Review: Demigodz – Killmatic; A Simple Mission Accomplished

Killmatic cover art
I doubt that they’re here for her thesis defense

The Demigodz are a long-lived crew that has endured more major roster changes than the Baltimore Ravens during the current offseason. Holding the crew together, like Joe Flacco will hopefully do for Baltimore in the coming season, is Apathy, the Connecticut underground rapper/institution who has yet to fall off even after 15 years of hip-hop notoriety. In addition to keeping his own output up to par, he’s kept the Demigodz roster filled with hungry emcees who are actually pretty talented. Currently, those emcees are Ryu of Styles of Beyond, Esoteric, Celpth Titled, Motive, and Blacastan.

2013 sees the crew coming together for the album Killmatic, whose title invokes Nas’ classic Illmatic but the music itself is actually a lot more like Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Both are group albums where every emcee is a gangsta lyricist, and both have strong group leadership defining the sound of the album. Apathy only produces half of Killmatic as opposed to Rza’s stranglehold on Enter the Wu-Tang’s production, but the Demigodz’ guest producers all followed Ap’s lead so the album sounds just as cohesive as if he did it all. Lyrically, Apathy, Ryu, and Celph Titled are clearly the stars here but the mic is passed around very often through these 16 tracks. Here Killmatic surpasses Enter the Wu-Tang in that where Masta Killa was barely present on Wu-Tang’s debut, everyone in the Demigodz gets time to shine. But the Demigodz have a polarizing emcee like Wu-Tang’s U-God, and his name is Celph Titled. His unending reliance on humor and puns will surely turn off some listeners, but he’s balanced by everyone else’s much more conventional style.

Killmatic is grimy East coast hip-hop, nothing more and nothing less. Sung hooks, complex conceptual topics, and romantic songs for women were not invited to this Timberland boots and hoodies party. The hooks are either spoken lyrics or scratched samples, the verses are all about being a thug or a better emcee than everyone else alive, and “verse then hook, repeat 2 or 3 times” song structure is used most everywhere except on the posse cuts. This basic approach could have resulted in an epidemic of boring songs but the beats are always good and everyone raps with major passion.

Instead of an epidemic, Killmatic only has a few isolated outbreaks of weakness. These offending songs are less symptoms of falling musical quality as they are the inevitable outcome of the long tracklist. 16 tracks is a lot. With such a large number, there will always be some songs that don’t grab the listener as well as others. The remedy for this boredom would usually be variety, but that risks alienating the core fanbase. And this album is all about the core fan, so the Demigodz decided to completely focus on pleasing those core fans as much as possible. They were a bit overzealous in that, 12 songs would have probably been just fine. But they suceeded immensely, and less single-minded hip-hop fans will still find much to love on Killmatic.

4 out of 5

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