Dane Bays, alto saxophone
Dena Pruitt, vocals/keyboards
Mark Cooper, bass/lead guitar
Produced by JSoulonfire
This hard-hitting neo-rap/soul set features renowned wordsmith D-PRIEST. A powerful, metaphoric release, Words as Weapons is artistic and uncompromising, including such relentless jams as I Know and They Say.
When I first listened to D-Priest rap (back on one of the first Inarhyme CD’s with the American Music Project) & Dane Bays’ reed work, I was mightily impressed with the talent & energy that shone through. That album was more focused on the integration of jazz; this ’round emphasizes the rap side of the musical coin, but D. & crew stay true to their goal…real stories about real people told in the “people’s language”. I was actually a bit surprised when the request came in to write these liners, since I told them I wouldn’t “sugar coat” anything in any liners I wrote…yet honored to be asked.
I’m still not a big fan of the “MF” words (& there are more than a few, though they’re far outweighed by insightful tales), but the story (if the rapper spits it right) is much larger than an individual word or two…of course, I don’t think I’d be playing this CD for my mother (God rest her soul), either…but as you’ll hear on Queen, which integrates some fine vocalizing from Dena Pruitt, D-Priest knows better than most how important it is to keep variety in the mix & his partner Dane Bays knows right where to emphasize a phrase with his saxophones…you won’t hear any old worn-out cliche’ phrases here…every moment is pure story-telling, & what’s behind it all is hope – & if that ain’t cool, I don’t know what is!
You can read the credits to see all the players, but I’ll tell you now, there’s real talent here…Priest doesn’t “let up” on the form, he makes sure he’s speaking the language of real through all 41 (or so) minutes, and there’s solid music (as well as the obligatory beat) pushing his vibe along. If you limit your mind to only one genre, or totally refuse to hear what those real folks are saying (like NOW, people), I’ve no doubt you’ll be among the first targets of the revolution when it comes…but if your real focus is high energy & solid talent, you’ll dig down deep into D.’s rap & come away with some “real knowledge” of what can be done when true artists gather together to put a vision out that includes everyone but will leave the hardheads in the dust. I’m truly reminded of a group (back in the ’60’s & ’70’s) called “The Last Poets”, albeit with a 21st Century viewpoint and skill set that will keep these 13 tunes up at the top of your playlists – even if you’re not a “hard rapster” – you’ll “get it” after you take your headphones off & step on down th’ street.
I’ll say this as a parting shot…the “Words As Weapons” theme merits a few harsh & hard words, if for no other reason than to prove that the poet has the power & means what he says…with that in mind, I’ve no doubt you’ll find this an album that will cause “mass reconstruction” – lol!
-Dick Metcalf, aka Rotod Zzaj
When it comes to Michigan’s booming hip-hop scene, Saginaw is a city that often gets overlooked. Nothing needs to be said about Detroit, which has birthed acts like Eminem, J Dilla, Royce Da 5’9 and Black Milk. Ann Arbor has Buff1 and Tree City to be proud of. Even cities like Pontiac, Flint and Grand Rapids have their hip hop icons. With this recent effort from the rapper D-Priest, Saginaw now has an artist to support in the underground. “Words as Weapons” features the emcee putting out aggressive rhymes over the production of JSoul, who decides to handle the length of the album with a mix of eerie, vulnerable and boom bap beats, which results in an album that never becomes dull.
D-Priest covers many topics of his personal life. Give em’ Time talks about the grind of an upcoming rapper from Saginaw. My Burning Torch is about relatives that have passed away. Queen dares Black women to stand up for themselves. Although the album doesn’t have as many upbeat moments, its wide range of substance makes it a standout release compared to many others from mainstream artists.
Will D-Priest become your favorite emcee from the mitten? Not likely. However, the combined efforts of him and his producer JSoulonfire will bring some much needed attention to Saginaw. Much like J Dilla did for Slum Village or Black Milk did with his own releases, the duo from Saginaw has succeeded in trying to establish a unique sound that gives a good representation of the city from which they came. This album once again proves that the Michigan hip hop scene has plenty to say, and it doesn’t just have to be coming from Motown.
-Eric Huffman II