As much as Hip-Hop artists talk about their groups being like families and sports teams, The Demigodz are as close to both as Hip-Hop gets. First reaching notoriety as a 4 man group from Connecticut, the group has experienced more lineup changes than many in Hip-Hop history, so many that the two founding members Reflex and Open Mic haven’t even been members since 1994 and 1997, respectively.
No matter how many MCs have waved the Demigodz flag however, they all stay beholden to one objective on Killmatic: ripping the mic relentlessly.
Over the triumphant Rocky-sampling horns of “Demigodz Is Back”, Ryu, Celph Titled and surrogate leader Apathy set the stage for the 20 year old brand’s debut album (!) with an onslaught of no-nonsense bars, and the listener may never feel like their figurative “neck” is footless for the next 56 minutes.
Currently a supergroup comprised of the aforementioned trio as well as fellow underground stalwarts Esoteric, Blacastan, and Motive, Killmatic aims to feed the bar hungry hip-hop consciousness and they cook up a smorgasbord. With wittiness typified by lines like Celph Titled’s “The bitch worships my nuts, I guess she’s sack-religious”, the Demigodz shine over the unabashedly boom-bap, sample centric soundscape provided primarily by Apathy. DJ Premier helped with scratches that range from Inspectah Deck to clips from Scooby Doo, and produced the menacing “Worst Nightmare”.
The album’s guests fit right into the ongoing cipher, with Termanology delivering an invigorated verse on “Never Take Me Out” (sample: “talk is cheap but your face is expensive”), Panchi representing for NYGz over “DGZ x NYGz”’s hypnotizing synths, and a rapid-fire RA the Rugged Man fresh from whatever nether world he’s been in to remind “Nubian sisters” he’s “the Caucasoid germ your daddy told you about” on the wonderfully depraved “Captain Caveman”.
Although KILLmatic flows well with a one-mic-fits-all chemistry, it’s not without faults. With such a thick roster (and the features), getting a couple of them to delve outside their comfort zone and discuss more than their mic superiority shouldn’t have been as much of an issue as it was. For instance, a vocal sample at the end of “The Gospel According To…” discusses police brutality, but neither that song or the next discuss the topic in depth. The tone-setting Biggie vocal sample on “Just Can’t Quit” doesn’t seem to set an actual tone for the song. The hooks and scratches seem to be mere interruptions to the lyrical proceedings.
Perhaps a stronger focus on songwriting and more substantive diversity could have lifted this to neoclassic status, but nevertheless the album is a strong effort and a long, long time coming.