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killah priest’s heavy mental at 20: the empire never ended

March 11, 2018

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Few years back I wrote about Killah Priest's Heavy Mental for Passion of the Weiss. The album turns twenty years old today, and I had a few extra thoughts on its extreme depths. It's easily in my top twenty all-time LPs.

What Priest is doing on Mental is a pan-cosmic mystagogy linking Biblical times and concrete jungles, Exodus and the Middle Passage. Salvation from the 4D holographic galaxy will only come through music.

Why does he say on ‘PriestHood’ “I’m having constant dreams I’m Constantine?” Or on 2007's "The Maccabees," drop a vision of JFK, Jesus and "a vision of Malcolm X/sitting at the Last Supper/Elijah passing the butter/I'm at the end of the table with my gat tucked up" and then "Romans rush in / I start busting." Because the Empire never ended. 

On ‘B.I.B.L.E.,’ he says: "the white image of Christ is really Cesare Borgia, the second son of Pope Alexander."  This theory—that our modern image of Jesus comes from a 15th century Italian nobleman's portrait (by da Vinci, no less)—gets kicked around a lot here and there, but doesn't have much historical basis.  Not the point.

In medieval portraiture popes & aristocrats would have themselves inserted into Biblical scenes—here’s me cooling at the Crucifixion, here’s my wife the duchess suckling baby Jesus. Time travel selfie shit in oils. But this wasn’t just artistic license.

Benedict Anderson posits in Imagined Communities that people didn’t have a linear sense of time before newspapers—you were born in your village and shit was the same for your grandfather. It was all one thing. And in Auerbach’s ‘Figura,’ he illustrates all the times one person is a pre-figuration—a jataka tale—of another. Moses is a figura of Jesus. Or in another way, they are all the same. Everything is happening on repeat and at once. Nothing here now but the recordings. 

See, those samples that lace Heavy Mental? Aside from 20 seconds of Judas from The Robe, they’re all from 1954’s The Egyptian.

The Egyptian is about a doctor who gets caught up in Pharoah Akhnaton’s effort to change Egypt’s religion from all those cat- and alligator-head gods into a monotheism around the sun and the ankh—the cross of life. Some say (including Freud) this is a figura of Judaism or Christianity—the movie ends with big letters saying “THESE THINGS HAPPENED THIRTEEN CENTURIES BEFORE THE BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST."

And there’s others who think Akhnaton’s portrayal as a long-limbed, egg-shaped head dude means he was an alien. So an alien in 1300 BC was trying to start Christianity or at least its doctrines of pacifism and humanism. That’s some Killah Priest shit for real.

On a literal tip, there's increasing evidence from Einstein onwards that, in fact, time takes place all at once, and we only perceive it to be linear.  It's a long-standing philosophical debate (since at least Taggart's B-theory of time), but in real (or at least theoretical) scientific terms, efforts to reconcile relativity and quantum mechanics, like the Wheeler-DeWitt equation, point towards the universe being a 4D block which we only experience as individual slices of 'now.' 

So Priest is saying that it's one long story of bondage leading up to today, until we escape it—because it's all happening at the same time, that each element prefigures another. Where then, is escape from this time/space cube Cell Block 4D?  Outside of time and space.  What is outside of time and space?  Music.

In Philip K Dick’s VALIS, Horselover Fat asks if the soon-to-be-born savior child is Christ returning, "or another one," i.e. a new cosmic redeemer.  He gets the reply that:

"It's him again but not him; another one.  There are many Buddhas, but only one.  The key to understanding it is time...when you play a record a second time, do the musicians play the music a second time?  If you play the music fifty times, do the musicians play the music fifty times?"

Dick spent his entire life probing the noosphere to find out what was behind our reality and how we could get to a better one.  In 1974 he either went nuts or got zapped by a beam of pink light from an alien satellite and/or godhead.  Either way he had a vision of a Golden Doorway and spent the rest of his life trying to get back to it.   But there isn’t any way out of the physical world from the physical world.  "We fall asleep," Priest says on 'Temple of the Mental,' "and they handcuff us in our dreams."

The Golden Doorway is heavy mental and Heavy Mental—and "the only time you could catch jet lag is if your cassette drag."

The problem with an eternal string of prefigured martyr-saviors is that they will always be martyred, right?  As Burroughs says, "nothing here now but the recordings."  So we have to sidestep.  Into the Temple of the Mental.  Stop the tape.  STOP IT.

THESE THINGS HAPPENED TWENTY YEARS AGO TODAY.