1. Tombstone Intro (Prod. by J.Glaze)
2. The Champion (Prod. by Alchemist)
3. Born Survivor ft Cormega (Prod. by Moss)
4. This Is It (Prod. by Dtox)
5. Luv Letter ft Ms. Whitney (Prod. by INS)
6. P.S.A (Prod. by Lee Bannon)
7. T.R.U.E ft. MeShel (Prod. by INS)
8. We Get Down (Prod. by INS)
9. The Big Game ft Raekwon & AC (Prod. by Mental Instruments)
10. Tombstone Interlude (Prod. by J.Glaze)
11. 9th Chamber (Prod. by INS and Khino)
12. Really Real ft. Carlton Fisk & Fes Taylor (Prod. by INS)
13. Serious Rappin ft Termanology & Planet Asia (Prod. by Mike Cash)
14. Do What U Gotta (Prod. by Flip)
15. Crazy (Prod. by J.Glaze)
16. Gotta Bang ft Kurupt and Billy Danze (Prod. by Shorty 140)
17. The Bad Apple (Prod. by K.Slack)
18. Brothaz Respect ft Cappadonna and Fes Taylor (Prod. by Cee the Architech)
19. 5 Star G (Prod. by Moss)
20. The Neverending Story ft Pleasant (Prod. by Agallah)
Inspectah Deck ...will never be the number one rapper in the game. It's sad but true, having never dropped a classic in either the eyes of the fans, nor critics. His resume highlights will always be on group albums or guest spots on other group member's solo classic albums. A ferocious emcee when bouncing off his brethren, or the jump off on a magnum-opus, Inspectah Deck has never saved the best for himself. His beats have always skewed away from the trademark Wu sound to a more soul oriented city feel, with very few exceptions (Rec Room, Hyperdermix). The Manifesto isn't a deviation from this, but rather an improvement upon his mostly failed choices of the past. The beat selection is sharp, and uniquely him. It encompasses some Wu-tracks (The Champion, 9th Chamber, Crazy), some city tracks (The Bad Apple, The Big Game, Brothaz Respect), some softer joints (Luv Letter, T.R.U.E.), rock hybrids (Born Survivor, Serious Rappin') and some spaghetti western cuts (Tombstone interludes, PSA, 5 Star G). In this, it's not as bland as say The Movement or Resident Patient, rather it's much closer to Uncontrolled Substance in terms of variety and replay value, but really, it combines elements of all his previous albums.
With The Manifesto, even cursory listens to this album will be able to pick out the many, many quotables spread throughout the landscape of his vocals. Deck is still a monster on the mic, even if the fans of Wu don't appreciate his ear. The opening track after the intro, The Champion, still displays Deck's disapproval with how he was treated in the game, rehashing memories of the Movement, and having the feeling of Ali when he got his championship taken away, still the king in the people's eyes. This has been a reoccurring theme of Deck's since mid 2000, and personally I think fans are pretty tired of it. He needs to stop worrying about a past he can't change, and start focusing on what little future he has left. Nobody ever likes the guy who whines about losing.
The Wu-Tang Clan wouldn't be the Clan without Deck and vice versa, but Deck seems to be the one most straying from their signature sound on his solo records. That's fine if it works, but in the past, fans displeasure has proven it hasn't. Those genuinely loyal to the Wu may find this a boring rehash of his old material, while fans of Hip Hop and great lyrics in general should love the effort put into this work. The Manifesto is a culmination of Deck's talent and emotions, laid to wax. It encompasses all he is, with all he used to be, and more. Time will tell if it is better or worse than his debut album, because that will be the barometer. If the fans will give it the attention this album deserves, it will probably have much the same effect Substance had, that being an album that grows on you with every listen. It's certainly not Cuban Linx 2. Until RZA provides Deck with an entire album full of beats, nobody is expecting Deck to live up to those lofty expectations, but for now, this is a pleasant surprise.
Hard splashing percussion and a simple key changing piano loop provide the beat for Deck to methodically rap over. Although simplistic in the forefront, mechanized sounds in the backdrop make this a very interesting and catchy listen. Deck does his best stutter flow on this. An excellent Intro.
"I speak from the heart
You reek from the start
I be sleepin' with sharks
You be briefin' the NARCs"
This jump off is an instant classic. Alchemist provides one of the most interesting beats you will ever hear. Both glorious and melancholy, this evokes many emotions, and makes me think about, among other things, when Deion Sanders won the Superbowl and wanted to kill himself. There is that kind of ambiguity on this track. Short and sweet at just under 3 minutes, this will have immense replay value. Deck proves masterful wordplay as the last word of each line, rhymes with the beginning word of the next line, throughout the entire track. It get's really interesting when it connects thoughts..."spark light, nightbreed, seed planter, camara flash, cash only homey"
The last two times Cormega collaborated with the Wu, (Tony Montana, Radiant Jewels) the result was a masterpiece. So undoubtedly expectations would be high for this particular collaboration. Cormega and Deck don't disappoint at all, especially with Deck's mic skills... "Still I'm quick to pop it off...with the model broads or the Molotovs". Cormega continues to show why he's one of the more overlooked emcees in the game.
"They say God don't like ugly, Blessings are upon us
Bush hated niggas, Now the president's a brotha
Whether you in a gutta or ya residence enormous
That shit don't matter when death around the corner
Before ya book of life ends recognize the author
All praise due Things you do bring Karma
Ya seeds shouldn't need cuz you beefin' wit baby mama
Will be the one you need when police raid the corner
ain't nuttin but niggaz frontin' shitty drugs and trauma
Girls who want Prada, Women who want powder
children are more violent from livin' with less guidance
and don't learn respect til they fit in with old timers
You walk the same path now they road is wiser
A quiet man's a giant when the code is silence
Speaks volumes, Loud dudes ain't always liver
My city never sleep, I'm a born survivor"
This Is It
Funky guitars and vocals form a familiar backdrop for Deck to flow over. The vocals are an incredible standout portion of this typical city track. After a few listens, it really grows on you.
"I even the odds
I'm bleedin' I'm scarred
A nickel bag in the park, believe I'm involved
I'm on everything cuz I ain't feelin' a job
Ya boy Deck's a king keep it realer than y'all"
Re-used sample from Yolanda's House is actually welcome to me, one of the few people that considered the moaning on the YH beat extremely abrasive and annoying. Deck continues the rock music tradition of Journey's "Faithfully", writing a love letter home while avoiding the distractions of touring life.
"There'd be days when you call I'm on stage
Text messenging all in a rage
You think I'm foolin' around
But the truth is I'm movin' around
LA yesterday to the bay next stop Chi-town
Rarely get a chance to lie down
Snatchin' paper with the fly sound
All to hold you and I down
When the going got rough you ain't jump up and leave
But if you did, wouldn't be so tough to believe
Cuz I know I put'cha through it
Woman like you, you just trooped it
Girlfriends calling you foolish"
The grimiest of grimy beats, Deck thuggishly trudges along like stomping Timbs, in this swaggerful dis track. Another short but sweet classic edition to the Wu catalog at just under two minutes long. "I'm wild like Clifton Powell, grammar tight like Vanna White hands when I flip the vowel."
Extremely chill jazzy track chronicling the life of a drug dealer and the changes a person undergoes living the thug life. Deck switches up the flow multiple times on this album, showcasing his range as a vocalist like never before, but this would be considered 'typecasting' as it is just typical ABC Inspectah flow. Not that special.
"Young me used to Willy the block
Mountain bike Nike dunks skunk phillies and gwop
I watched the older heads shake those dice
Same night, watched 'em pull out the gauge when he aced out twice"
We Get Down
Probably the most boring and repetitive track on the album, We Get Down is a blatant Dr. Dre production rip off, down to the Nate Dogg clone on the hook. A glaring mistake on an otherwise very good album.
"New Jack city Nino nigga growin up fast
Get tossed off the forth floor right in the trash"
The Big Game
Rebounding from disaster, The Big Game features a very impressive flow by Deck and Clan-mate Raekwon. An inspiring electronic loop and decent hook anchor down this near classic that strays far from the signature Wu sound. It's different, but not less. I can see this taking time to land those die hard Wu fans, but could go down as one of the better tracks on the album.
Rehashing the beat from the Tombstone intro, Deck once again double steps through syllables and metaphors deftly attacking an unknown foe.
9th Chamber part 2
With a screaming Deck angrily spitting two and three syllable lines over multiple overlapping vocal tracks, and an absolutely dirty underground beat providing the background, this is a worthy sequel to the original on Uncontrolled Substance, and an instant classic. A great way to kick off the second half of the album.
Carlton Fisk and House Gang member Fes Taylor provide back up to Deck on this ghetto tale. Never to be outdone, Deck has the standout verses here. A slow deliberate beat of clashing strings, piano, and bass feels uneven but works pretty nicely. Listen for Carlton Fisk's "No Homo" moment on his verse.
Slamming electric guitar mixes with funk in this original crossover track. Termanology and Planet Asia fill in the blanks with fine guest appearances, but once again Deck is the highlight, as is the Premiere-esque hook of pieced together voice samples.
Do What U Gotta
An odd beat selection, this track is a clash of originality and spastic lyrics. A soundscape sure not to be repeated is not the only draw as Deck's lyrics are crazy by any standards. A weak hook makes this one of the bottom 3 tracks.
The more I listen to it, the more I like it. Deck experiments with flow and cadence, something that immediately takes getting used to. The huge highlight here is the sped up chipmunk sample on the hook, easily one of Deck's best choices in his career. Plucked strings and easy going percussion give this a solemn feel, melding perfectly with the subject matter of the vocals and title. "I'm voting for Barack, I just hope they don't kill 'im. I'm buggin' off the government, they buggin' off the fact that the next pres' gonna be a woman or a black."
Originally known as Pop Dem Thangz, it really doesn't matter what you call this utterly forgettable track. Guest spots by Kurupt and MOP member Billy Danze cannot lift this out of the monotony of a track where literally everything on it sounds reused.
The Bad Apple
Menacing low slamming piano notes and echoing synths propel this diamond-hard city track. Deck cautiously but deliberately rolls over the beat dropping tons of nasty metaphors in his wake. Definitely a pause and rewind track loaded with replay value. This will get bump in the whip on those trips out to Queens.
Strange uneven transitions in the beat are the only drawback to this song as Deck and Cappa submit wonderfully descriptive verses. A familiar Raekwon voice sample is all the hook needs, as this is a finely mixed mess, for lack of a better word. Deck quotables abound.
5 Star G
The epitome of the spaghetti western beat, Asian flutes melded with funk guitar and snappy percussion make for an incredibly addicting forefront for Deck to spit over. Add sharp brass on the hook, and you have a song much richer than the lackluster attempts of the past. Only problem here seems to be the direction of the track. Is it a party joint like the hook suggests or is it a misogynistic jab like Deck's lyrics try to show? Who knows, but it's pretty good.
The Neverending Story
This lackluster ending is a disappointment to those fans like myself, who want just one more classic to conclude the album. A very weak hook and average lyrics are no way to conclude what many could consider a comeback for the very underrated Deck, who has spent the last 8 to 10 years being beaten up by fans and critics. Never end your album with a weak track. It leaves an unpleasant aftertaste.
With expectations for this album in the toilet among fans and critics, the bar was not set very high and Deck certainly cleared it easily. Still, everybody should take away the same feeling as his other ventures, that Deck has never really reached his potential. Sure about a half dozen classics and a half dozen bangers isn't too bad for a twenty song album, but where is the loaded album full of classics that the original Uncontrolled Substance was supposed to be? Inspectah Deck is almost there. A good majority of his lyrics are at the highest caliber, and if he can get the RZA beats to match, one day we may all be in for a treat. Until then, sit back and let The Manifesto sink in. There is much to grow on.
82/20= 4.10 out of 5