Legendary music, with the same legendary mistakes
Although they didn't come right out and say it, or stamp a number 2 on the package, it is clear by the formula, production, and even the cover art, that Legendary Weapons is indeed the sequel to 2009's mildly successful Chamber Music. Backed once again by the Revelations, Legendary Weapons boasts an ambiance of dark lush overlays melded with crisp live percussion and oddly intriguing samples. There is substance there, much more than the casual listener could pick up. It is in this that Legendary Weapons really shines, the production alone demands multiple listens, which in turn leads to understanding of the lyrics, at times incredibly fun and sometimes potent. That's the good.
Where 'LW' suffers, is in the same way that other recent offerings from the Clan have suffered, and have caused grumblings from the elitist fans, who expect nothing less than Liquid Swords in each and every release. The album is too short. The album feels rushed. The album lacks all the Clan members. The album reuses verses on some tracks, and feels 'cut and pasted' on others. Undoubtedly this will be the bulk of the negative sentiment...and the haters would be right.
That alone however, does not make it a terrible album. Some, if not most, of the mistakes are forgivable, especially to the casual listener. Nitpickers will surely notice Inspectah Deck's reused lyrics from Manifesto's 'Really Real". if they bothered to listen to it, and have already commented about RZA's lack of energy on '225 Rounds'. Oh well. You can't win 'em all. Structurally, 'Weapons' is surely a more cohesive album than it's predecessor, which saw interludes narrated by RZA after each and every track. You got the feeling of "Oh we're doing this again?" after each song was over. 'LW' has a few skits spattered here and there, but none take away from cohesion. It flows smoothly from beginning to almost end, where RZA's solo track is mired by terrible production. If you're making an iTunes playlist, you can delete that track now, unless you like the shrill sound of Casio brass.
As I have always said, Wu-Tang is like a buffet. There is so much, that you can just take what you want and leave the rest. Legendary weapons is no exception to this rule. Some stuff is Alaskan King Crab, and some is crusty three-day-old pudding. It all depends on what you're in the mood for.
Start the Show
An opener is supposed to imbue the overall theme of an album, guiding the listener on a journey to what's to come. Start the Show, while feeling indeed like an opener, doesn't feel like the opener to this album, rather an old school late 80's battle rap album. The lyrics are good, bordering on great, and the Wu-nostalgia is in full effect, but this is way to light and fluffy for what is about to come.
Pure unadulterated nastiness. Laced Cheeba features one of the greatest guest appearances in recent memory thanks to the brash lyrical musings of Sean P. Ghost and Trife are equal to the task and provide equitable backing, but it's Sean P.'s "Everybody get paid, everybody get laid, all these bitches dirty, everybody got AIDS..." line that stands out most on the song, if not the whole album. Overlayed soft percussion with ambient samples makes this sound hard as hell, although on paper, it probably shouldn't.
Say what you want about Trife Diesel, (and most fans do, unfairly) but his punchlines, flow and material are all top notch. It's his nasally high-pitched vocals that are the bane of his existence, and if you can allow yourself to forgive that, what you have is one hell of an entertaining rapper. Method Man and Cappadonna join Trife on Diesel Fluid, a self conscious look at ghetto life from the perspective of both the criminal and the victim. Trife's pitch is tuned down for the hook, which works really well. "My flow be on steroids, that shit that Barry took."
The Black Diamonds
An elegant piano loop and mesmerizing amped up lyrics from Ghost and a newly prison released Killa Sin aren't enough to call this a classic, especially with mush mouth Roc Marciano ruining things on the bridge verse. His verse is barely intelligible and does nothing to bolster the strength of the production and lyrics. If anything, he does the exact opposite.
The title track is legendary. No joke. There is so little going on, and yet, somehow the song never feels empty. From the scratch and paste Premiere-esque bridge, to the oddly addicting vibrating Asian strings, to the Golden era feel of Ghost, AZ, and M.O.P. destroying several bars at a time, Legendary weapons is a song that will grow...and grow...and grow on you, like a fungus.
Never Feel This Pain
Although out of place, and featuring re-used lyrics by Inspectah Deck, Never feel This Pain manages to stand out for it's very Wu-Tang backing samples and smooth hook by Tre Williams. U-God is hilarious at times, especially when he drops his "she says I'm a slob" line.
When fans talk about an album being rushed, and a lack of motivation, it would seem to be tracks like this they are talking about. A Killa Sin platform essentially, the track is a just over two minute solo, with no window dressing what-so-ever. Perhaps it could have used some. We all know Sin spent the last few years behind bars for gun-running, so you could reasonably expect he would have a lot to say. Yet, this feels like a rush out the door freestyle, too plain and too short to be spectacular, as Killa Sin typically is known for.
One of, if not the best, tracks on the album. Four verses of solid fire, backed by a slightly off key piano riff and blaring trumpets. Cappadonna reminds of Winter Warz, with a verse that seems to go on Ad infinitum, U-God is his recently new fantastic self, Bronze manages to show he can do more than produce, and RZA, well RZA is RZA. Maybe not hyped like a 25 year old, but intelligent and succinct, especially when he spews lines like..."meditating, never jealous, overzealous, Wu-Tang Clan's my fellowship, fans mash up a capellas of our lyrics with Beatle tracks embellishes/ the idea clearer that Wu-tang's forever/ this/ way of life is art rhymes and cleaverness/ enjoined by God, no man could sever this/" If you can find four lines that better simplify the Wu-Tang saga, I'd like to hear 'em.
Unbelievable let down after 225 Rounds. Terminology isn't bad, but Action Bronson is terrible. Thankfully Ghostface saves the introduction, or there would be nothing listenable here. The beat is cartoonish and sloppy, almost like elephants and ants on see-saws...incredibly unbalanced.
Only the Rugged Survive
I want to listen to enjoy RZA's lyrics, but this beat makes it simply impossible. I would be embarrassed to play this in public. Somebody might think I'm strangling a duck.
In terms of comparison, Legendary weapons is a slightly better album than Chamber Music, only because that album is so poorly constructed. Individual tracks slide way in favor of Chamber Music, which managed to string together nothing but bangers or better. Radiant Jewels was one of the best tracks of 2009, and perhaps the title track, Laced Cheeba, or 225 Rounds will be regarded the same way in 2011. 4/5th's of Legendary Weapons is enjoyable. I'll leave it to you, to decide which 5th to dump.
40 total points/10 tracks = 4.0/5
No deductions for skits, which don't bring down the album at all.