Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: THE BLACK LODGE
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Wu-Tang Clan – 8 Diagrams
I can’t remember the last time I had a new hip-hop album in rotation as long as I’ve had Wu-Tang Clan’s 5th offering 8 Diagrams since its December release date. Although The RZA (who handles 90% of the albums production) brings in lots of new flavours to the traditional Wu-Tang sound, such as live-instruments, sung choruses and slow-paced grooves there is always a control of the chaos. The sound that made Wu-Tang Clan into what they are is also evident throughout most of the album although it’s updated to fit its time (or even ahead of it). Sure the tempo is slower and more dragging and the drums might not hit as hard as they once did but that’s just the chamber they went for with this one.
As I said there are many new elements that might seem strange or out-of-place on a Wu-Tang Clan album but at the same time RZA incorporates more of the vintage Wu elements than either The W or Iron Flag had. For example the LP features the illest and dustiest Kung Fu flick samples since maybe the classic ’93 debut album and the grittiness is evidenced on many of the songs. 8 Diagrams run smooth as water and every single track connects with the next one from the intro to outro, which is what separates an album from a collection of new songs (like the groups previous outing Iron Flag sounded like).
The vocal performances of the now 8-members group is mostly positive as well, especially Method Man, U-God and Ghostface Killah sound better, hungrier and more confident than they have done in years. It’s like they’re on a mission combining great and witty wordplay with aggressive and energetic flows. The downside is that this leads to other members of the posse getting outshined though, The RZA, Cappadonna, Inspectah Deck and even The Genius/GZA gives us weaker efforts than we’re used to hear from them. Ghostface only appears on three of the albums 14 songs which is a shame since he is one of the most prominent rappers in the group and his performances on here are all brilliant.
There is also a lot of singing going on in about half of the albums songs which isn’t exactly a trademark of Wu-Tang Clan and although it works and actually brings something good to the table on a few of the tracks, some of them would have came out much better without it.
A perfect way to start the album, while RZA slowly starts building up the musical landscape a 1 minute long dialogue from the movie 8 Diagram Pole Fighter make up the intro. Unexpectedly it’s not the usual samurai showdown but instead a conversation of how to improve and make your life better. Since the production is dark, gritty and sounding evil as hell (complete with a haunting distorted vocal sample of Curtis Mayfield) the intro might sound a bit contradictionary but still works.
As soon as the heavy bass and smacking drums kicks in and Method Man starts his verse you know it’s a wrap. In just 8 bars he totally murders the track which is followed up by an equally short but powerful verse from Ghostface; “On anything that RZA drops Ironman’s invincible/ I left my chick for cheating on me, now the bitch is miserable” he drops hungry enough to start almost before Meth even finishes.
The whole sound of this song (vocals and production) feels like it could’ve slipped through the cracks of a Wu-Tang recording in the mid-‘90s and will definitely gain a classic status in a couple of years. 10/10
02. Take it Back
Lyrically this might be the strongest cut on 8 Diagrams, Raekwon, Inspectah Deck, Ghostface Killah and U-God all goes head-to-head to eat up this track. They all do it so well it’s hard to core a winner but we could all agree that we haven’t heard U-God perform this raw since ‘97s Wu-Tang Forever. At the end of the day I have to say it’s Ghost that steals the show declaring “we’re like rebel niggas powdered up, wilding in the streets of Liberia” – wow, that’s the hardest shit I’ve heard in a good while.
The hook is performed by Meth and Uey going back-and-forth and is another great point on the track; it’s catchy but still rock-hard, reminding me of classic hooks such as “Winter Warz” and “Ice Cream”, telling us they’re still number 1.
Using an outside producer on a Wu-Tang album was a big no-no in the early days but in 2007 Easy Mo Bee creates a real Wu-banga sampling the same track that was used for “Daytona 500”, mainly focusing on a dirty guitar-loop. The name of the song is highly appropriate since it has all the right elements of a classic sounding Wu-Tang joint, it’s stripped down, raw and aggressive – proving that you don’t have to be from the Wu-elements to capture the style. 9/10
03. Get Them Out Ya Way Pa’
This is where the album takes off to the left and it took me a while to really start appreciating it. “Get Them Out Ya Way Pa” is a slow-paced song that is heavily driven by bass-guitars, unexpected drum effects and all sorts of weird sounds going on in the background.
The song is dominated by the two MVP’s of the album, Method Man and U-God, who both spit very inspired verses about life in the streets of Staten Island, New York. Especially Meth is totally insane on this one, coming with a flow that suits the slow groove of the production perfect and dropping a verse full of quotable lines such as: “little niggas hugging the block, cops is booking em/ women hugging they purse when they spot the crook in them”.
Masta Killa makes his first appearance on this song and since he has very calm voice and sound it’s like this song was made for him, his closing lines is just perfect: “take cover - over RZA instrumental I’m damn near invincible, it’s simple”. Complete with another Kung Fu movie sample at the end, “Get Them Out Ya Way Pa” comes off as one of the greatest and most original songs on the whole album, despite me thinking it was the weakest link when I first heard it. 10/10
04. Rushing Elephants
Rushing Elephants is vintage hardcore Wu-Tang music that easily would have fitted back-to-back with a song like “For Heaven’s Sake” from Wu-Tang Forever. The tempo is high, the bass is really thumping and the drum-kicks are as hard as they get, allowing some of the most prominent MC’s in the clan totally shred the beat to pieces.
Raekwon once again show us why he’s called the slangmaster, Masta Killa burry the track in 40 seconds and GZA’s verse is just plain incredible; “we criticize producers till there joints are right then acupuncture the track with pinpoints of light” is a personal favourite. The flip-coin is RZA’s verse which has a few weak lines and at the end of the day it doesn’t even make much sense at all. I feel that while Prince Rakeem did a great job on the albums production his flow and lyrics are weaker than we’re used to.
Still, I have a hard time believing that anybody that’s been a fan of the Wu-Tang Clan’s first two albums could possibly not like “Rushing Elephants”. Certified Wu-banga! 10/10
If the term musical chaos doesn’t mean nothing to you, you’ll get the point of it before “Unpredictable” is over. I believe this record is one of the most hated Wu-Tang songs of all time and it seems people either love it or hate it. It is unpredictable and it is different, the heavy bass guitar (played by Shavo) and chopping sounds might make you wonder if there’s something wrong with your CD-player. But you know what? This sounds extremely Wu-Tang, although RZA uses totally different elements to manage to get that sound, it has the dark, gritty and chaotic genius that made a song like “4th Chamber” a classic. I’m not saying that “Unpredictable” is as good as the song just mentioned but you get the point.
If you heard Inspectah Deck’s Resident Patient you will notice that his verse is re-used from a song there, but it really doesn’t matter to me since he sound so god damn great on this beat, and the verse is full of lines worth to be quoted. “The lifestyles of fiends and beam, big dreams and C.R.E.A.M., bitches ride like the scream machine/ for a taste of it the chick strip clean out their jeans, next thing she was smuggling coke between the seems” is a perfect example of the vintage type of lyrics that made Rebel INS world famous.
RZA doesn’t sound nearly as nice on here, while he has a couple of good lines he doesn’t manage to connect the dots and his verse is hard to understand as a whole. The chorus could and should also have been better, using another singer, but despite these minuses the song is a real banger for me and the total vibe of it is crazy, it has a little Wu-Tang meet The Prodigy sound. 9/10
06. The Heart Gently Weeps
Wu-Tang meets The Beatles; a wise idea or straight up bullshit?
I definitely think its working and it is a good song but would probably fitted better on a solo album, a soundtrack or compilation. To drop such a weird and different song as the first single of the Clan’s first album in 6 years is not how you stay true to your fan which is a very important aspect of making music.
The track is based around George Harrison’s “My Guitar Gently Weeps” but it features all live instruments rather than a sample of the song. It is actually a very soft song, the drums are as far from boom-bap you’ll get and the light guitar makes this sound like a real cross-over song. It’s definitely better than anything playing on the charts right now though.
Lyrically it’s as well as the opposite of the musical part, Rae, Ghost and Meth trade verses dealing with stories of drug-trade and cold-blooded murder and parts of it are full of curses. They all do a great job on the mic but once again its Ghostface that steals the show with his vivid flow and cinematic stories: “I wrestled him to the ground, tussled, scuffled, constantly kicked him/ he wouldn’t let go off the joint, SO I FUCKING BIT HIM!”
Personally I like the song but maybe it should have been used as a bonus-track on the album instead. 8/10
This would be a better choice for first single, another joint sounding like it possibly could have been made around the time of Wu-Tang Forever. RZA uses a banging bass-line, some hard drums, the voice of George Clinton and about 3-4 different samples to make up this cut and the result is awesome, sounding much better than the ‘disco version’ that leaked before the album release.
Once again the tag-team of Method Man, U-God and Masta Killa make the line-up and all three is shining like “tomorrow is there last (day)”. Method Man’s flow is totally ridiculous, maybe giving his most inspired moment in nearly 10 years time, displaying a breath-control that is out of this world.
By the time the beat switches to a psychedelic break-beat for Masta Killa to rhyme over you know that this is a future classic, it has all the elements needed for one. 10/10
08. Gun Will Go
A slow-paced, dark, grimy and weird musical experience driven by a acoustic guitar played by RZA himself and a climax of string-play simultaneously with the sung chorus. Raekwon opens up the song with smart punchlines such as “our shit is art, yours is traced” and is followed by Method Man who delivers another killer verse; I truly don’t think Mef have sounded this good since his debut album “Tical”. RZA plays with effects during this verse and at one point Mef’s voice is overlapped by echoes of himself which sounds brilliant.
The beat-switch during Masta’s verse is phenomenal and flows very smoothly from the first and back again although it is clearly different. Someone said it was similar to an 80’s breakbeat ala Marley Marl which isn’t totally wrong.
Sunny Valentine is the name of the man who sings the chorus and my first impression was that he tried to sound like Akon, which is a horrible sound on a Wu-Tang record. His voice ain’t as bad as I first made it to be but the lyrics has no place on the album; “this is the way that we rollin’ in the clubs”. With another chorus it would have gotten a perfect score. 9/10
“Sunlight” is actually a solo joint by The RZA, a religious and spiritual song following the footsteps of previous classics such as “12 Jewels”, “Sunshower” and “A Day to God”. On 8 Diagrams it does seem out of place though and especially in the middle of the album, it sounds mostly like a long intermission since it has no real drums and the music being made up of haunting vocal samples and wind-blowing sounds.
Lyrically RZA talks about the greatness of Allah and how he’s responsible for everything in this world and if you’re not a religious person this might not be enjoyable to listen to at all. I have to say that it is very well produced, the music sounds almost spooky and definitely made an impact on me – I just think that this would have sounded better as an intro, interlude or outro on “The Cure”. 8/10
10. Stick Me For My Riches
Mathematics produced this one although it doesn’t sound very much like it; it’s somewhere between ‘70s soul-music and today’s southern hip-hop since the ultra-fast hi-hats are turned up extremely loud.
A couple years ago I wouldn’t believe that a joint featuring Method Man, Inspectah Deck, The RZA and GZA/Genius could be the weakest track of a Wu-Tang album but besides Mef they all do far below average for their status. Inspectah Deck goes for a southern type of flow which doesn’t fit him at all, RZA have barely been good throughout the whole album and GZA clearly dumb-down his lyrics on this song. Besides that Meth’s verse is poorly recorded, the music overlaps his voice at some points which is a shame because of ill lines like; “I was raised in these mean streets, you know where poverty and hell be/ brothers get jail and life is for sell cheap”.
For the record they have also brought in Gerald Alston, the lead-singer of R&B group The Manhattans who had a few hit-singles during the 1970’s. I’m the first to admit that he has a strong voice that fits the mood of the record very well, but besides the chorus (which is repeated 3-4 times during the song) he is given the 1st verse and the outro. It’s just way too much singing on one song from the Clan, it would have sounded better if they cut out his first verse and just left the chorus.
So while the beat is pretty strong and Methtical drops another quality verse, the other MC’s disappoint and the song has way too much singing going on it’s good to listen to but not much more. 7/10
RZA re-uses a sample from “Certified Samurai” that was released the same year as 8 Diagrams but that doesn’t really matter to me since it’s being used very well on “Starter” too. The beat is classic Wu-Tang; hard drum-kicks, heavy bass and unexpected sound-effects incorporated this is another production that I could see on Wu-Tang Forever without anybody complaining the least about it.
Lyrically this sounds pretty misplaced on here though, it’s a song about the love for females, (especially in a club environment) but is not performed in the great fashion of cuts such as “Ice Cream”, “All I Need” or even “Mariah”. Street Life and U-God has ill verses but what the fuck GZA is doing on here is beyond my understanding. He would never have been on a track like this in the mid-‘90s (it just isn’t him) but now when he reached 40 he lays his horny fantasies to wax – his line; “overlooking that bible she continues to sin” is great though.
Ok so the beat is fantastic, 3 out of 4 verses are nice which makes it a banger but unfortunately RZA has invited some horrible singers to perform the chorus. To quote Hip-Hop Connection they sound like they are straight from American Idol. 7/10
It seems the fantastic start of the album slowed down a bit with tracks 9-11 but with “Windmill” it’s back to basics with one of the strongest points of the album. This is a real gem which should appeal to any Wu-Tang fan out there, RZA mash together samples of “Diary of a Madman” with Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang” (from the Kill Bill Vol. 1 soundtrack) over some classic drum-producing and an ill guitar played by John Frusicante of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
This is also as close to a posse-cut we get with 8 Diagrams since it features 6 out of 9 members all going berserk on the mic. Raekwon opens up with some strong slanged out goodies which is followed by GZA who seems to be more or less back in shape for this one.
Masta Killa spits a re-used verse from his solo “Older God’s II” but since that was a terrible record this beat actually makes the great verse justice here.
To close up Method Man comes in and totally smashes the song in only 8 bars and once again he’s incredible flow and witty lyrics are worth a mention; “in living proof I’m the wittiest, unpredictable, most talented rap muthafucka you ever listened to”. Even Cappadonna, who have sound really uninspired over the last years, has a nice 8 bar verse at the very end of the song; “go to school fucked up, it’s Africa Island/ we poor in the bricks but inside there’s nothing but talent”. Nuff said. 10/10
13. Weak Spot
Rumours says this might have been made for Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II and it features more of the classic Wu-Tang sound, complete with the best Kung Fu flick samples I’ve heard since “Severe Punishment”. The track is actually co-produced by one of Hollywood’s greatest movie-score composers but comes off as the dirtiest and most rugged joint on the whole album. Just listen how the beat breaks down totally unexpectedly in the middle of Raekwon’s verse.
Lyrically RZA drops his greatest verse of the album, same goes for Raekwon and GZA/Genius who both make an incredible job. Especially the latter uses his whole verse describing a game of chess as a metaphor for battling MC’s; “My opponent’s base is threatened, soldiers cut with shanks/ moved all my small pieces, MC’s are driven back”. 10/10
14. Life Changes
The official tribute to the deceased member Ol’ Dirty Bastard is a 7 minutes long emotional journey through the minds of the Wu-Tang Clan. The beat is created around a sample of “The Road We Didn’t Take” by Freda Payne and a vocal sample from there makes up the chorus which is repeated twice between every 8-bar verse. This sound like it would be very repetitive and it is but for some reason it actually works, the sample is full of soul and emotions and fit the purpose of this song very well.
Every verse is great and heartfelt although they all should have performed a 16-bars verse each. I could quote every verse here, it’s just that good.
Right after U-God’s verse the beat gets a new life and the drums change up while RZA take the mic to deliver the closing verse which focuses on the life and times of Russel Jones instead of the mourning of his death.
It’s a shame that Ghostface didn’t make the song for whatever reason, which would have completed the circle, but without him the song sounds a bit incomplete. 9/10
Lyrics: 8/10 Music: 10/10 Overall: 9/10
Last edited by claaa7; 06-25-2008 at 05:13 AM.