Masta Killa :: Made in Brooklyn :: Nature Sounds
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

He can sometimes be called the forgotten member of the Wu-Tang Clan, but that at least is a compliment to Masta Killa compared to Cappadonna, the UNNECESSARY member of the Wu. Killa has been dropping classic lines ever since "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'" when he uttered "Movin on a nigga with the speed of a centipede/and injure - ANY MOTHERFUCKIN CONTENDER" over a decade ago. Who gets credit when the Wu's greatest lyricists are discussed though? GZA, Ghostface, Deck, often Rae or Meth, sometimes even U-God just for the fuck of it, but never Killa. Despite this he dropped bar none one of the best Wu albums of all time in 2004 with the release of "No Said Date" and yet once again was forgotten by all but Wu-Tang's diehard fans. There are days when it seems like Masta Killa might in fact actually have to kill someone before he finally gets respect from the masses. "Made in Brooklyn" is in the unenviable position of having to follow up an obscure but powerfully classic album, while at the same time trying to get his name out to a much wider audience.

I'm probably one of the few people left on the planet who listens to an album in order from start to finish in the digital age, but I always feel like the artist and the label carefully selected the song order for a reason and even though the best tracks may be randomly strewn among them it's at least worth trying to discern the point. Sometimes a beat is thrown away just as an "Intro" to both the album and/or artist. Other times they've clearly decided you know who the fuck you're listening to and jump right into one of the hottest songs if not the lead single or second single off the album. Masta Killa's "Made in Broolyn" does neither. In fact the album's first track nearly ruins any chance of succeeding that this album has. Listening to "Then and Now" I keep expecting to hear MK's distinctive East New York vocal tones shredding the microphone, and to be fair the Chris Conway & Mark Grant beat is nice (not lead single material but definitely not a throwaway) but all along these unknowns are spitting flows. Not just unknowns though - CHILDREN. Karim Justice in particular has such an undeveloped voice there's no way to be certain of this MC having any gender whatsoever. The longer you wait for Killa to show up the further these MC's seem to regress, heading back towards the womb before your very eyes until Young Prince closes with one of the most useless raps I've ever heard:

"Wu-Tang Clan Killa Beez
Rock all my enemies, with the double D's
Double CD's, ride for the enemies
With the rocking-the-mic right, roll up with the typewrite
Rocking my Nike Flight, ballin' with the nice
And I'm rippin' the mic right, and you know who it is"

Oh really? Time for a reality check Prince - nobody knows who it is and furthermore and furthermore NOBODY CARES. I don't know if this was Masta Killa's son and his friends all said "we want a track on your daddy's album so MAKE IT HAPPEN" but there can be little doubt of their age of rap maturity when you hear a nursery rhyme chorus like "One, two, we coming with the Wu/Three, four, we knocking at your door." If "Made in Brooklyn" was a televised wrestling show, this would be even worse than a "curtain jerker" to open the night on TV - this would be the "dark match" before TV even starts you don't let people see because it features a bunch of raw green talent who lack experience and would fuck up and embarass your company if they aired live. Thankfully things improve greatly on "E.N.Y." Long-time MF Doom fans will recognize the beat - it's exactly the same as the skit that appears after "One Beer" and before "Deep Fried Frenz" on "MM.. Food." I'm okay with that - great beats should be reused. It's not Killa's best rap of all-time but it is the TRUE intro to this CD:

"Yo; when the East is in the house GOD DAMN we slam mics
40 days, 40 nights fights erupt from the energy
Givin' off me, crowd move from the wattage
It's electric, shockin the body, rise Lazarus
Party wit the God body, here's a hottie
See the Chief is like a doctor and I'm gonna prescribe
Just a thought for you to snort, if you like it then light it up
Smoke it, toke it, shotgun blast it
Pass it to your homey let 'em sample the example
How to MC..."

Now THAT'S more like it. The pace picks up quickly on the Dev 1 produced "Brooklyn King," with stripped down drums and bass that sound pleasantly like a song RZA would have produced in 1992 as a Wu-Tang Clan demo track. "High risk for MC's, vocal anesthetic for your head rush/y'all cats know how I do my thing." Indeed we do. And speaking of Wu-Tang throwbacks, the martial arts sample and pulsating bassline of "It's What it Is" will give you fond memories of those early days even before Ghostface and Raekwon jump on the cut. It's always possible to get outshined when sharing the stage with these two but MK holds his own:

"Shaolin Finger Jab, stab the man running
Deadly sold delivery, stunning poetry
For the masses, solid liquid gasses
Gather to a bomb explosion, Sony eruption
Frontin on Pelon, Lei Long'll get you swung on
Long barrel spinning rims on something foreign
Semi-auto flow spit forty five in the left grip
Right hold the mic tight, strike
With the force of mic, when I'm speaking"

PF Cuttin deserves HIGH PRAISE for this modern day Wu-Tang Clan classic beat, as do all three MC's for ripping the track with ease. Things slow down a little with "Nehanda & Cream" though, not just because Bronze Nazareth provides a mellower cut (which is still type nice) but because nearly two minutes of BS dialogue seem to go on before Killa actually grabs the mic and spits his laconic flow. Things get right back up to speed with "Iron God Chamber" though. Considering U-God, RZA and Meth all appear on this song the "Made in Brooklyn" album is starting to feel like an unofficial new Wu-Tang album for 2006. Coincidentally or not this theme is continued by calling the next track a remix of "Pass the Bone," an obscure GZA song which even many hardcore Wu fans have probably never heard. Nonetheless RZA & GZA both get acknowledged as writers in the credits, and Jig Sor does a nice job with an understated but effective beat that makes this song far superior to the original.

At this point the album once again makes the same mistake it did on the opener - a really nice track with no-name brothers over it. It's even more insulting this time because it's a horny-horn Pete Rock banger that gets used for NOTHING to present the likes Quadeer Allah, Allah B, Freedom Allah and Allah Sha Sha having a random conversation I could care less about. Let's throw a few more brothers named Allah on this track for the fuck of it - I suggest Supreme Holy Intellect Terrible Allah's Solemn Soldier, better known to you hip-hop heads out there as SHIT-ASS. Or how about God Cypher Divine Delivering Allah's Mercy Now Equality Defined (GOD DAMNED). I want some more SHIT-ASS, GOD DAMNED, ASS FUCKING BULLSHIT on this track to waste my time instaed of hearing Masta Killa spit bars. Message to all you brothers who want to do your 360 degrees and prove your holy intellect, do it on somebody else's studio time and not on Pete Rock beats. Maybe this needed to be on Lord Jamar's new album but it sure as hell shouldn't have been put here.

Thankfully the album recovers from this tragedy and closes in fine fashion with five straight hot tracks. "Let's Get Into Something" is some smooth ass music thanks to Startel and Killa, "Street Corner" is another Clan track hidden on this CD with Deck and GZA getting their time to shine. "Ringing Bells" seems to have as little to do with the name as LL Cool J's album version of "Rock the Bells" did, but Bronze Nazareth is to be credited with hooking up layers of melody into a piano-banging hip-hop slam dunk, with some provocative quotes from Dr. Benjamin Muhammad between verses. "East MC's" features some more obscure Wu affiliates like Killa Sin and Free Murder but they represent nicely over the Dev 1 track. Things close with the reggae tinged "Lovely Lady" and I'm feeling what Ski & Governor Tools did here, but again there's over a minute of bullshit at the start which should have been spun off into a seperate skit. In fact I'll probably pull out Audacity later today and chop the extra bullshit out to make this a proper song.

The bottom line here is that "Made in Brooklyn" is a good album for Masta Killa, and given it was highly unlikely he would exceed the dopeness of "No Said Date" it's hard to complain too much about the 13 tracks found here. Nevertheless it's a fair complaint to say that at least two of the thirteen tracks were good beats wasted by mediocrity, and that it's ironic that Killa is so consistantly on point with his rap that often nothing stands out as being either great or terrible. There's nothing here that any fan of MK or the Wu is going to hate but unfortunately it seems highly likely that he will continue to languish in obscurity as the forgotten Clan member since nothing on here will break out as a single or cause his star to rise any further.

Music Vibes: 7.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10

Originally posted: August 22, 2006