Sometimes, a person’s greatest blessing can be his greatest curse in disguise. When GZA put Killah Priest’s “B.I.B.L.E.” on “Liquid Swords” it gave the world a glimpse into the mind and talents of Killah Priest. At the same time, it pigeon-holed him into the role of a second-tier Wu-Tang affiliate. Twelve years after his record debut, and nearly a decade after “Heavy Mental,” his first album, Killah Priest is still hampered by these expectations, at once praised and criticized whether he expands his range or stays within it.
“The Offering” sees Priest mostly dealing within the latter. Aided by the most consistent production of his career, Priest deals in his usual variety of street metaphors and allusions. When on top of his game, he’s one of the most visual rappers to pick up a microphone. Everything he rap about gains an aura of incredible importance, as if even the smallest occurrences in his life relate to some universal truth. He re-introduces himself on the opening title track, where he makes even his childhood look as if it had a greater meaning, rhyming, “For instance, when I would color/I’d paint the figures with blood to describe a slain hustler.”
Fortunately for fans, Priest is on top of his game here. Even better, he’s aided by production that fits him extremely well. Dark and foreboding, the beats only make Priest come off more sure of himself, an undeniably authorities figure. The lyrics here are very complex, with incredible metaphors, references, and wordplay, but are more grounded than he’s ever been. Gone are the rhymes where he gets lost in his own metaphors, on “The Offering” he’s the best, the most visual he’s ever been.
“The (k)night’s a dark lord, well dressed, seducing our son
Upon the dawning of a full day, he usually would come
Galloping upon his winged horse, leaving trails of stars
Across the planet; night scene of New York
Comes a life with lights, pubs, clubs with thugs
Mobsters, gangsters, criminals, dealers with drugs
Loud music; crowds are moving up and down blocks
In and out of spots, cops watch for a foul shooting
So how we moving?
My soul scour through the clouds where the moon will sit
Like a wise owl searching through the gloomy mist
Six; I bring a casket down to his tomb
Another child get pushed through the uterus
From the womb, we intuitive
Eternal peace or damnation, depending what we do with it
A genius, or a lunatic
A general, or a fugitive
The problem with “The Offering” isn’t one of quality, it’s of accessibility. There is no attempt here to reach out to newcomers, people who are not already at least acquainted to Killah Priest. Priest is only worried about himself and his core fans here, and so while it is very good music, it’s hard to get into from a cold start. Granted, it’s well worth the effort for anyone who generally likes rap music, but it’s doubtful that many will make the effort. “B.I.B.L.E.” stood out because it was such a polar change of theme in “Liquid Swords.” There’s nothing to set that up here, and so “The Offering” comes off as consistently good, or even great, but never revolutionary.
And while Priest is consistently at his best, the people he works with don’t step up to the task. Collaborations with Immortal Technique, Canibus and Ras Kass all fall short of the greatness they could inspire. Even the much hyped “Gun for Gun,” featuring Nas, is not what it could have been. Even the production generally suffers from not being outstanding enough to keep the album from dragging at points. The beats all work, its just clear that Priest is a class above them.
Ironically, with all the complexity of Priest’s rhymes, it’s the simplest of songs that stand out most. The up-tempo “How Many” demands that he be put beside the greatest of rappers, while paying tribute to those same legends. But it’s the ultra-personal “Happy” that absolutely stands alone among the rest:
“My friend wrote his mother
“Mom, I’m doing better now”
“I love you momma, sincerely yours”
As the nurse pours
From reading her his letter, body attached to a cord
And to a breathing pump, the stroke she had was too much
She’s in a coma, been that way for a few months
And if her son knew, believe me, he’d split in two
And go back to doing drugs before quitting school
But rest(?) now, ’cause your mother’s still here
Try to live and be proud, make her heart full of cheer
Fill your mind with tranquility – she’s free
Give your heart space and liberty, and then peace”
While it’s sometimes hampered by sub-standard guests, and beats, “The Offering” is, much more often than not, a stunning success. It’s not the easiest album to get into, but given half a chance, Killah Priest will pull you into his universe, which is one of the most vivid hip hop has to offer. Priest is the best he’s ever been here, and “The Offering” is guaranteed to please not only his fan base, but fans of great lyricism in general.