William Cooper – the name is synonymous with governmental conspiracies and alien existence. The author, William Cooper is best known for his 1991 book, Behold a Pale Horse which harbors sentiments of the US government withholding information on population control, the illuminati amongst other secret societies, JFK’s assassination, and most notably UFOs. His death adds to the allure of his character and claims due to the fact he was gunned down by police officers at his Arizona ranch after making claims that he would meet anyone who served him warrants with “armed resistance” as he was wanted for tax evasion. Some sources claim that Cooper was innocent and actually cooperative with police; while others claim Cooper met the Arizona officers with gunfire.
So what does this have to do with hip-hop? Cooper’s presence has spread to the lyricists hoping to evoke some form of listener consciousness as both Nas and ILL Bill referenced Behold a Pale Horse as a source of inspiration on their respective 2008 releases. Not coincidentally, the most unknown member of the Black Market Militia chose to take on the same penname as the late conspiracy theorist. On his aptly titled, Beware of the Pale Horse, Cooper enlists BMM members Killah Priest and Hell Razah amongst a slew of other guests to delve into topics discussed in the fallen author’s book.
The bulk of the production on the Pale Horse is handled by the relatively unknown producer BP who worked on the Black Market Militia’s debut. He does well behind the boards and provides the blueprints for Cooper to set the scenery. On the album’s opener, “Day of Light” produced by Booth, Cooper lets the audience know exactly where he stands with lines like “expose the Bush crime family over winning a Grammy/you’d have to kill me before going to war for Uncle Sammy.” The lyrics clearly express how Cooper feels (or claims to) although his flow could use some work due to some awkward transitions between bars. The production was handled well on this one; surprisingly Booth is actually Cooper’s other stage name. The following track, “In America” is a somewhat nontraditional posse cut as Killah Priest and Hell Razah accompany Cooper as he goes all out on his feelings of paranoia (“I can see the all seeing eye, the reverse side of a dollar bill/homey it’s real/see I’m convinced the unseeing hand exists/take a glimpse between the lies the government spits“). “Bring it Back” displays some aspects of Cooper’s game that he needs to work on as 9th Prince shows him up on this joint.
The lead single “One Roll of the Dice” is definitely a standout track displaying Cooper’s wittiness as he remarks “I keep the second amendment above my waistline.” ”Still Shining” takes Killah Priest out of his element, but he manages to rise to the occasion as he spits on topics such as aliens and overthrowing the government. The track actually benefits from a complex chorus, as Cooper is aware of his backpack audience. On “Salutations (What’s Real)” Cooper chooses a Chop-La-Rock beat which seems more fitting for Cam’ron (the back in the day ‘ron). Where Cooper excels in lyrics he falters in crafting a hook, as he attempts to reach beyond his capabilities.
Cooper redeems himself on the BP produced “Painful Pages” which includes a soulful singing hook provided by guest vocals. This is one of the only tracks on the LP where Cooper resists the urge to rap about governmental-angst and focuses on the passing of his cousin. The flow isn’t always perfect, but it’s above average and gets his point across. ”Heaven” is a track that uses Scram Jones-esque production, relying on sped-up vocals in the chorus. This isn’t a bad song, but not the album’s strong point. In terms of placement it should have been spaced away from the soulful “Painful Pages” as it’s too much of the same thing close together on an album that’s far less diverse.
“Free” is an absolute banger featuring the relatively unknown Stoneface and the NYC underground legend Majesty (whatup EODUB?) as they go in on this posse cut that also illustrates Cooper and BP’s chemistry. Cooper jumps back into talk of shooting up the New World Order on “Feel Afraid” which is one of his most spectacular lyrical displays.
Cooper enlists the well-versed veteran ILL Bill on “Beware of the Pale Horse.” Bill pretty much reiterates what he’s said on his past two albums, which is what Cooper says for the first time. The two work together well and Cooper sounds a lot like Slaine. Although “Bust My Gun” has a banging beat, its falls short due to an annoying Rasta-inspired chorus and some average rhymes, although there’s the diamond in the rough (“my flows fluid as water“). Killah Priest returns for the third time on this album for one of the most interesting song titles, “Cocaine Israelites.” The beat is hard-hitting, but Priest’s flow isn’t too consistent here; he seems more concerned with convincing the listener that he’s educated on religious conspiracies. The same goes for Cooper who at times flows too fast for the production on this short track. Cooper enlists the assistance of veteran Kool G Rap on “American Gangsters.” G Rap drops a surprising amount of ‘knowledge’ on this one. Although he’s a hard act to follow, Cooper holds his own. The album closes on a high-point when Stoneface and Majesty return with Bloodsport providing additional flows and Blue Raspberry going in on the vocals. “No Retreat” is an extra hype track that closes out the album faster than it opened.
Overall, William Cooper unleashes a relatively impressive debut album. The replay value isn’t all there, as about fifteen tracks of the same subject by any artist can lose its appeal. Cooper knows his audience and understands that there is no need to make anything but raw Hip-Hop although at times some variety in subject matter wouldn’t hurt. Ultimately Cooper needs to find a way to standout from other emcees like Non Phixion and Immortal Technique who built followings flowing on the same subject matter. He can still work on his style and flow, but when presented with a concept, he knows how to deliver. It will be interesting to see what William Cooper has in store for us in the future.