Two years after “The Psychic World of Walter Reed,” Killah Priest dropped an album “Starring King Zohar” which can be assumed to be a Kool Keith style alter ego. In truth “Planet of the Gods” is an album from Mr. Reed. The production was handled by a Dutch crew named Godz Wrath. Out of that team only Jordan River Banks appears to be still active in 2023, which isn’t surprising given he’s also credited with mixing the album and personally producing or co-producing a lot of these tracks, including the oddly titled “Golden Pineapple of the Sun.”
“Hip-Hop’s been altered/since The Psychic World of Walter
Now it stands like the rock of Gibraltar
Hood clips footage, flying saucers
Magi, rabbis close the Torah
Fallen angels disguise themselves as planets
Reprogramming from ape man to kings riding a mammoth
Moldavite falling from the heights like it’s manna
I heard once you can’t serve both God and mammon”
Even though Reed tells us there’s been a seismic shift in the rap landscape, virtually nothing has changed about the enigmatic rapper since his last release. He still speaks like a prophet delivering a sermon on the mount to a rapt flock. His lyrics are sprinkled with religious and apocalyptic references, and even though I’m vain enough to believe I can understand most of them, I still had to look up what Moldavite was. It’s not surprising that Killah Priest would casually drop a reference to a meteor crashing into the Earth. If you’re been on the ride for anything Priest has done since “Heavy Mental” you know that’s just how he is, and if you’re new to Mr. Reed welcome to one of rap’s most unconventional orators. His smoky, gravely voice breathes life into harrowing bars that effortlessly shift from rapping to spoken word poetry. On “Creation of a Super God” it hardly matters which one he’s doing — it’s mesmerizing either way.
“Lasers turn eagles into starships/The mind can build, y’all never stop it/The rhymes are will within the cockpit.” If any emcee could manifest his vision into reality just by speaking it, Killah Priest is just that man. It’s as fascinating to listen to as it is hard to recommend for a casual listen. Priest is not an easily accessible emcee. He doesn’t offer you anything that fits into the rap tropes that form both mainstream and underground hip-hop music. Seriously — who else is going to record a song called “The Vast Bottomless Sleep Cosmos” where he talks to you like a visitor for another dimension, or dub himself a Wu-Tang time traveler on “PWOWR Glove?” No one. He’s in his own lane in the best possible way.
Albums like “Planet of the Gods” and “Summer End Cafe” present me with the exact same problem. I want to recommend them to other people, but I inherently recognize there’s nothing other than his ties to the Wu-Tang Clan to keep him in the minds of many, and we are so far removed from the Clan’s inception that people now call their music “old school.” Priest wasn’t even a founding member — he was just a close associate whose distinctive vocals quickly caused fans to want more of his work. I feel like for better or worse that’s his entire audience. The people who discovered him in the 1990’s, who are still alive a quarter century later, still enjoying his unique “interdimensional forests” of rap on tracks like “Earth to Walter Reed Come In Please.”
I’d love to see Killah Priest get his flowers while he’s still alive, but I feel he’s destined to be better appreciated decades or perhaps centuries after he’s gone. I’m not sure this or any review can change that, and Walter Reed wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s been determined to forge a path no one else can (or would) follow since his earliest days, and “Planet of the Gods” is one of his most enjoyable inaccessible albums. That’s a contradiction. How can you enjoy something inaccessible? Simple. If you listen to it and find it’s for you, you’re part of the very specific and narrow niche of rap fans he’s making this type of music for. If you’re into trap rap, AutoTune, drill music, grime, G-Funk or backpacker rap, it’s probably not for you… but unless you take a chance on traveling into his psychic world you’ll never know.