Your new album Elizabeth is coming at the end of October and it definitely has a darker sound than your last one, Behind the Stained Glass. How did you channel that vibe?
Really, this was one of those albums that just came out of nowhere. Basically I wanted to just bring it back to raw MCing, the shit that I used to do before I had a record deal, just being in the studio with a producer throwing on beats and picking the best beats and spazzing out on the lyrical joints. They’re lyrical, dark beats and I get a lot of nonsense out there. Let’s take it back to real music and real MCing. The real inspiration for this is just straight up rhymes and being locked in a studio with a dim light. That’s how Elizabeth was done. And sometimes you just spit a verse and you leave because you have other things to do. You spit a verse and it’s some hard stuff because you’re going through something. I would do that and wouldn’t even think of a hook. I was like, ‘I’ll do that later.’
Behind the Stained Glass was a more conceptual album. Did your fans want something more raw from you?
There was just a lot of talking. Cats are saying that Priest may be getting a little soft or sentimental. Behind the Stained Glass was a deep album. If you go back and listen to that now, I think that’s a great album. This one, I wanted to switch it up on the concept. With this approach, it was more just raw. I was doing a lot of stuff. When I just spit a verse and I’d leave, I wouldn't even come back and Woool would have another beat on and I’d come back to that song later. Sometimes we didn’t even have a chance to put a hook on there. I just wanted to leave the rhyme on there and have something to listen to. I just wanted to take it back and this whole concept for this album is just putting it down for how I felt at the time.
And somebody would show me an article where somebody said something or I see TV or I go to the store and something happens at that moment, I would get back in the studio and spit a verse and maybe a hook on what I felt.
It doesn’t seem like it takes you very long to put songs together these days either.
Nah. It’s just flowing through me right now. Why stop when you’re feeling it? As far as rap, I think I’m better than I’ve ever been. Right now I feel good and I got the situation and I got the places, I got the studios and I got time. So if a cat may send me a beat and I got the studio, I can run in there. If Grand Puba sends me a track, I’ll stop a song I’m doing just to do the verse right there because I’m feeling it. There’s no real constructional situation. It’s just how I felt.
And that’s how it is with DJ Woool too. He’ll play a beat and I’ll go in. And son stepped his game up with the beats.
Do you think fans will stop complaining about him now?
Yeah, definitely, man. When they hear the new music…They’re going to see the brilliance, maybe in some of the mixes before, that was the problem. But the mixes are kind of dope now and he tightened up his drums. When I was working with Woool, Raekwon came over a couple of times to check him out. That was a good thing. He came over to check him out in Cali. I would be there and Rae would be there. Yeah, the word is definitely getting out there. But I think they’ll leave Woool alone and respect him.
His sound definitely changed on Elizabeth. Did that happen naturally or did you ask him for those changes?
Basically what we was doing originally, it was going to turn out to be Untold Stories Part 2 and we also worked on this joint called “Castle Hop.” I just wanted to hear something different. I always wanted to go back to my roots before record deals and all of that and just rhyme. I asked him for a sound where I wanted tempo and I wanted something just straight up dark on some Killah Priest and Gravediggaz stuff, on something I was doing before the record and before cats knew me for “Basic Instructions.” This was something that wasn’t really planned. This was just something that was done. To be honest with you, sometimes when I come back from the studio, I’m just coming back from a session and Woool would play me a joint and it would sound hot and I’d want it for my new album Second World of Walter Reed but I’ll take it for Elizabeth.
What does the title “Elizabeth” mean to you?
Sometimes I just can’t say, man. Sometimes I don’t even wanna say. Put it that way. It’s just Elizabeth. I’ve been talking about the verses for a minute. I’m a priest so my lyrics, I call them virgins. You can get either blessed or cursed from a virgin. Every paragraph I put down is a virgin and the name of the album is Elizabeth. People are going to find out why. Trust me.
Elizabeth was supposed to be a double album. Is that still the case?
Yeah. It’s actually a double disc but we ended up putting all of the songs on one disc. The songs that didn’t fit on there will go on iTunes. I wanted The Second World of Walter Reed to be a double disc but why pay for the second CD when you can put all the songs on one disc since the Second World is coming out? But it’s double disc material. Now I don’t know any rapper that could do a double disc with no guest appearances and watch. I’m keeping their attention from the start all the way to the end, by myself with no help. I don’t want no help. I’m taking it back from how real MCing is done, from front to end I got different topics and I got different things that I want to express in there. The industry will know.
One time we was just sitting and thinking and it’s going to be a sad day and a great day at the same time when they realize they’ve been passing over this music. This is the type of music I’ve been doing from the beginning. When you get this record, go back to Priesthood or Heavy Mental and then go back to this. You’ll hear my story and how I stayed the same, regardless. I’ve been spitting this from the beginning all the way to right now. To do it like that is real MCing and that’s what I’ve been doing from the beginning. I’m just going back to my grassroots, that’s all.
Obviously your fans love hearing that from you. Do you ever get tired of what you spit about?
Nah. When it’s you, it doesn’t hinder me. I don’t even think about it. It’s not even a thought. I elevate the past. For instance, as an MC, I grow. As an artist, I’m growing, always. But the core message is the same. The core message is always going to be the same. It’s elevating consciousness and it’s loving hip-hop. A lot of cats say that Priest is real deep but if you listen to my songs, it’s still hip-hop and in a hip-hop form where cats can relate to it. And I’m not going so far where I don’t have control over it. I’m not sitting up there spitting big words. It’s rap. I’m an MC first and then everything else, I’ll add on to it and go ahead.
You’ve been dropping albums on a consistent basis since The Offering. How important has that consistency been?
To be honest with you, I want to clear up the air on everything and I’m going to tell you my heart and my truth about everything. Before The Offering, I took a long time off and I was in a relationship. Not really a relationship. I just took some time off and I don’t know what the F was happening. I was just doing my thing and I thought I would take a little break. That’s how I felt. And it was like, ‘Wow, you can’t even take a break.’ All these new rappers were here. Jedi Mind Tricks and Immortal Technique and all these cats were doing their thing and I was like, ‘What the fuck?’ I took a break after Black August because I did not like how that record…That was one of my best albums that was going to come.
That was my return record and then the label just broke it up. So scratch that relationship stuff. It was really that shit. So I took a little break after that and I had to get my mind together because I was like, ‘Whoa.’ That was a lot of material. I had “Déjà Vu” on there. I was supposed to take over during the Black August period so I took a little time off and then I thought about it and after awhile, it had been two or three years and I wanted to get my shit together. The girl I was dealing with at the time, she introduced me to this cat and I was real timid about getting back in the studio and I was like, ‘Fuck the industry’ and she introduced me to this one dude named Michael and I met Tragedy Khadafi in a club and I really wanted to go back in a group.
I really understood how it was with The RZA and GZA. They started off as solo artists and it didn’t work out that well so they came back as a group. I told Trag we should make something up called The Black Market. He introduced me to William Cooper. That’s the first time I got back in the studio, when we started working on Black Market. Then Trag brought William Cooper and I got Timbo King and Hell Razah. We went back in the studio and we recorded some of the songs. That was the first time.
But behind that, I had another chance to make a solo joint so I said Fine, let’s do it. If you remember, I started going back into the groove. If Black August would have dropped the way I wanted it, I would have flooded the industry. I would have been on top and I would have been looking Jay-Z in the face like, ‘You think you’re the greatest MC? Let’s do it.’ He would have had to battle. I would have been looking at those guys face to face like, ‘Let’s do it. Let’s see if you’re the greatest rapper that ever walked on the planet.’ That goes for anybody. It could have been Eminem or it could have been Jay. That didn’t happen. It didn’t take flight. Black Market gave me the energy to start pursuing The Offering. That’s how that happened. I started doing my album during the time of the Black Market. I was working with Godz Wrath and I was bringing some new producers to the table and working along with that. So that’s how that happened.
Do you regret that period in your life?
Yes, I do. I learned from it, but that’s honestly why I’m putting so much work out now. It’s a different age. This is what Killah Priest should have been doing. This is what I should have been doing. I gave away two free mixtapes. I don’t have the pressure of everything. I’m going to put out quality and I got different producers here. I’m working with Godz Wrath again and I’m trying to get with 4th Disciple again. I’m on the West Coast and putting out material is no problem because everything that is coming out right now is not going to be me freestyling. It’s going to be songs and records. I don’t care whose track it is or whatever, it’s going to be songs.
I feel this and this is in my heart where this is what I want to do. I feel it in my heart that it’s now or never and I think I owe hip-hop that because of what hip-hop gave to me when I used to listen to Rakim and Big Daddy Kane and Kool G. Rap and all those dudes. My inspiration came from them and I wanted to challenge them. I wanted to come out and get with these cats. But some of them didn’t make the records like they used to and they weren’t on top no more and I had to switch my whole agenda. But I didn’t change. Truth and knowledge always prevail. That’s how I feel. I always listen to the MCs and get the truth and substance. I’m a fan of hip-hop and I want something that’s going to make me think and something that’s going to make me get in the studio. William Cooper’s doing a good job of that right now.
Is the chemistry still there with producers you came in the game with, like 4th Disciple?
Yeah. I think the chemistry is still there. I hate to sound like a broken record but most of these rappers are just about talking. I’m going to make it happen. I’m reaching out to 4th and he’s one of the best producers. I’ll be honest, when we worked together it was great. I kind of envisioned us being a crew back then, sort of like Eric B. and Rakim. We were structured different but I will always reach out and that brother is very, very talented. A lot of producers learned a lot of stuff from him. I seen him come up and I was there. Put it that way.
Hell Razah had a video out saying it was your fault there was no more Sunz of Man. How do you respond to that?
I don’t know, man. Put it this way – I don’t even get involved with that no more because that is like, I think that brother needs someone to really talk to him. I don’t know how putting me out there like that is a good business move. I don’t know if that was a scheme move. I don’t know what the fuck that was about but it was useless. That shit was tumbleweed. That’s tumbleweed. I don’t know who’s talking to that brother or is in that brother’s head. My only advice to him is to stick to his books or to get into some books. Leave it alone and make music.
What were you talking about? What are you getting out of it? Go against Jeezy and them niggas. Don’t go against me. I’m trying to stay positive and you’re supposed to be doing the same thing. Putting your energy into saying Killah Priest broke up the Sunz of Man makes me laugh but I got a song called “Confession Booth” where I just clear up the air. It’s not a diss or anything but I just clear up the air with what kind of happened throughout my career and moving on. I could never break brothers up that I put together. Brothers could only break themselves up. But I don’t know what that brother is going through but he always had people that he listened to. Razah was always listening to that person and this person and that person. I don’t think that could be a smart move.
He said you profited off the bootlegs to the Sunz of Man Elements album. Is there any truth to that?
People called me and told me that. I was like, ‘Nah, nah, nah.’ Hell Razah was a cat that was close to me and he stuck with me. With Sunz of Man, 60 Second was actually the one. Me and him was kind of tight but it seems like to me, somebody told Hell Razah to stick with me to get his shit off because for someone to be with you and come to your crib and to be around you and learn stuff and then to say what he said, look at it, man.
This is not no attack of a person but all you gotta do is go to YouTube or go to his DVD and you will see who he was with and where he was drawing all of that stuff. I don’t have to do this. You can ask the rest of the members. For him to do that is crazy. It’s crazy, man. I definitely know that somebody is up in his ear because that coming from him is just weird. It’s a weird situation and I think a brother might be going through complications.
When he came out with Renaissance, that was with me and Amal. The label, this starts back, you can ask Black Market. I met somebody through Brenda, the girl I used to mess with. That’s how the Black Market formed and that’s how I met Amal. And this is all I’m going to say on that. We started right there and that’s where it all started. Certain cats didn’t keep it real. I gave him Renaissance. That was the name. It was either going to be The Hellacaust or The Renaissance. I gave him that title. All of this stuff came up and son just stopped speaking to me when he came out and then he said something about his first album was Renaissance and I took that as a compliment because he had put out two records before that, one with 4th that he totally pushed to the side and said Renaissance was his first album.
I took it as a compliment but I’m not going to sit up here and rant and deal with negativity. If that brother wants to say I broke up the Sunz of Man, talk to the other members. Talk to Wu-Tang. Talk to RZA. Talk to cats who were there, who set off everything and who were there in the beginning and who signed me and put me on. Talk to RZA and GZA and all these dudes. Tell them that. Don’t tell me. If you got energy, go against Young Jeezy and Lil’ Wayne and Juelz Santana. They’re supposed to be spitting something negative.
Did you ever talk to Hell Razah about any of this?
Nah. Razah called me. He hit me up. He typed me a long time ago and said that the industry was fucking us up. I found that kind of odd because I would never let the industry fuck me up with anything. I texted him back and told him I got the emails and he texts me after a time of not picking up the phone. Being the leader and Amal, who wasn’t a strong point, we were talking and he’d tell me how Razah would feel this way and that way and how he didn’t want me in the studio and he didn’t want anybody thinking that Priest put him out. I don’t know what that was but it was a genocide move. It was cutting off the head, cut off this, cut off that. I don’t know what brothers be thinking but I didn’t start positive music and I'm not going to run around and say I started positive music. I learned from all the MCs that came before me and that’s it. If you’re running around and saying you started positive music, something ain’t right.
I hit Razah back and told him the message was kind of odd and I didn’t think it was the industry and we had to talk. I called him and son did not pick up the phone again. He didn’t pick up the phone and I’m not no girl. I was like, ‘Yeah, there’s definitely a problem but he can’t sit and he can’t talk to me.’ For some reason he can’t do that. He knows I know all the truth. I’m not making anything up. When you deal with artists, I’m not going to sit up here and say things that didn’t happen. I got proof. Son didn’t pick up the phone, so obviously he must have thought that he was a star and he was the best star and he was this and he was that. I called him and I told him I thought he was a little crazy from the way he was acting. He was one way and it was almost two-faced when he was doing that. The Wu, we’re all family and we don’t put our business out there like that, but son didn’t act like family. If you listen, he cuts off everyone that he was around.
He even cut off ‘Bazz, which was funny to me because he never even ran around with Shabazz the Disciple. This is not to diss him but he never even messed with ‘Bazz and you’re from Red Hook and you was with us and then you went back with ‘Bazz like, ‘Forget all them other niggas’ when ‘Bazz is around. I don’t deal with that. ‘Bazz is a general and I’m a general and I don’t deal with that situation. It’s too wishy-washy for me. And then he’s calling me and I knew what type of person that is. That type of cat is kind of wild to me. We got an agenda and we got something to do. I’ve been doing this all my life. I can’t speak for him.
All I know is when he was with me. I can’t speak for dudes when I don’t know their entire life. All I know is that I went to Red Hook. Shabazz the Disciple brought me to Red Hook. I never lived out there but I got a son out there. He introduced me to everybody and that was crazy. ‘Bazz kept it tight. When he wasn’t dealing with the Sunz, he said that and he was going to pursue his solo career because he came in as a solo artist. Razah didn’t leave with him. He stayed with us and now all of a sudden, it’s “Red Hook.” Even with Timbo King, at least take Timbo with you. When we’re doing a record and we’re doing The Maccabeez, if you’re not taking Timbo with you, it’s kind of bad. We’re all doing this together. I don’t even want to go back and look at the fucking YouTube thing where somebody said he was talking about how Priest broke up the Sunz of Man so y’all can look at Priest. What the fuck was that? And then J-Ronin was calling me and he’s a good dude. He’s been there from the beginning and he’s telling me stuff and other people are calling and telling me stuff. It’s funny to me.
Where do you see your relationship with Hell Razah going?
At this point I don’t really care. Throw your pebbles. Throw your rocks. Throw your stones. You're going against me. That’s nuts. First of all, you gotta be insane. I don’t understand this type of movement. Talking to me, cool. But talking about me, that’s all for kids. That’s little girl talk. I don’t even have to go to an interview and tell him before I do an interview. I don’t gotta do that. I can sit and talk about anything because this is how I’ve been from the beginning. You will hear it all in the “Confession Booth.” I don’t have no beef with none of those dudes but I don’t know if I can just go back and sit and work with brothers and work with this cat who could do that. Who knows? I don’t know that but who knows? I’m not a door that’s permanently locked. You can call me and I got love, but that was a terrible situation and I can see when we’re on top of the world. Then do that. But either way you do it is a bad situation and a bad look. And this is the first and last time that I’m going to go off and I’m going to concentrate on my Killah Priestism.
I don’t let the Thug Angelz, this is not a diss…Just get my album. You’ll see what time it is. And this is not a threat. This is just showing you that I've been doing this from the beginning and if you want to get on some music, don’t play with me. Nobody is fucking with me with this music. Put it that way.
When Trag comes home, where is Black Market Militia?
When Trag gets home we’ll do it. William Cooper is making great music and he’s been reaching out to me all the time. Cats have a situation where they don’t even know if they want Razah and Timbo now. We can do the Black Market though. I’ll put this out there – Razah, shout out at me, man. This is looking very, very bad and unprofessional for you to do that out in the public. It just looks real unprofessional. I don’t know if you’re looking for stripes but you know my number, man.
Are you good with 12 O’Clock, 60 Second Assassin and Prodigal Sunn?
Me and Prodigal Sunn, we had our difference but he’s real. We sat down and we talked. Somebody that I can sit and talk to is different because at first…Wait until you get the song “Confession Booth.” I always thought RZA had a bunch of problems and we shouldn’t bother him. He opened the door and let’s go. I can’t knock Prodigal for saying that we were going to stand up on RZA but RZA was not always going to be there. He opened the door. Me and Prodigal, we understand that. We had an understand and we sat and we talked. We can always sit down and build.
60, forget about it. Me and 60 have always been tight. I always looked up to 60 and I always thought he was the one who could put things in perspective anyways. I was always like, ‘We listen to 60 because 60 knows what to do.’ When there was a problem with Priest, I don’t feel he made the best judgment but he came back and he talked to me because 60’s a real dude. He said we shouldn’t have done that and we sat and we talked about things. I never had nothing bad for the dude. I always had nothing but love for the group and nothing but love for the concept of the group. I didn’t want to go this way and that way. I think people wanted to hear what the Sunz of Man started with. If that’s the case, I’m the Sun of Man. That’s my name anyway. (laughs) But I’m not going to let that go down in the dirt.
But as far as with all I hear and the beef with Hell Razah and stuff like that, yo, Razah, get off that bullshit, man. Hit me up. You sound crazy, nigga. Put it that way. The only thing I did for you is help you out. That’s crazy, man. Whoever talked to you, push them niggas away, become a general and you tell them what time it is. I’m a general and I move like a general. Tell all those dudes around you to shut the fuck up because nobody is going to help you make moves unless you make them yourself. At the end of the day I’m not going to let nobody tell me how to make records. That was my message from the beginning. I’m not going to let nobody tell me how to make records. You do what you gotta do and the people who are there for you, don’t ever neglect them. It’s like the Proverbs say, in the Scriptures, a good friend is better than anything. It’s better than gold.
Are you less inclined to work with other artists after this situation with Hell Razah?
Right now I’m just doing Priest. I’m doing Priest right now. I got a lot of groups I’m going to put out on my own label right now. There’s a lot of dope MCs, like the Tragic Allies and William Cooper. That dude is stepping his game up tremendously. There’s a lot of new rappers and a lot of dope MCs that I feel are nice, like Bloodsport. There’s some cats that are really putting it down and they got a fight in them. They’re not rhyming just to rhyme. They really believe this.
What did you think of Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2?
That shit inspired me, man. That shit inspired me. I might do Heavier Mental now. That shit inspired me. That shit was good. I think Raekwon took his time. It took eight years. It took awhile but I think he searched for the right ingredients and I’m proud of Raekwon. He should be happy with himself. He got the sound. The sound that he wanted, he got it.
I wanted to get on that album. I was with Raekwon. I told him I wanted to get on that because I was hungry and Rae took me to the studio. I was there with Kurupt and I came through the studio with Raekwon and I was ready but there was just so much stuff in there and Rae was doing something with Warren G at the time. I was ready. I don’t know. For part three or whatever, I’m ready. But if that don’t go down, watch.
How do you take not being on the album?
I look at it like this – big up to U-God. He put me on the album. When I look at it, I look at it like he did his thing. Certain cats do what they feel. I never sit back and try to analyze my life. I just keep doing what I do. I just know that in time, there’s just going to be when dudes see the work quality that I’m putting in, they’re going to look back and they gotta respect it with everything. And this is not a game. I’m a rapper, man. I’m an MC. When you look at cats like me and Ras Kass, we are MCs, man. Anytime, niggas are going to see. You also have R.A. the Rugged Man. I want to shout out all the real MCs who really love this stuff, like Planet Asia. I’m never going to stop trying to be the best but I will be. I already know it. I am. I feel right now that I’m at the top of my game so I’m ready to box with anybody. When I came back after The Offering with my stuff, I was like Floyd Mayweather, how he was in his last fight. But after that last situation that we just finished talking about, let me concentrate on my family. It did go down with Behind the Stained Glass. Now I’m back on niggas’ ass. Now what are you going to do?
How would you approach remaking Heavy Mental?
Simple. Shout out to True Master. I’m going to shout out everybody who was a part of that. I’m going to get RZA and everybody who was on the first one. It’s going to be Heavier Mental. Cats are going to see. I got something right now on the Second World, not on Elizabeth, that’s coming after this. I got so much stuff I’m not even going to talk about everything. I got songs on a Heavy Mental type of level. I want to do Heavier Mental.
Sequels to albums, especially classic albums, rarely work. Why take that risk?
Exactly. Back then, it was a different time. I’m not even going to take a risk on not coming out with it right. I always felt, even when I did Heavy Mental, I was in a big-ass studio with just me and all I had was rhymes and thank God that 4th Disciple was there! (laughs) That’s how Heavy Mental came. And that’s how Elizabeth was done. It was about putting on the beat, I like that shit, I’ll spit on it and then I have to go. I’ll be back later. I might not be back for a week or show and I’ll forget about the song and it might not even be on the album. But I won’t take that risk. It was a different time. I’m ready for the groundwork. I always had to do fucking groundwork. Ask Funkmaster Flex or anybody else around then. They would see me walking up the street and you’d see Timbo standing out there and he was one of the dopest MCs I used to look up to back in the day but we’re damn-near around the same age. He’s a little younger.
There’s been talk the last few years that you and GZA would do an album together. Do you think that’s going to happen?
Yeah, that shit’s gonna happen. Watch. I’m going to make sure it happens. Watch. That shit’s gonna happen. That’s gonna happen. I’m not even stressing that. All it is is time.