9th Prince of Killarmy fame returns quickly after dropping the slept-on Prince of New York almost two-years ago. A longtime Wu-Tang Clan affiliate and the brother of RZA, 9th with his Killarmy comrades achieved a string of success in the late ’90s for their military-minded themes and brassy, but distinctly Wu-inspired soundscapes. Now on his second post-prison album, 9th Prince now has the tough task of retaining old fans and adding new ones. The artist who once received The Source’s “Independent Artist of the Month” and handled the bulk of the production and A&R work of Killarmy looks to take that same work ethic and re-establish himself in today’s scene. With Revenge of the 9th Prince it is clear that the method hasn’t changed, nor has the sound. It’s a throwback album that delivers with mixed results.
The production is the album’s strength. BP handles the bulk of the work, and the producer is able to channel the classic Killarmy sound that 9th Prince made famous. His ability to match high-energy sample and blend them in perfectly with hard-hitting drums with the occasional movie clip scattered throughout is impressive. He provides the ideal backdrop for 9th Prince to show the world why Killarmy rivals only Sunz of Man as the most enduring Wu-Tang off-shoot. Tracks like “Lyrical Disaster” show why the brand was successful from an organic level. “Cyanide Poetry” is another highlight, where mellow production complements 9th Prince and guest Killah Priest perfectly. Overall, it’s a spirited production effort, one in which 9th Prince doesn’t necessarily match lyrically.
With that said, 9th Prince does have some strong moments. “Raised Cain” demonstrates why he was revered as Killarmy’s strongest emcee. His stream of conscious lyrics skip from one topic to another but go perfectly over the track with freshness. When he spits, “Niggas thought I fell off the map / But the truth is I was locked up in the trap,” he not only addresses the question of where he’s been but also the thought that he fell off. 9th also has an impeccable taste in guest appearances. Shyheim shines on “Young Gods Part II,” while a very dope guest appearance by Boy Jones (son of Ol’ Dirty Bastard) on “Double 09” can’t help but make you reminisce over the fallen legend. Planet Asia, RZA and Killah Priest all stop by and leave a positive mark on the project.
These strong moments are overshadowed by some poor lapses in artistic judgement. “Dear R&B” sees 9th Prince taking the viewpoint of a locked up man writing a letter to his favorite R&B artists. It leaves the reader stuck between feeling offended and embarrassed. On “Target Practice,” the last track on the album, 9th Prince proclaims, “Better than Nas, better than Jigga,” he provides the listener with one of those unintentional laugh-out-loud moments. Other tracks like, “Sour Diesel” suffer from unfocused lyrical content, while “Love/Hate” mirrors “Dear R&B” in result.
Unfortunately for 9th Prince he is unable to carry Revenge of the 9th Prince successfully. While he does have his moments of success, alongside some very good guest spots, the album overall disappoints. While the news has Killarmy plotting a return, Prince does little lyrically to build upon the anticipation. It’s clear he still has the passion to create but he will have to wait to prove that he can do it over the length of an album.