Saturday, November 30, 2019

Completing the Killa Kidz' Legacy

In 2013, Chopped Herring released a fantastic EP of the Killa Kidz' rarest recordings, including their a repress of their very rare and sought after debut 12" and five previously unheard demo tracks.  Killa Kidz, you may recall, is the original Queens crew of Prince AD, a.k.a. Killa Sha, the lyrical assassin you should remember from his appearances on Mobb Deep's debut album and projects with other Queensbridge and NY allstars Screwball, Chuck Chillout, Large Pro, Tragedy, Phill Blunts and even Anttex.  The other members are Superb, Baby Sham (who was later recruited into the Flipmode Squad), Psycho Child, Third Surgeon and Mr. Ruc da Jackal, most of whom also have some pretty tight appearances, if not solo records, under their belts.  Still, though, all their recording careers have been much more limited than they should've been.

So for those in the know, it was very exciting this summer when Chopped Herring unearthed a second batch of never heard before DAT recordings and released them as a second EP called In the Mental Demos EP.  Their first EP was limited to 300 copies, so they've expanded it a bit this time around to 350, 120 of which were pressed on yellow (yellow) vinyl, and the rest on traditional black, both in a sticker cover.  But still, to spread the legacy out even further, they've now come out with a more accessible (conventionally priced, not limited) CD combining the original six track 1996-1997 Phenomenon EP release and the recent seven track EP to create a proper Killa Kidz full-length 12-track album called Streets Is Real.

So, as the title says, the first EP's tracks were recorded in 1996-1997.  These "new" ones were recorded between 1995-1997, meaning some of these predate that last EP.  In fact, the title track, "In the Mental," was the crew's first recording together.  It's all got a rough but smart energy, like when you hear the disappointingly weaker, crossover modern songs by guys like Nas and Prodigy and you'd wish they still sounded like their early classics.  This is that shit.

The Kidz don't have particularly distinct styles.  You know, like if you think back to the very first time you heard The Wu-Tang Clan before you got to know them, you could still never get guys like Method Man, Raekwon and ODB confused because; they were so unique.  Here, even serious fans may have a hard time assigning each verse to its particular spitter.  But that actually serves the crew more than it detracts, because it winds up hitting you like just a wave of fierce energy.  Everybody's just working as hard as they can to kill the mic, not carve out their personal brands.  Which is not to say the final songs aren't distinct.  "Da Ill Dream" has an early Gravediggaz influence and a sick Supernat sample.  And as with the previous EP, all the songs here were produced by Sha himself, except for the last one, "Who Write This Song," which was handled by Ayatollah and consequently has more of a smooth, sample-driven vibe as a result.

The sound quality is pretty bold across the board, so it all hits nice and hard.  But there's definitely a sibilance cracking, low-fi feel to the vocals (on some tracks more than others), which may have as much to do with the way the songs were recorded as how the demos were preserved.  Either way, it compliments the Kidz' raw deliveries and high pitched voices in a satisfying enough way that fans shouldn't mind even if it definitely doesn't sound studio polished.

Now, all you smarty pants out there who read paragraph #2 carefully probably noticed that six and seven make thirteen songs, not twelve.  Comparing the track-listing for all three releases, it's pretty simple.  The CD doesn't have anything that wasn't on either of the vinyl EPs, and it's missing one from the 2013 record.  Specifically, the final song "City Of Panic" was dropped.  I don't know if it was chosen because it's the only song across both EPs that was a censored Radio Version and they thought the noticeable edits would spoil the album, if they just wanted to leave a track off from the first record to keep it collectible for buyers who understood it wouldn't be repressed, or both.  Heck, I don't know, maybe it was just an oversight (though I doubt that).  But the bottom line is that if you've already copped the records, you don't need Streets Is Real... unless you just want the convenience of a CD.  And if you're a serious, die-hard fan who needs all the songs, you're still going to have to find that first EP.  However you slice it though, the Kidz finally have a top shelf album to their name, which the world is finally able to hear and give credit as of 2019.