"Somebody bring back the Witchdoctor" - Killer Mike
When Killer Mike uttered those words on the "Got That Purp? Vol. 2" compilation I was among those who wholeheartedly agreed with the plea. I was quick to cop his "A S.W.A.T. Healing Ritual" back in the 90s and to be honest I didn't fully appreciate it until later. At the time the music was too deep and spiritual, even for a long time Goodie Mob and Outkast fan. Years later I grew to love the mystical music that painted a picture of Atlanta different than the one portrayed by other rappers. While other rappers hinted at the rural roots and history of the city, Witchdoctor took us back to country soul that birthed it. Much like the rest of the country, after his first album I didn't hear about Witchdoctor and assumed he was no longer recording. Unbeknownst to me, or even Killer Mike apparently, Witchdoctor never stopped grinding. He's been releasing albums since 1999 and selling them himself and through his Myspace page. Being that I dislike myspace, it took Witchdoctor's new deal with Williams Street for me to catch up with the man. The Adult Swim associated label has put out a new album featuring the best of Witchdoctor from the last 9 years and a few new tracks. Even with sparse support from the Dungeon Family (Organized Noize produces 1 track, Khujo Goodie features on another), Witchdoctor is as dope as ever and seems to have only gotten better with time.
The album opens with "God Iz Good" which features a simple guitar sample in the background as Witchdoctor soulfully proclaims the goodness of God. What the intro lacks in complexity it makes up in authenticity as you can feel Witchdoctor's faith through his voice. "Just Like You" follows and sets the tone nicely for the album. Over a stirring mix of subdued pianos, Witchdoctor relates to the struggle we all face:
"I'm just like you, touch me and I will fight you
Pull my gun even though I might not like to
I'm like you, I'm real too
Stretched too, I'm late paying bills too
Everybody trying to build up their lumber
Credit people calling from private numbers
I just don't answer that motherfucker
You can't cure cancer with that motherfucker
Everybody want a winning team
We all entitled to this American dream
Ay, tell Keven my buzz is getting stronger
I just been in the sun a little longer
I see you in the pursuit of happiness
Sorry but you might need some cash with this
If I could make this clearer
Our life resembles each other when we look in the mirror"
It is Witchdoctor's ability to appeal to emotions we all go through that truly set him apart from everyone else. On "Suicide Bombers" Witchdoctor even manages to make something usually foreign and hated apply to us all. Proclaiming he has "no body guards, no body armor" Witchdoctor likens his boldness, faith, and lack of fear to that of a suicide bomber. Though suicide bombers aren't people to look up to, you have to admit their blind faith and fear of death are things of amazement. The thought provoking tracks continue throughout and Witchdoctor's charisma ensures no tracks sounds overly preachy.
Witchdoctor tends to stick to the positive and uplifting in his music, but being from the city and being a man it's only natural he also covers other topics. "Spell on Them Hoes" is the type of players anthem we haven't heard since the first two Outkast albums. On "Jake Got Your Body" Witchdoctor addresses drug addiction in his own unique way:
"Eyes bloody, index finger on the hammer
Jake make some of you pussy niggas mister Tony Montana
I might walk in and niggas don't know I'm a beast
You can spot out Jake niggas biting down hard on they teeth
Jake make some kill, Jake make some crunk
Jake make some of you niggas walk up into that bank with that pump
Jake make a bad husband for damsels in distress
Make put some of you hoe niggas in a dress
Jake look white but got game like a J
And you might not want your family where he gon' lay
AKs can shoot the top of the eiffel
And Jake is protected by high powered fucking rifles
Jake got your body, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa
Jake got your body, that tissue in your nose"
Regardless of the topic matter addressed, Witchdoctor finds ways to put a fresh spin on old messages and make them relevant. It's impossible not to start exercising your mind when he drops gems like "God can turn a mess into a treasure chest" or asks "living in the projects, are you happy there?"
All the praise dropped on Witchdoctor so far hasn't even covered half of his "Diary." You still have left to peep tracks like "Mercy," "King of the Beasts," and "Semiautomatic" all which exhibit a perfect storm where spirituality and street life mix together. There's also plenty of deep soul left to experience on the gospel inspired "Wonderful God" and the uplifting "Best Year." Honestly, I have no complaints about Witchdoctor's performance on "Diary of an American Witchdoctor." The same can not be said about some of the guests featured. Based on his message I can see why someone like Earleybird would be featured on the album, but his flow sounds elementary and his voice has nothing on the good doctor's enchanting southern drawl. The same can be said about Fountaine's performance on "Oxygen" where his message can't overcome his deficiencies on the mic. A few weak guest spots can't ruin the album though, especially considering most emcees sound wack and ordinary placed next to Witchdoctor. Were it not for the few weaker guest spots, "Diary Of An American Witchdoctor" would be an instant classic. Even so, it comes close and is the nearest thing to "Organized Noize" I've heard in a long long time. The spirituality expressed on this album is something you don't run into often. His faith surely fueled Witchdoctor during his independent days and even if only a fraction of that spirituality is transferred to you after listening to this you'll be a much better person for it. Hopefully, Witchdoctor is rewarded in terms of album sales and we don't have to wait another 9 years before being blessed with another nationally distributed Witchdoctor album.
Music Vibes: 10 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 9 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 9.5 of 10
Originally posted: November 6, 2007