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OK, so how many guys are there in the Wu-Tang Clan, anyway? To quote the collective’s own propaganda, there is a swarm of “killer bees all over the fucking planet,” each eager to lay claim to the coveted throne of the Wu-Tang Dynasty. But when all but the die-hard fan lose count after the starting nine, the question is, how well can a second-stringer like Killah Priest distinguish himself from the rest of the clan? The answer is, unfortunately, too well. All of Killah Priest’s prior recorded appearances have been remarkable both lyrically and conceptually, from the unsettling urban imagery he devised on Old Dirty Bastard’s “Snakes” to his psychotic ravings on the Gravedigga’s classic “Diary of a Madman.” However, it was the brooding, intellectual verses on the Genius’ Liquid Swords LP that created his reputation—and anticipation of Priest’s solo effort. On Heavy Mental, the self-proclaimed missionary manages to incorporate an impressive knowledge of ancient history and religion into complex rhyme schemes. However, the message is eventually weighed down by his trademark lumbering delivery. Comparing Inspectah Deck’s effortless verbal barrage on “Cross My Heart” with Killah Priest’s forced aggression leaves the listener yearning for more Wu-veteran cameos. Producers 4th Disciple, Tru Master, and Y-Kim fail to bolster the lyricist’s monotone lamentations with leaden, frequently lazy tracks that lack the Rza’s razor-sharp edge. Although often thought-provoking, Killah Priest fails to muster the raw energy on Heavy Mental so easily generated by his seasoned Wu cohorts, putting this particular killer bee’s buzz very much in jeopardy.

—Neil Drumming