Soul music. I listen to Stevie Wonder and I love Reggae because it had a beautiful message in it. I listen to a lot of different types of music. I also like Soft Rock too, America and stuff like that. I think there is a message in that too of peace.
Cryptic Rock – No question, and it is good to have a diverse taste in music. Stevie Wonder has great storytelling in his music as well.
Killah Priest – He’s definitely incredible. He is one of the artists I look up to and he has great storytelling abilities. His albums are just off the hook.
Cryptic Rock – One album that comes to mind with wonderful stories and a powerful message is Stevie Wonder’s 1973 album Innervisions.
Killah Priest – Exactly! I’m gonna go listen to that later. (Laughs) That’s what these cats lack, they don’t listen to the old and getting inspiration from the OGs that were doing this.
Cryptic Rock – It goes back to education. If you don’t know what came before, you are selling yourself short. It’s good to look back and learn from those who came before.
Killah Priest – Exactly. At a time when Hip Hop was golden, go back and check out the MCs back then.
Cryptic Rock – Those unaware most certainly should. Last question. We also cover Horror and Sci-Fi films. If you are a fan of these genres, do you have any favorites?
Killah Priest – I love them. I like the movie Bug (2006), that’s a trippy movie. That’s some crazy stuff. I would also say No Country For Old Men (2007), that’s a trippy one too.