Semi-Obstructed View

A Brooklyn, N.Y., MC, Sunz of Man member and Wu-Tang affiliate, Killah Priest has been dropping hot rhymes on wax since the mid-'90s. He appeared on Ol' Dirty Bastard's "Snakes" (from 1995's Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version) and the Gravediggaz' "Diary of a Madman," (from 1997's 6 Feet Deep). But it was his scripture-inspired rhymes on "B.I.B.L.E." off GZA's classic Liquid Swords that turned many heads on to his sophisticated flows.

Killah Priest's 1998 solo debut Heavy Mental was considered a masterpiece by some, and too wordy and weird by others. On his follow-up View From Masada, the Priest exhibits more of his secular style, though attempts for mainstream acceptance are also apparent.

The album's lead single and title track (RealAudio excerpt) is produced by Just Blaze, with an assembly of crisp beats, moody synths and jangly acoustic guitars. The catchy song is somewhat reminiscent of the Firm's "Desperados" (from 1997's The Album). Killah Priest lays down the religious imagery he's known for, merged with an autobiographical perspective: "Month August/ Year seventy/ Ending of my mom's pregnancy/ Beginning of Masada's legacy/ Christ/ Blew the breath in me/ To rule is my destiny/ Mind is my weaponry/ Blessed be."

Despite stellar lyricism, Killah Priest's efforts to reach a bigger crowd bring down the intensity of the album. With assorted vocalists speed-rapping and crooning in the background, "Live by the Gun" sounds more like a Bone Thugs joint than anything from the Wu camp. On "Gotta Eat," Killah Priest dumbs down his rhymes considerably, proclaiming in the chorus: "I do this shit for my thugs/ I do this shit for the chicks at the clubs/ I do this shit for the niggas that I love/ I do this shit for the streets/ Cuz a nigga gotta eat."

Guest MCs Ras Kass and Canibus show up to spit fierce verses on "Whut Part Of The Game?" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Bop Your Head" respectively, and Killah Priest continues to prove himself as a serious mic-wrecker throughout most of the album. Unfortunately, his tendency to fuse religious wisdom and thugged-out murder raps comes out confusing at best, and contradictory at worst. Although much better than a lot of current major label releases, View From Masada fails to live up to its potential, considering Killah Priest's undeniable talent.