This year is shaping up to be the one when everyone is dropping their much-delayed albums. Saigon shocked the hell out of everyone and released Greatest Story Never Told, Joell Ortiz overcame his litany of label issues with Free Agent, and Vakill finally followed up that track list that came out in 2009 with the actual album: Armor of God. At this rate, even the Detox release seems feasible.
Vakill, the Chicago MC with the New York-spitter style, still raps like he’s missed some meals despite the critical successes of The Darkest Cloud and Worst Fears Confirmed. Armor of God is equal parts biscuits-and-burners and knowledge-dropping thought-provokers. The first third of the album, from “Hi Ate Us” through “Sick Cinema”, is full of what we’ve come to know and love about Vakill: tough talk and street lessons delivered over mostly piano and guitar-driven production by Molemen member Panik, with Jake One also showing up for “Armor of God”.
Vakill is pure propane on “Mean Mug Muzik” and “Appetite to Kill”, songs that yield such scorching lines as “An animal, on his corporate grizzy, spit divine as Corpus Christi, flowing hellfire until your corpse is crispy,” and “A young lion at heart dying to start/smart bombs flying from replying remarks/I am the spark from the iron occupying the dark/prying apart n*****s skulls, fuck trying to chart!” As is tradition with rap albums, the incendiary rhymes are done early as Vakill mellows into “Wild Wild”, a tribute to his old stomping grounds in Chicago like Racine Courts and Ragtown, and “Bi-Polar”, which examines various love-hate relationships (“Gangstas need love too, but hate when you notice.”)
Though the album is just short of an hour, Vakill requires an attentive ear and 17 songs can be a chore, an affliction that also claimed Greatest Story Never Told. While multiple songs hold replay value individually, the project as a whole is not something that begs to played repeatedly. But duration issues aside, lyrically and sonically, Armor of God is among the upper echelon of releases so far this year and a fitting return for one of CHI’s finest.