Join Date: Oct 2006
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Wu-Tang Chamber Music : Bringing it Back to the Heyday
If this were 1978, nobody would care that this were an 8 track, skit laden album at just over 36 minutes in length. Unfortunately for RZA and the Clan, the music consumers of this world have been spoiled by 16 track opuses with 3 hot tracks and a tedious array of filler tracks that should have been left on the cutting room floor. The consumers demand more, and if they don't get it, they are quick to point it out as a flaw of some sort. And if that is the biggest complaint that accompanies this album, as it seems to be, those true fans of Wu-Tang that allow this music to sink in, will be greatly rewarded for what this album isn't. This album isn't bad in any way. It isn't a rehash of any kind. Scrapped are the samples of old, replaced by a novel concept in hip hop, original music! Played by live band! But don't recoil in horror yet, 8 Diagrams haters, that experimental RZA sound is gone and he brings it back to the essence, truly harnessing the nineties Wu-Tang sound.
RZA says this is not a Wu-Tang album, that it can't be a Wu-Tang album without the whole clan, and Method Man, GZA, and Masta Killa are absent on this. To offset this absence, RZA gathers some of the nineties greatest lyricists as guest spots. Verses submitted by Masta Ace, AZ, Cormega, Sean Price (Heltah Skeltah), MOP, Kool G Rap, and Sadat X (Bran Nubian) make the music sound even more nostalgically nineties. Live band The Revelations create a soulful musical backdrop, even on the skits, their presence provides a seamless transition from song to song, giving the whole album fluidity. On those skits which some will find annoying, RZA appears to be preaching at first glance, but if you really dissect what he's saying, he's sending out messages to the clan as well as describing himself and his spirituality to you, the fans. He's letting you know what makes him tick, and that's a side you really don't get from a lot of these elusive artists.
With a short run time and many, many skits, you would think this album would have little or no replay value, but it does. The verses are utterly repeatable, the knowledge dropped is thought provoking, and it's a very easy listen. None of the 8 songs is below a banger (4/5), even the Ghost single-verse track "I Wish You Were Here" provides an excellent vocal performance by Tre Williams, even if the crusty Wu-Stans don't appreciate it. (Go cry to your blaugs) So, it's not a Wu-Tang album, but really, it is. (Don't tell RZA)
Redemption: Definitely a subliminal message, RZA is saying he feels disgraced and wants to redeem the clan. It's really clever, like he's telling the story of the 8 Diagrams fiasco.
Kill Too Hard
With a Gregorian chant and blues keyboard in the background and a simple drum beat driving this song with no hook, the onus is on Inspectah Deck, U-God, and guest Masta Ace to do all the heavy lifting on the verses and they do so admirably. Deck and Uey are in fine form.
4 out of 5
The Abbot: RZA explaining the significance of the abbot over eerie strings and stick percussion, is his message that he is training a replacement? Only time will tell.
RZA finds a beat explicitly suited for Ghostface, INS, and AZ. They all sound at home over an early eighties detective show style percussion and reverberating funk guitar. Each artist spins their own version of the hook, a definite plus in giving the song replay value.
4 out of 5
Sheep State: RZA explains his interpretation of the 85%
The first sure fire classic on the album, with synthetic looping strings driving a head nodding beat, and Cormega in particular spitting a memorable verse. This chamber captures the New York Hip Hop element more than any other in recent history.
5 out of 5
Supreme Architecture: RZA explaining Supreme Architecture and how he feels like a Supreme Architect using music as a conduit. The next song is absolutely an example of Supreme Architecture.
Possibly could have been the best thing to come out of the Wu-Camp in a decade, if not for Havoc's completely irrelevant verse that doesn't seem to belong after RZA's poignant words. A harmony composed of repeating slamming piano notes and an orchestrated grand piano break on the hook make this an addictive thriller. Even Havoc can't ruin that.
5 out of 5
Wise Men: This is a tough skit to comprehend because it seems to be composed of several incomplete thoughts. In the beginning he's talking about an easier path to heaven, then he talks about igniting the spark, a repeated thought, then he talks about the sun. So who knows. Maybe Ghostlaced will do a thread about it.
Wish You Were Here
A sad tale of woe and loss, Ghost fits perfectly with his vivid storytelling rap, and Tre Williams shines vocally for the two and a half minutes he's allowed to shine. Kind of a strange song structure wise but none the less a triumph for R+B/Rap crossover fans.
4 out of 5
Fatal Hesitation: This Kung-Fu sample is perhaps a warning, RZA seems to be sending out lots of subconscious messages
A bass filled soundscape envelops this gritty city track. Raekwon intros and leads off again with Mash Out Posse and Kool G Rap in tow. The energy is all over the place of course with Raekwon and Kool G Rap being understated as usual, and MOP being their loud flamboyant selves.
4 out of 5
Free Like ODB: Although on the surface RZA talks about the body being empty in a physical sense, when he mentions ODB, you can sense a metaphorical emptiness when he speaks about his fallen brother, perhaps the intention.
Sound the Horns
Listeners who aren't familiar with Bran Nubian, may be turned off to Sadat X's vocals and eclectic flow. Personally, I think it was a superb choice to go over such a sound that is uniquely Wu. Blaring horns, and low plucking bass guitar, give it the slightly spaghetti western feel that Sadat X has dominated in the past. We already know Deck kills this type of beat (see Vendetta), and when you add U-God's newer more polished flow, the result is nothing short of a masterpiece. This is the best track on the album in my mind.
5 out of 5
Enlightened Statues: This skit brings everything RZA's saying together. Life is a spiritual journey that culminates with "the light" and how you live your life, the excesses you take, determine the length of ones life. Everybody lives their life a different way. The "drunken buddha" is representative of Old Dirty Bastard, who quite obviously lived his life to excessive extremes and reached the light faster than his counterparts. It's a message that reaches out not only to his brothers, but to everybody, and it's a message that time is running out and the Clan need to recreate the Supreme Architecture of the past, and reignite the spark, before it's too late.
Elements from throughout the entire career of Wu-Tang Clan impresario RZA are represented here, from the "watch ya step kid" voice samples of the 36 chamber days, to the rolling Wu-Tang Forever percussion, to the Kill Bill western strings, and last to Thea (Digi Snacks) finally pulling off her Billie Holiday impersonation on the hook. There are numerous subconscious tricks used here, think stuttering keyboard synth string strikes from Marvel and intermittent electric guitar chords from Unpredictable, but much softer. He takes himself back to his essence, spitting rhymes loaded with references ripped from his days as a child propped in front of the television. RZA is a genius, and he knows it, and he's certainly not afraid to show it.
5 out of 5
RZA ends the album calling himself the "universal buddha", and really he isn't far off. This album tells a story in a way similar to a campfire yarn. It is both entertaining and informative, a cautionary tale as well as a plea. RZA wants the clan back, and he wants it bad, but isn't completely filtered as far as his displeasure with the events of a year and a half ago. This album is theater, great inside drama exposed. Sure if you take RZA at his word, this isn't a Wu-Tang album. It's a personal message from RZA to the world and his brothers. You are all invited.
36-2 (excessive skits, short length)
4.25 out of 5