It’s been over a decade since The Demigodz released a project. Helmed by Apathy and Celph Titled, the geographically scattered collective once included notables such as Louis Logic and L-Fudge, but has had an ever-changing series of lineups heard in feature roles since. The current personnel includes Esoteric, Styles Of Beyond’s Ryu, Blacastan and Motive, and together the ‘Godz embarked on a proper full-length studio release in KILLmatic. Now removed from the Underground Hip Hop magic hour at the turn of the millennium, the group doesn’t make music that sounds like basement studio sessions anymore. All accomplished soloists, the crew flaunts a grimier, more enhanced sound with those same carefully crafted couplets.
If the title was any indication, KILLmatic merges two things—seedy subject matter and Golden-Era style. References to David Berkowitz, porn runaways, dirty apartments and more litter this album. As expected, Celph and Ap share chemistry emblematic of their history, finding similar outlooks on each song, and shining when left to their own devices on “Captain Caveman” and “Tomax & Xamot.” Blacastan carves a sharp verse on “Can’t Fool Me,” driven by cadence. The other ‘Godz are role-players with on an album that doesn’t focus on concept nearly as much as style. To some, this is Everyman music from artists with the antithesis of Everyman abilities.
In a group of microphone bullies, one of the understated takeaways from KILLmatic is production. For Apathy, the emcee who enlisted names such as DJ Muggs, Da Beatminerz, DJ Premier and others on his 2011 Honkey Kong album has clearly been a diligent student. Hard drums on “Can’t Fool Me,” needle-drops on “Dumb High” and the dense layers of “Dead In The Middle” show the versatility and skill of one of the more under-recognized emcee/producers in the game right now. Will C. shines on “Tomax & Xamot” with shredded ‘60s Psych samples and dirty drums that are enhanced by Chumzilla’s scratches. In fact, Premo’s contribution, “Worst Nightmare” blends in with the other works akin to the iconic producer’s jewels on the original KILLmatic. While lyrical similarities extend through associated crews like Army Of The Pharoahs, Get Busy Committee and CZARface, the music on this album helps distinguish the Godz, all to their advantage.
Before they wore padlocks and wielded bats, Naughty By Nature were non-descript dope as New Style. Before Fergie and the harmonic choruses, will.i.am and apl.de.ap were channeling sparse Good Life vibes as the Atban Klann. Groups change with the times. Although Apathy and Celph have stayed the course on their brand of bravado, the Demigodz of today are different than the late ‘90s Bad News Bears of beats. The additions of Blacastan, Ryu and Motive help hone the group towards a more aggressive side, upholding its constant of showy lyricism that was heard on the vinyl singles and compilations from a decade ago. Nearly every song has a scratch chorus. The verses are to the brim with girl-stealing, face-punching, and similes that only a studied Rap fan might get. However, KILLmatic is hardly dull, and never redundant. Instead, this is an album that was made by fans, for fans. It’s apparent that while so many crews call it quits before getting off the group, the Demigodz are a fraternity. They have fun making the music, and any listener can absorb that energy and draw closer as the record spins.