It's been nearly a year since a major release from the Wu-Tang camp, or any artist(s) that don't sound like they are spitting post modern Dr. Seuss nursery rhymes over watered down reused samples. In that void of real, albeit old school (talking 90's here) hip hop, comes Wu-Block, a mash up of the Wu camp and the rap collective D-Block.
That's generous though.
A more accurate description would be a Ghostface/Sheek Louch duo album with features from both camps, as the two veterans hold down most of the album, appearing on every track. Sheek, for his part, has never gotten the recognition of a Pretty Tony, as he bemoans on "Bust Shots". "Been makin' hits for years, but I'm mad I ain't got no awards". With Ghost at his side, he finally has a chance to do just that.
People are going to throw a word around a lot when describing this album, cliche. They'll say it's the same old misogynist, blunts and 40's gangster rap that permeated the airwaves in the 90's. And for their part, they'd be right. In Hip Hop, there truly is nothing new under the sun. But asking a group of chiseled hip hop veterans to change their ways is like asking a white man from Mississippi to vote for Obama, ain't gonna happen. This is what they do, and they do it well. Certainly better, than anyone else even making an attempt these days. So yes, this album most certainly is cliche, and you might even find you hate yourself for liking the themes so much.
I'll start with the negatives, because I really only have a couple of gripes juxtaposed against the mountain of praise that's to come. This is a problem you will hear repeated in reviews for the album around the internet. The song "Guns for Life" is another one of those, weapon personification stories that Nas first dropped on his second album many years ago. It's been repeated many many times, and while Ghost and Styles put their own twist on it, Ghost's narrative comes off rather strange and creepy, as he treats his Glock like a newborn baby, kissing it to sleep, of all things.
On "All in Together Now", a title used by the Wu camp about 50 times, the shouted hook will remain stuck in your head even though you probably won't want it to. It is definitely the most grating song on the album, from the shrieking horns to the deep pounding drums. It is a headache inducer.
Another head scratcher is "Stick Up Kids", an underwhelming beat which is a featured instrumental, and overused hook plague a track whose only respite is Ghost's "My grandmother go to church to pray on my victims". The Jadakiss feature is a giant waste as he drones on about Aids needles and basically blends into the background.
Finally, more of a personal gripe would be the order of "Pour the Martini", which would have been much better served anchoring the album, rather than the second song. There is an overall feeling of completion when listening to the song.
The most obvious is the third track, "Pull tha Cars Out", which features one of the most head nodding beats you have heard in years, and an utterly repeatable, yet corny hook. Meth destroys the final verse, as he brags in yet another brilliant triple entendre, "Get my money off the hook like I'm Abdul-Jabbar." This song is certified.
Been Robbed is a spoof of Jackson 5's ABC, a soulful slapstick tongue-in-cheek look at the stick up game. You will repeat the hook ad nauseum. In the vein of Ghost's more recent upbeat soul tracks like Ghetto.
Driving Round will get some hate for GZA's verse, which kinda sounds like he's on high doses of PCP and NyQuill, seemingly trying to catch the beat forever. Despite this, the content of the track lyrically needs praising. Another repeatable hook by Erykah Badu.
Comin' for your Head is a modern day mafioso jam that should be used to get locker rooms amped before a football game. This sounds like a D-Block classic.
Crack Spot Stories is another in a long like of visually stimulating Ghostface tracks, due to his incredibly detailed descriptions. Think Shakey Dog or Maxine.
Take Notice uses synthesizers to create a mood devoid of shiny happy feelings. What the calm before a storm should sound like.
Different Time Zones has a haunting melody that is the perfect backdrop for a song about missing home while on tour. As I've said before, Inspectah Deck is a beast. He makes any track better. "Pretty boos in Jimmy Chu's with titties loose, in the mood gettin' nude in a swimmin' pool".
Do It Like Us has another repeatable hook, and a beat that experiences both ends of the spectrum from breezy and light, to dark and menacing.
The smooth and cool, "Stella", sounds like one of MF DOOM's patented 80's Dynasty beats. Method Man anchors with possibly the best feature on the album.
Pour the Martini, Cocaine Central, Bust Shots, Bust Shots (Remix), and Union Square provide more than ample fill between the absolute head nodders. Notice the order switch as Deck plays anchor on the "Bust Shots (remix), but leads off the original.
Ghostface once again did a masterful job of compiling worthy beats from unknown producers, and releasing a product which is far superior than the sum of it's parts. Unless you absolutely have no patience left for the tiresome rap game, this album will surely get your head nodding as you shout along with the lyrics in your ride. It's a dark album that sure will fit perfectly into the upcoming winter. Is it cliche? Absolutely. But it's what these guys do. You want Al Pacino and Robert Deniro to stop making mob movies?
74/17= 4.35 out of 5
Wu Block teaser track not released due to sample clearance issues