Local Wire

Masta Killa @ Yucca Tap Room

"I'm a writer, not a rapper," Masta Killa brags on "R U Listening," one of the standout songs from his latest, Selling My Soul. It's a tricky distinction to make, of course, but Killa has a solid case. Though none of his fellow Wu-Tang Clan brethren are lyrical slouches, Killa has a densely unique approach. Over vintage soul samples and beats by producer Inspectah Deck, he paints a vivid scene. "With this piece of steel that I hold so firmly, I conduct you all accordingly." It's an image draped in the kung fu Z-movie mysticism Wu-Tang members have employed since 1993's Enter the Wu-Tang (a record that features Killa, the last member to join, on only one track), but Killa actually maintains an air of mystery that high-profile members like Raekwon, Method Man, and GZA have shed as they push into the spotlight with film roles and film scores. Killa, by comparison, is the quiet one, content to spend plenty of time crafting his work (Selling My Soul was preceded by six years of solo album silence). He's no less dedicated to his trade, just deliberate about it, fitting his zenned-out samurai heroes.

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.