Release Date: Dec 11, 2012
Record label: Nature Sounds
Genre(s): Rap, East Coast Rap, Hardcore Rap
As you listen to Selling My Soul, you might find it hard to believe that Masta Killa was the last official emcee to join Wu-Tang Clan, that he didn't really start rapping until he joined the group. It's hard to believe for a lot of reasons. First, this is purely veteran, laid-back flow top to bottom. Masta Killa's art is not in the punchline, not in rhyming theatrics, but in a devastatingly precise wordplay, the kind that doesn't need bells and whistles.
He may be the quietest and least known of the core Wu-Tang Clan members, but rapper Masta Killa makes great strides toward shaking those qualities on Selling My Soul, his first solo album in six years. Course, if you ask the Masta, this is his first solo album ever in its way, as both No Said Date (2004) and Made in Brooklyn (2006) were both filled with enough Wu affiliates and RZA and/or Bronze Nazareth productions that they were almost proper Clan albums. Here, his only guests are Kurupt and a posthumous verse from Ol' Dirty Bastard, with outside folks like 9th Wonder and Koolade offering beats alongside Allah Mathematics and Inspectah Deck.
With his third solo album, Selling My Soul, Wu-Tang Clan’s most stoic and mysterious member, Masta Killa, eschews gun talk, street tales, and what Raekwon dubbed “punch-you-in-the-face music” for a brief collection of smoothly flowing hip-hop that straddles the border of soul. The album’s misleading title may suggest a Faustian regression to materialistic pop-rap, but the content is still the well-known Wu brand of conscious, precisely crafted lyricism: “Meditate and then I wrote/For years, months, and days/Before I even spoke,” Killa says in a disarmingly laidback delivery on the standout “Food. ” With 16 tracks, at least seven of which amount to skits or interludes, that clock in at less than 40 minutes, the whole thing sounds like an overdressed EP, but there are some gems to be found if you dig past all the filler.
Without question the most diverse collective in Rap’s approaching four decades, the Wu-Tang Clan’s legacy thrives due to undying fan loyalty appreciative of each member’s variety. Straying from the allure of fame attained by some of the group, Masta Killa’s complex lyrical structure and monotone deadpan delivery are more highly regarded within underground circles given the quiet success of previous releases No Said Date and Made In Brooklyn. Further fleshing out his laid back aesthetic of interweaving street dialect and Five Percenter lessons, Selling My Soul is Masta Killa’s return to bat after an extended hiatus.
Wu-Tang MC Masta Killa's long-delayed third solo effort began its life as Loyalty & Royalty. Then Loyalty splintered; a guest-heavy disc under that name is promised soon, while the sample-centric, soul-forward leavings-- which, for a while, Masta'd been calling Soul & Substance-- finally landed in the December dead zone under the name Selling My Soul. We've gotten pretty used to the oil-and-water relationship between meddling A&Rs with dollar signs in their eyes and rappers who know you can't make money selling records when you have no records to sell.
Wu-Tang's quietest original member made a somewhat impromptu-feeling release of this third solo record in place of his long-anticipated Loyalty Is Royalty; that other feature-oriented album is still to come, while this one is billed as a more soul-inflected side project. It comes off rather flimsily, with Masta Killa rapping over laid back R&B tracks by Mathematics, 9th Wonder, and Inspectah Deck, with the obligatory kung-fu film samples littered in. The MC never feels particularly inspired on this disc, his momentum crashing after the first few tracks.