Wise Intelligent is one of those underrated emcees who never makes your underrated emcee list. As the lead emcee and voice of the Trenton, New Jersey-based group, Poor Righteous Teachers, Wise’s rapid-fire flow was a key component behind four PRT albums (the last of which we’ll tackle in the very near future, and the other three you can read my thoughts on by clicking here, here and here), moderate commercial success and one of the greatest, and unsung, hip-hop songs of all-time in “Rock Dis Funky Joint”. Even with him being the main voice of PRT, Wise felt the need to branch off from the group for a dolo mission, as he would release his debut solo album, Killin’ U…For Fun in 1996.
Wise would call on long-time PRT collaborator, Tony D (rip) to handle most of Killin’ U’s production, while a few lesser-known names (6-19 and Abscure) would handle the rest. Apparently, there are two different album covers for Killin’ U. The cd copy that I own has the artwork that you see above, but the alternate cover is an old picture of a bunch of white men casually gathered around to watch a black body burn at the stake like it’s a football game on a Sunday afternoon; it makes for a much more chilling image than the angry Wise Intellegent in a wife-beater with locks and nappy edges that you see above. In the liner notes for Killin’ U, Wise gets super detailed with his shoutouts, listing a whole slew of rappers, crews, deejays and producers, and sometimes doubling up on his shoutouts (for instance, he shouts out Wu-Tang Clan and The Geto Boys, only later to list their names individually as well). But most importantly, A Tribe Called Quest gets a shoutout, so I can check off Tribe Degrees of Separation for yet another post.
Killin’ U would go completely under the radar without receiving any real fanfare or praise. I didn’t even know the album existed to well over a decade after it was released, when I found it staring at me from the used cd bins at a local record store around my way. This review will by first time experiencing Killin’ U, so hopefully, it’s fun *rimshot*.
My Sound – Killin’ U begins with a snippet of a women asking a white man if he’s afraid of black men, and his response is quite intriguing. Then an eerie bass line and horn loop play for a few measures before morphing into cool drums (I love the drum breakdown that comes in every eight bars) accompanied by a few smooth piano chords. Wise comes in harmonizing, as he boasts and brags about his fresh style, proclaiming that he’s “at the top of top ten” and “the wrong nigga to fuck with “on the mic. This opening track was a convincing testament to his ballsy claims. The song concludes with a clip taken from the 1975 movie, Mandingo, setting up the next song.
Shitty Inna City – Tony D builds this backdrop around the same piano loop Buckwild used for O.C.’s “Word…Life”, but while Buckwild’s flip of the loop sounded inspirational, Tony D’s has a somber quality to it. Wise uses the sad but pretty instrumental to discuss the state of affairs in the hood, rapping, singing and chanting his way through it (he also gets vulnerable and shares: “Fo’ albums out and still po’, just thought I’d let you know, not to ask me for shit”). The laidback jazzy sound that Wise has started the evening with was not what I expected to hear, but I’m damn sure enjoying it.
I’ll Never Kill Again – Now this is more like what I expected to hear going into Killin’ U. Someone going by the alias of 6-19, hooks up a rough reggae-flavored backdrop with a bangin’ bass line, and Wise sounds comfy and cozy as he seamlessly weaves in and out of standard rhyming patterns and chanting. Despite the song title, he completely murders this shit. I’m still trying to figure out if the Foxy Brown that rhymes on the second verse is the same Foxy Brown from Brooklyn that would soon emerge as part of Nas’ Firm clique, as the squeaky-voiced guest on this song sounds nothing like the husky-voiced Ill Na Na that we would come to know (If you know, hit me in the comments). Regardless, this song was fire, and shoutout to Wham!
Freestyle (A Conscious Lyric) – 6-19 gets his second consecutive and final production credit of the night, as he provides a funky bop for Wise to jump on and carve up with a mixture of sharp conscious bars and a little shit talk: “Swine ya feedin’, your children out there trick or treatin’, worshiping demons, following these Europeans, Christmas Treein’, Easter bunny basket weavin’, you Thanksgiving, the slaughter of the Indians, you ain’t seein’, the god within’ my state of being, and the dead spirits, the reason why you ain’t seein’”. Wise’s flow on this one reminds me of Treach’s, which made me curious if the two New Jersey emcees have ever worked together. I would definitely like to hear that collab.
Steady Slangin’ – Tony D continues to bless Wise with heat. This time he serves up a warm and buttery jazz-seasoned instrumental that Wise uses to slang his potent bars and entertaining flow for all hip-hop heads to get high on. Speaking of high, this was dope.
Black Juice – Wise slings his black juice all over this track (get your minds out the gutter, people), taking on wack emcees and White-owned companies that don’t appreciate the black dollar, like Timberland and Ralph Lauren. Tony D provides yet another dope jazzy instrumental that helps Wise’s black pride rhymes jump off the paper.
Name Brand Gunn – If you’re listening to Killin’ U on Apple Music, this song is hilariously titled, “Name Brand Gum”. But instead of rapping about Trident, Orbit or Wrigley’s, Wise goes into one of his dancehall-type chants to deliver this message about the hood’s obsession with guns and the government’s plot to keep the guns in black hands across America in hopes of successful black genocide. I appreciate Wise’s content, but a name brand beat would have helped it shine more than the generic one that Tony D provides for this record.
TV Shoom Pang – Am I hearing things or did Wise really start this song off by saying “Let me get my sniff on”? WTF? Maybe it’s slang for something else other than what I know it to be slang for, but I digress. Abscure drops a slow-rolling backdrop built around drunken piano chords, as Wise raps with a bit of a chip on his shoulder, effectively changing his flow up as often as a newborn’s diaper, killing emcees (seventeen on the first verse) and specifically calling out “three overrated emcees” (“two from New York, one deh pon Cali.” Hit me in the comments if you know who these “three overrated emcees” are that he’s referring to). I have no idea what “TV Shoom Pang” means, but I still enjoyed the song.
So Low – Wise talks more of his sophisticated black militant shit over Tony D’s pimp-stroll inducing instrumental that’s driven by a dense and lively bass line and a dope ODB sample on the hook. That’s all I got.
Rastafarian Girl – Our host uses this slightly drowsy (in a good way) instrumental to share his findings of the perfect black goddess: “She had the almond-shaped eyes, crescent fingernail tips, Ethiopian nose, sweet Israelite lips, her hair was locked, hundred percent pure wool, black as a raven and smelled like berry oil, the breastsess were like the ripest melons, and cold black nipples are highly suckable…strong thighs, ass I like, see, I know she rode a bike”. But not only does this goddess have a bangin’ body, she’s also conscious, cooks, reads books and listens to Bob Marley. I’m sold. This was nice, and I would love to see a video for this song; just so I could see the exquisite female specimen that Wise describes in the flesh. This song is followed by a quick snippet that sets up the next song.
Kingpins – Tony D slides Wise a serious and soulful groove that our host uses to discuss a small time drug dealer’s quest to become rich and puts the street hustler’s tiny fish operation into perspective compared to the big fish with the power who swim confidently in the enormous ocean of illegal drug trade that Wise alleges, includes members of the U.S. government (Wise refers to Bill Clinton as “King Clinton” on the hook, pointing to him as a major player in the illegal drug game), which in my opinion, isn’t farfetched. Well thought out content and a great instrumental to back it.
Send Fe Me Gunn – Instead of making “Kingpins” the pretty bow to nicely wrap up Killin’ U with, Wise rhymes aimlessly over a boring and sluggish instrumental, as he and an uncredited guest talk their hood shit, which culminates into the most gangsta song you’ll ever get from Wise, but easily the worst song on the album.
To be completely honest, after looking at the cover of Killin’ U… 4 Fun, I was a little concerned with what the music would sound like. It’s not the worst artwork that I’ve ever seen on an album, but something about the font-style of the lettering and the odd camera angle of the black and white pic of Wise Intelligent has a cheesy feel to it. Killin’ U is proof that you can’t judge a book by its cover, as Wise puts together an overall entertaining listen, balancing substance and shit talk, all placed over a tasty batch of beats. Tony D leads the charge on the production end, graciously blessing our host with dope jazz-textured instrumentals that we probably would never hear Wise rock over under the Poor Righteous Teachers banner, and his flow gives new meaning to the phrase stream of consciousness. Wise also places well-picked vocal snippets in between songs that provide food for thought and nicely tie the album all together. You’ll probably never hear Killin’ U labeled as a classic, but it’s a hidden gem that I’m glad to have discovered.