Individually Vinnie Paz and Ill Bill are two of underground rap’s most acclaimed emcees. Paz is known for a guttural flow laced with mercilessly murderous thoughts, and has been the frontman of Jedi Mind Trickssince he was known as Ikon the Verbal Hologram. Bill is known for channeling a slew of conspiracy theories about the illuminati and “black helicopters” into hip-hop, first through his Non Phixion comrades, then as a solo artist. Collectively the two are known as the Heavy Metal Kings, a reference that describes both their musical attitude and their penchant for rapping about firearms. They first collaborated as a duo on “Servants in Heaven, Kings in Hell” back in 2006, which sewed the seeds for an eventual full LP.
Five years later in 2011 that tree bloomed with fruit, although the unprepared who take a bite may find the taste especially sour and acrid – possibly even poisonous. If Vin Rock, Treach and Kay Gee are Naughty By Nature then it’s fair to say Vin Paz, Ill Bill and their producers of choice are Malevolent By Nature. There’s almost nothing in the world that would make this duo happy, except perhaps the total collapse of Western society and/or an unlimited supply of ammunition to shoot in the air. Around every corner of their lyrics is a FBI agent waiting to incarcerate them, a CIA operative seeking to overthrow a third world government, and a martyr to the precepts of Malachi Z. York. To call their raps relentlessly dark would be to imply that light is an alternative. In the world of the Heavy Metal Kings, light doesn’t even exist. You might laugh at the sheer amount of violence and venom at times but nobody’s smiling.
Song titles like “Age of Quarrel” are matter of fact about their content – life is a fight against everything from multi-national corporations to world governments. The production by Jack of All Trades is head-nodding to be sure, but it’s also menacing enough that it could double as the backdrop to almost any horror movie. Ill Bill takes point and leads you into hell, before Vinnie Paz attempts to shoot it up.
Ill Bill: “I got the bandana over my face
So it’s impossible to identify the father of atrocity
Modern day Agathocles, use modern machines
Topple regimes, we conquerors from Compton to Queens
We build and destroy, tearin this shit apart from the seams
I seen it with my own eyes I know it’s hard to believe
‘Til you see yourself startin to bleed
‘Til you see Moses standin on the edge of a cliff partin the Sea
Now we watch the severed head of the Statue of Liberty
Being thrown down on the streets of Manhattan literally”
Vinnie Paz: “Do whatever the fuck I want, I know it’s wrong
Call me the proper name of God like Jehovah’s mom
Y’all muh’fuckers got guns, we got an arsenal
Mao said to read too many books is harmful
Mind is from Harvard, my heart is blacker than charcoal
Hold the pen so tight damage my metacarpals
Y’all should take mescaline tabs, I think it’s sound advice
I’m the molecular biology of paradise
I am Satanist, I am Buddha, and I am Christ
I’m Cus D’Amato in eighty-four, I’m +Iron Mike+”
There’s no doubt that both members of the Heavy Metal Kings are well read, given that they seem to reference almost every religious icon and global conspiracy theory to come along in the last 100 years. You may need to keep an encyclopedia or a Google search tab on standby just to keep up with all the cultural hyperlinks they throw out in songs like the self-produced (by Ill Bill) “Final Call,” itself a reference to the newspaper founded by Minister Louis Farrakhan.
Ill Bill: “Intelligent relevant heretic elegant terrorist
Presentin death sentences with malevolent eloquence
Label you larger than hajj and spark a jihad
Adolescent martyrs in malls dishonor their bombs
While the lords of war pardon their arms
Concentration broken by the sound of fighter jets barkin at God
Gat shooters they snatch AK’s and chains, my shooters they snatch planes
and cause international mayhem
In the mountains of Caucasia caught four Pagans in an orgy
With Lord Satan onward the war races”
Vinnie Paz: “What is the connection between Jesus and the Shriners?
What is the connection to the virus, and Osirus?
That’s why the gun is always on the hip
I learned to never sleep on devil and to come equipped
I don’t never speak on nothin always button-lipped
Whether it’s why the sun exists or if it’s run your shit
Y’all are devilish and Vinnie move with God power
I called Bill, told him meet me at the God Hour
It’s never been a question whether or not I’m star power
The only question is whether or not the God’s sour
Yeah, in other words sick of the Amorite
Reverend Dr. Malachi Z. York had it right
Dealin with sound right reasonin and actin right
Teachin people how to handle ratchets and a hatchet right”
Throughout the album the destructive duo use nicknames that reference global hostility and violent Hollywood films: Vinnie calls himself O’Drama Bin Laden and his partner-in-rhyme becomes William Cutting (think Bill the Butcher from “Gangs of New York”). As relentlessly oppressive as it is, it’s not without its own beauty. The Jack produced “Metal in Your Mouth” is a posse cut of quick sharp jabs to the grill featuring Q-Unique and Slaine. Sicknature’s “The Vice of Killing” is an epic horn laced call to war with Reef the Lost Cauze and Sabac Red providing support. Gem Crates hits the nail on the head on the darkly electronic “Blood Meridian,” only to be exceeded by DJ Muggs on “Leviathan (The Spell of Kingu)” all while providing spiritual questioning with DJ Muggs samples of Ghostface Killah: “Why is the sky blue?/Why is water wet?/Why did Judas, rat to Romans while Jesus slept?”
“Heavy Metal Kings” is not an easy album to quantify, which is undoubtedly how the authors intended it, but it’s fair to say that as much or more than any album either did on their own that it’s NOT meant for wise dispersal. There’s a following out there for both emcees, and even among that following there are the dedicated who subscribe faithfully to their fatalistic world view, which could almost be called nihilistic were it not for the fact both men believe in their guns rather than nothing at all. It’s certainly a work of art, but it’s a very bleak one, which is not something that will grab the casual listener. You have to be a fan of either or both men going in, andIF you are, then the sheer force of their persona and their political viewpoint won’t be off-putting to you. Newcomers beware, this album is not the place to start.