Tag Archives: GZA

Wu-Tang Clan – Wu-Tang Forever

Wu-Tang Clan
Wu-Tang Forever
June 3, 1997
Loud RecordsRCA Records/ BMG Music Group/ SME
1. Wu-Revolution (performed by Popa Wu & Uncle Pete) // 2. Reunited (feat. Ms. Roxy) // 3. For Heaven’s Sake (feat. Cappadonna) // 4. Cash Still Rules/Scary Hours (Still Don’t Nothing Move But The Money) // 5. Visionz // 6. As High As Wu-Tang Get // 7. Severe Punishment // 8. Older Gods // 9. Maria (feat. Cappadonna) // 10. A Better Tomorrow // 11. It’s Yourz
1. Intro // 2. Triumph (feat. Cappadonna) // 3. Impossible (feat . Tekitha) // 4. Little Ghetto Boys (feat. Cappadonna) // 5. Deadly Melody (feat. Streetlife & Dreddy Kruger) // 6. The City // 7. The Projects (feat. Shyheim) // 8. Bells of War // 9. The M.G.M. // 10. Dog Shit //11. Duck Seazon // 12. Hellz Wind Staff (feat. Streetlife) // 13. Heaterz (feat. Cappadonna) // 14. Black Shampoo // 15. Second Coming (performed by Tekitha) // 16. The Closing // 17. Sunshower // 18. Projects [International Remix] (feat. Shyheim)

Double-disc albums were a hype in the late ’90s urban music world and if an act didn’t have one it wasn’t considered whole. Tupac Shakur started the trend with his diamond-selling All Eyez On Me in ’96 and plenty of R&B/hip-hop artists would soon follow in his tracks, including arch rival the Notorious B.I.G., R. Kelly and several others. These albums, though some were well-received and have reached what one would call ‘classic status’, generally represent a bloated mess of imperial overstretch in these artists’ respective career. Shakur’s album All Eyez on Me, the project that kickstarted the trend, was the worst offender. It sounded like he recorded it all in one go and completely ran out of ideas after the first few songs or so and only regaining his momentum very sporadically over the course of the rest of the album and nevertheless released it to the masses without ever looking back. What we are digging into today however is its polar opposite when it’s the overall quality that is concerned, probably because Shakur was filling two discs of original material by his self (with lots of help of his untalented weed carriers Tha Outlawz and to a lesser degree his labelmates Snoop, Dre, Daz, Kurupt and whoever accidentally walked into the wrong studio, but still. All Eyez on Me was essentially 2pac headlining two full CD’s of material.) and the Wu-Tang Clan has nine official members who all get equal billing and are all to varying degrees main attractions.

Wu-Tang Forever marks the end of RZA’s famed and mysterious five year plan. Not even Method Man claims to know just what that plan might have been, but it had something to do with dropping a trail of classic solo albums by individual members between the group’s debut album and their sophomoric one. It goes TicalReturn to the 36 ChambersOnly Built 4 Cuban Linx…Liquid Swords and Ironman.
(Also there was supposed to be a Inspectah Deck album released somewhere between Liquid Swords and Ironman but RZA’s basement which contained all of his equipment and prerecorded beats that were intended for that one, and apparently Ironman was higher on RZA’s list of priorities.)

Wu-Tang Forever extensively features Cappadonna, a Wu-affiliate who would’ve been one of the original nine members but went to prison before having been able to make any contribution to Enter the Wu-Tang and was replaced by Method Man in stead. The man had resurfaced on Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… and contributed to Ghostface Killah’s Ironman. Even though he is credited as a featured guest on Wu-Tang Forever whenever he pops up, and he pops up quite often, he was more or less considered the Clan’s tenth member when it was released. RZA would later disown Cappadonna as an official Clan affiliate because Cappa completely lost his rapping mojo of an alleged financial conflict between the two where Cappachino claimed RZA owed him money and RZA claimed he was full of it.

Wu-svengali RZA had for the most part abandoned the gruff, dusty and minimalistic sound that made Enter the Wu-Tang such a notable success. Having produced a stack of classic albums since his instrumentals became increasingly rich and cinematic over the course of discs that went from Tical to Ironman. On Wu-Tang Forever he added a new element to his bag of tricks. He took vocal samples from old soul records and changed the pitch to make them sound high and quirky, possibly to save money on background singers which he could then spend on honey-dipped blunts and pointy rings. He then proceeded to incorporate them into his beats. This is a hip-hop production technique many people think Kanye West invented. RZA, who previously did pretty much all the work behind the boards on anything released by any of the Clansmen stepped aside for eight of the album’s twenty nine tracks which he left to his cronies True Master, 4th Disciple and for some reason Inspectah Deck whose instrumental contrubutions aren’t very good but also not that numerous. Whether this was done for variation’s sake or simply because RZA couldn’t come up with twenty nine instrumentals of consistently good quality on his own (It happens to the best of us) is unknown to me, but it is what it is.

The album’s first disc is off to a meh start with its bullshit intro on which two non-Clan members get to rant for nearly seven minutes about five percent islam, a religion that apparently every member of the Clan was practicing at the time. Nothing against taking pride in one’s religion but this track couldn’t have been more tedious and pretentious if they followed it with a full recital of each and every scripture of every religion known to mankind ever while keeping the same beat on for the entire duration.
Following that is a somewhat uneven collection of music which is to be expected from an album that consist of the combined efforts of ten rappers and four producers divided by twenty eleven tracks. The disc sounds good for the most part. The majority of the songs are highlights. The tense the Wu-noir opening cut Reunited which has the three cousins GZA, ODB and RZA + Method Man ripping shit up and setting the mood for what is to come.
For Heaven’s Sake has Deck outrap Masta Killa and Cappadonna over a quintessential chipmunk-soul beat.
It’s Yourz blends RZA’s typical dusty sound with something akin to old school disco rap. Rae, U-God, RZA, Deck all get to rock it but GFK walks away with the track.
OB4L reprise Older Gods (that doesn’t appear to be complimentary to Shyheim’s Young Gods) and the ode to positive thinking that is A Better Tomorrow and the grimy but catchy are all prime Wu posse cuts as well.
Low points are the unsexy sex rap Maria, the Deck-produced Visionz and the shitty Cash Rules sequel Cash Still Rules Everything Around Me.

The second disc opens with a dismissal of Rap ‘n’ Bullshit R&B-rap artists by RZA & GZA, presumably P. Daddy & Ma$e. I wonder if RZA remembered that You’re All I Need to Get By song that got Method Man, Mary J. Blige and P. Daddy a grammy, or that Babyface Remix that had Ghostface Killah rhyme the exact same verse he performed on this album’s Visionz. (I’m also curious what RZA had to say when he first heard that Justin Bieber song that had Raekwon and Kanye West on it, if he ever hear it at all.)
Obviously there’s more posse cuts on this disc. Triumph is arguably the best thing on the entire project with its cinematic instrumental and all the official Wu-tang plus Cappadonna rocking over it. The only complaint about this one is that Ol Dirtly Bastard is severely underused by not being allowed to spit a verse of his own and being relegated to shit-talking on the intro and in between verses in stead. I suppose you can’t have it all. The song is still really, really good anyway.
Impossible has the most eerie, spaced out instrumental so far and has among others Ghostface Killah tear it to shreds.
Little Ghetto Boys is a fairly nice word of advice to its titular subjects about not choosing the wrong path although reusing that Donny Hathaway sample for the hook was then and still is a surefire way of getting your song unfavourably compared to a classic songs by Dr. Dre featuring Snoop Dogg and P. Daddy with Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z.
Fans of the debut album’s production sound get thrown another bone by way of Deadly Melody, a showcase for mostly Method Man and his apprentice Street Life.
Bells of War is a good listen too and the Rae-Ghost duet The M.G.M. Wu-Tang Forever is as good a showcase of their usual on-record Chemistry as anything off OB4C or Ironman.
The Projects finally puts Shyheim in the same room as most of the clan members so good for him that he’s finally proven to be a true Wu-B-teamer. It’s not good for anyone or anything else though because it’s beat sounds like RZA was only half finished creating it before his pizza was delivered or something.The ODB gets a solo offering with Dog Shit and it sucks balls, the man always was a hit or miss individual. The part at the end where he tell his fellow clansmen that they remind him of the backup dancers of En Vogue though almost makes it worth sitting through.
Speaking of horrible solo-efforts: U-God, a rapper who was incarcerated during most of the recording of 36 Chambers and is considered by many to be the worst rapper in the group gets a solo-showcase of his own in the form of Black Shampoo, a hilariously unsettling sex rap with an instrumental that sounds like it was made by Barry White on acid, over which the man invites the listener to let him clip his or her toenails, among a diverse range of other odd sexy business.
The City is Inspectah Deck’s chance to fly solo. It’s good enough to make one desperately want to hear his aborted flushed solo debut, so listen to it at your own risk.
RZA, Raekwon and oddly enough Tekhita, one of the Clan’s go-to studio songstresses, get fairly decent solo-offerings as well

Overall Wu-Tang Forever, like any non-greatest hits double disc album this reviewer is aware of, would’ve benefited if it had been edited down to a single disc. That however would have meant that the guys weren’t competing with Biggie and 2pac for best double disc album of the late ’90s which hardly would’ve been an option worth considering. And it’s still a really good album in the incarnation in which it was released. Bar Dog ShitMaria and Black Shampoo most of the lesser tracks are entertaining filler rather than bad songs. Wu-Tang Forever retains enough of the old to keep the fans happy but introduces enough new to justify having a sophomore album in the first place. The album is a great showcase for one of hip-hop’s greatest franchises at the peak of its powers.

Best tracks
Severe Punishment
It’s Yourz
For Heaven’s Sake
Older Godz
A Better Tomorrow
Deadly Melody
Bells of War
The City
Black Shampoo

Pick this one up.


Genius/ GZA – Liquid Swords

Genius/ GZA
Liquid Swords
November 7, 1995
MCA RecordsUMG
GZA - Liquid Swords
1. Liquid Swords (feat. RZA) // 2. Duel of the Iron Mic (feat. Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Masta Killa & Inspectah Deck) // 3. Living In the World Today (feat. RZA & Method Man) // 4. Gold (feat. Method Man) // 5. Cold World (feat. GZA, Inspectah Deck & Life) // 6. Labels (feat. RZA) // 7. 4th Chamber (feat. Ghostface Killah, Killah Priest & RZA) // 8. Shadowboxin’ (feat. Method Man) // 9a. Hell’s Wind Staff  /9b. Killah Hills 10304 (feat. RZA & Ol’ Dirty Bastard) // 10. Investigative Reports (feat. Raekwon, Ghostface Killah & U-God) // 11. Swordsman // 12. I Gotcha Back (feat. RZA) // 13. B.I.B.L.E. (Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth) (performed by Killah Priest)

GZA’s Liquid Swords is by a wide consensus amongst Clan-fanboys considered the absolute finest of the solo-albums that any of the Wu’s nine members produced ever.
While personally this reviewer would give Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… that particular assessment (I’m admittedly not a much of a connoisseur) he does recognise it as being an extremely good rap album.

Here’s what it has going for it:
GZA for the time being (the time being 1995) was the best MC in the clan in at least the aspect of rapping for rapping’s sake. Rae and Ghost had better story telling raps, ODB and Meth had more distinct sounding voices and charisma (and hence more pop appeal and better-selling album) and RZA may have been the mastermind and the artiste out of the group, but nobody had individual lines like GZA did. Off course good punchlines don’t necessarily make good songs (word to Canibus) but GZA had a large enough attention span, as well as a smooth, calm delivery to ensure that his recording were cohesive enough.
Also Liquid Swords is the first Wu-solo album that features all of the other Clan-members alongside  its main attraction in guest capacity. Besides R&B singer Life and religious ranter Killah Priest no B-teamers were allowed near the project. This ensured several good things:
1. GZA couldn’t afford to self-indulge too much because he always was in company in the booth, which helped prevent stupid-ass songs like Stay Out of Bars off his forgotten Cold Chillin’-debut Words From the Genius, Vol. 1.
2. The people he was surrounded with were as talented as he was so he had to put in an effort on each song not to lose the spotligh.
3. He worked with people he was comfortable with and was proven to have chemistry with.
Finally Liquid Swords had the monolithic production courtesy of his cousin and Clan ringleader RZA at a time when that guaranteed banging beats. Prince Rakeem had in the two years prior created almost four complete albums of fantastic and unmistakable production for the entire Clan, Method Man, Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Raekwon (guest starring Ghostface Killah) respectively and showed no sings of slowing down with Liquid Swords (although in truth by this time probably was working towards a burn-out because Liquid Swords was the penultimate Wu-solo album not handles almost exclusively by Bobby Digital, bar his own albums. And along with RZA leaving the studio every once in a while, the guarantee of Wu-solo albums being hot by default disappeared, which means that either this album or Ghostface Killah’s Iron Man, depending on who you ask, marks the end of the group’s golden era.).

The Genius had released an album prior to this one four years earlier when there was no such thing as the Wu, on Big Daddy Kane and Biz Markie’s legendary old school hip-hop label Cold Chillin’ Records. That album had surprisingly mediocre beats (by the usually reliable Easy-Mo-Bee) and had the man performing mistifying pop-rap/ house-rap songs such as the Wu-jack swing number (which is exactly as shitty as that sounds) Come Do Me. Everyone has to start somewhere I suppose. Words From a Genius, Vol. 1 is however not the place to start your GZA experience. Liquid Swords is superior in every aspect.
It’s hard to imagine any one of the Wu’s fans being disappointed with Liquid Swords when it dropped. It has everything one could’ve come to expect from the Clan so far: battle raps, religious imagery, chess references, nerdy gangsta raps, eerie yet warm beats and kung-fu samples breaking it all up. One could argue that the Wu were playing it safe by not offering their fans but the fans know that sticking to the script in this case was actually a good thing.

Despite both Bad Boy Records and Death Row Records (The both of which are name-checked along with a myriad of other labels, most of which have gone bankrupt by now, on Labels.) habing already risen to the forefront of the hip-hop genre and to the top of the charts by ’95 with different, distinct R&B-infused sounds this album didn’t follow the trend and pretended the mainstream didn’t exist. There zero songs for the ladies, null jams for the clubs and no songs for the radio.
In stead we get typical prime, grimy Wu material that is perfect for small, marijuana-laced social gatherings.
The title track has a catchy hook though, and songs like Duel of the Iron MicGold and Shadowboxin’ to which Meth and ODB lend their voices have the most pop appeal, given that you’re into the Wu-æsthetic, but even these relatively accessible songs are grimier than most rap album’s songs for the streets. It was this uncompromising attitude to hip-hop that is the Clan’s bread and butter and is characteristic of their best work. (Their bids for radio play conversely are almost universely considered shitty by the fans.)
Duel of the Iron Mic4th Chamber, Shadowboxin‘, Duel of the Iron MicCold World and Investigative Reports are some of the best Wu-collabos put to wax while the title track, GoldLabelsSwordsmanHells Wind Staff/ Killah Hills 10304 and I Gotcha’ Back allow GZA to take the spotlight.

Liquid Swords is a prime example of the Wu-movement at the peak of its powers, everything just works. There are no real weak spots, bar maybe the closing track B.I.B.L.E. (Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth) which is a self-important religious rant. Still RZA and GZA can’t be blamed for that one since it’s a Killah Priest solo-shot with a 4th Disciple beat. And even that song doesn’t entirely suck.

Best tracks
Liquid Swords
Duel of the Iron Mic
Cold World
4th Chamber

Pick it up.

Chef Raekwon Guest starring Tony Starks (Ghostface Killah) – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…

Chef Raekwon Guest Starring Tony Starks (Ghostface Killah)
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…
August 1, 1995
Loud Records/ RCA Records/ BMG Music Group/ SME
Only Built Cover
1. Striving For Protection (feat. Ghostface Killah) // 2. Knuckleheadz (feat. Ghostface Killah & U-God) // 3. Knowledge God // 4. Criminology (feat. Ghostface Killah) // 5. Incarcerated Scarfaces // 6. Rainy Dayz (feat. Ghostface Killah & Blue Raspberry) // 7. Guillotine (Swordz) (feat. Inspectah Deck, Ghostface Killah & GZA) // 8. Can It All Be So Simple [Remix] (feat. Ghostface Killah) // 9. Shark Niggas (Biters) (feat. Ghostface Kilah) // 10. Ice Water (feat. Ghostface Killah & Cappadonna) // 11. Glaciers of Ice (feat. Masta Killah, Ghostface Killah, Blue Raspberry & 60 Seconds Assasin) // 12. Verbal Intercourse (feat. NaS & Ghostface Killah) // 13. Wisdom Body (performed by Ghostface Killah) // 14. Spot Rusherz (feat. Ghostface Killah) // 15. Ice Cream (feat. Ghostface Killah, Cappadonna & Method Man) // 16. Wu Gambinos (feat. Method Man, RZA, Masta Killah & Ghostface Killah) // 17. Heaven & Hell (feat. Ghostface Killah & Blue Raspberry) // 18. North Star (Jewels) (feat. Popa Wu)

That album cover leads one to believe two things.

1.) Ghostface Killah wasn’t originally intended to be featured as often on what originally was, and eventually sort of still is, supposed to be a Raekwon solo-album.

2.) They only made the decision to change the billing to “Raekwon Guest Starring Tony Starks (Ghostface Killah)” last minute after taking a glance at the overall package and discovering that this in fact was not a Rae solo-album, by default, when it was too late already to change it to something more truthful like Ghostface Killah featuring Raekwon Rae & Ghost, because it wasn’t as easy to digitally process images in 1995 as it is today. And since they were at it anyway they added the word “Chef” for the hell of making things longer and wordier.

Now I realise that one could say the same thing about Dr. Dre’s “solo” debut the Chronic, and its copious employment of “guest rapper” Snoop Doggy Dogg, but Dre produced that album wall-to-wall making him at the very least the undeniable ringleader of that crowded party, which sort of justifies calling it a Dr. Dre solo album. RZA fulfills that role here, which means Rae is is definitely only a part of the OB4CL equation.

At least it would seem that they made an honest but half-assed attempt at rectifying that shit, so they do earn some honest but half-assed praise for that. Someone should really get on that…

On with the review: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… sold less copies than either Tical or Return to the 36 Chambers did, which makes sense since it’s not as fit for fraternity parties as those two albums are, but it recieved more praise by critics, a tradition that we of this blog are happy to continue. This discrepancy between how consumers rated it and how critics rated it makes it somewhat similar to NaS’ Illmatic (although unlike Illmatic OB4CL did go gold the year it was released). Besides the critics liking this album Rae and Ghost’s fellow hip-hop recording artists took notice. Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt and NaS’ It Was Written, as well as the Notorious B.I.G.’s Life After Death all showing its influences. Gangsta rap before OB4CL was a bunch of gun-toting rebels without a cause, after this album dropped for a while it became all about cinematically depicting organised crime in rhymes. 40 oz. bottles of malt licquor were traded in for bottles of Christal, Moët and Dom Perignon. And Dickies pants and Jerseys were traded in for tailored suits. (This must‘ve pissed off Rae immensely since he riffs a bit about rappers jacking other rappers style on Shark Niggas (Biters), a mid-album skit, which is kind of ironic since that whole mafia-rap thing was originally Kool G Rap’s idea.) This mobster movie thing is another explanation of why Ghost is credited as a guest star, although by that logic RZA should be somewhere on that same cover as the “director”.
One thing that sets apart this album from a lot of its derivatives is the fact that it actually has a story line that runs across all of the songs. As RZA put it in a XXL Magazine interview on the making of this album: “The theme of the album is two guys that had enough of the negative life and was ready to move on, but had one more sting to pull off. They’re tired of doing what they doing, but they’re trying to make this last quarter million. That’s a lot of money in the streets. We gonna retire and see our grandbabies and get our lives together.”
One thing that sets apart this album from a lot of other hip-hop concept albums is that everyone involved appears to take it seriously enough to put in some effort and that it doesn’t suck balls because of it or seem far-fetched.

As good as Tical and Return to the 36 Chambers were, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… was the first Wu-solo album to actually live up to the original 36 Chambers‘ hype. It may very well be the only Wu-solo album, and one of the few hip-hop albums in existence to actually be equally good, even if it is essentially a completely different creature.
Rae and Ghost’s emotion-filled first person narratives of lucrative narcotics trade and Afro-American drug kingpins living large of these dope deals, rising and falling, do have a cinematic quality to them that could be compared to the similarly themed Godfather Trilogy. RZA’s instrumentals can be compared musically with a mob movie score and definitely serve the same purpose of setting the mood for these stories being told, whether reflective, anxious, raucous, menacing or otherwise. If Return to the 36 Chambers didn’t convince one that RZA was well capable of adjusting his signature sound to his collaborators (I’m guilty as charged) this album doesn’t leave a shadow of a doubt. It’s not as dusty or as 36 Chambers or Tical, it’s not as batshit insane or chaotic as Return or 36 Chambers (although I still choose to believe that the craziness was mostly contained in Ol’ Dirty) and the sounds are a bit richer, with string sections and more melody than we were accustomed to hearing from him, while maintaining RZA’s typical less is more-attitude to music making.

Another thing that helps cement Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… classic status is the chemistry between Rae and his co-star Ghostface Killah. They both have a similar dense rhyme style, but Rae has a low to mid range voice and a cool mastermind delivery while Ghost has the higher voice and the exuberance. The two mesh well enough to sound like natural partners in crime rhyming together, yet they sound distinct enough to each be instantly indentifyable. In other words: They’re a perfect combination, not unimportant considering that OB4CL is a de facto 75 minute duet between the two.

It is rather difficult to choose any highlights when everything is this good and flows this seamlessly (As is usual with the Wu a lot of the songs here are tied together with dialogue from kung-fu movies like Shaolin Vs Lama, crime movies such as Scarface, The MackCarlito’s Way, and John Woo’s The Killer, which is both.)
KnuckleheadzKnowledge GodCriminology are classic crime tales, Rainy Dayz and Heaven and Hell offers a glimpse into the minds of young poor people in the big city, the difficulties of making it in life and what makes them resort to crime. (Unlike a lot of the albums that follow it in its creative direction this one can never be said to glorify crime or ghetto life.)
Verbal Intercourse has Nasir Jones, still hot of Illmatic, recieving the honourable distinction of being the first non-Wu rapper to appear on a Wu-project and not wasting the opportunity.
Ice Cream is the one song that isn’t reall about the cocain bricks and the money stacks and is an ode Rae, Ghost, Meth and Cappadonna’s type of ladies, comparing different races to ice cream flavours, and does so without compromising the Wu-sound.
Wu Gambinos is the song that lead every rapper and his weedcarriers to create an alternative rap name for their alter ego (Nas – Escobar, 2pac – Makaveli, Eminem – Slim Shady, Notorious B.I.G. – Frank White etc.) with Method Man, RZA, Masta Killah and Ghostface Killah each taking a mob-related alias for themselves.
These songs are all notable, but they’re not much better than the rest of what’s contained in this album, which is quite impressive for an album over seventy minutes long.

Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… is one of the genre’s undeniable high points, it has vision, it has Rae and Ghost rhyming their asses off, it has RZA producing some of the best, if not the best, beats of his career. It’s a landmark album for Rae, Ghost, RZA, the Wu, the East-Coast, the Hip-hop community and, dare I say it, music in general. It stands out as essential amongs the required listening even.

Best tracks
Knowedge God
Rainy Dayz
Verbal Intercourse
Incarcerates Scarfaces
Ice Cream
Wu Gambinos
Heaven and Hell

What do you think!?


Ol’ Dirty Bastard – Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version

Ol’ Dirty Bastard
Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version
March 28, 1995
Elektra RecordsWMG
ODB - Return to the 36 Chambers the Dirty Version

1. Intro // 2. Shimmy Shimmy Ya // 3. Baby, C’mon // 4. Brooklyn Zoo // 5. Hippa to the Hoppa // 6. Raw Hide (feat. Raekwon & Method Man) // 7. Damage (feat. GZA) // 8. U Don’t Know (feat. Killah Priest) // 9. The Stomp // 10. Goin’ Down // 11. Drunk Game (Sweet Sugar Pie) // 12. Snakes (feat. Killah Priest) // 13. Brooklyn Zoo II (Tiger Crane) (feat. Ghostface Killah) // 14. Protect Ya Neck II The Zoo (feat. Brooklyn Zu, Prodigal Sunn, Killah Priest & 60 Seconds Assassin) // 15. Cuttin’ Headz (feat. RZA)

bonus tracks
16. Dirty Dancin’ (feat. Method Man) // 17. Harlem world

The album that marks Ol’ Dirty’s alleged return to the 36 Chambers marks the post that marks my return to the blog. Hi, I hope you all have been doing well in my absence, though I am sure you’ve managed to get by without me.

One thing is for sure: If any rapper in the clan had the charisma of nine men rolled up in one, evoking memories of the Wu’s collaborative debut’s messy charm by him self it was Old Dirty Bastard, the man born as Russell Jones. ODB’s debut was the second solo album by a Wu member following the clan’s own debut, and because every member could choose what label to sign their individual solo-deals with, mr. Jones didn’t end up on Loud which the Clan was signed to, or with Meth on Def Jam but inked a deal for himself with Elektra, home of the likes of Busta Rhymes.

Every well balanced hip-hop crew has tends to a member that stands out because of his kinetic energy and wild mic presence rather than his tight rhymes or flows.
N.W.A’s least lyrical member (not in the last place because he didn’t write his own lyrics) Eazy-E got by rapping, and ended up having the most pop appeal to boot, because of his charismatic, high pitched wine of a voice. Public Enemy’s Flava Flav didn’t even do much rapping beyond the occasional throwaway verse, he simply talked some shit alongside Chuck D, but talked shit so well helped make shit undoubtably sound fresher than it would’ve sounded without him.
The Wu-Tang’s very own ODB follows that tradition, and goes into overdrive with it with his rhymes that where nonsensical, grotesque, incoherent or two or more of these things and may not do much for anyone when written down, beyond raising the occasional eyebrow (Burn me, I get into shit, I let it out like diarrhea. Got burnt once, but that was only gonorrhea – Ol’ Dirty Bastard on the Wu-Tang’s Shame on a Nigga), but when delivered in Ol’ Dirty’s unique rhyme style, which appeared to be inspired by a psychosis of sorts (a style to which according to Method Man there wasn’t a father), they could be intriguing. And his contributions to the Wu’s posse album certainly are a part of why that album was so good. The Clan will never be the same with the Bastard gone. He is missed, even if he wasn’t just the worst rapper in the Clan from a technical point of view, but technically one of the worst rappers of all time bar none (he was).

Could be intriguing. Like the likes of Eazy or Flav (and every rapper on the planet if we’re being entirely truthful) the Bastard relied a lot on his collaborators and most on his producer (and cousin) RZA. After all madness becomes unpleasant to listen to without some sort of method and RZA’s dusty basement beats help give The Return to the 36 Chambers: the Dirty Version some much needed structure and cohesion, and although shitty beats have never done any musician, rap or otherwise, any favours ODB in particular is known to have sucked spectacularly when paired with the wrong beat (*caughGhetto Superstar *caugh*) Also, though a supporter of the man I am, the guest rappers do help make this album a lot easier to digest than it would be without them. If this were sixty six minutes of pure uncut ODB then I doubt even the most ardent Wu/ODB fan would ever play this in its entirety. Although he’s hardly unique in that perspective, and this is essentially why guest appearances have been invented. Anyway; his Wu-brethren Rae, Meth, RZA, GZA, Ghost and their interns Brooklyn Zu, Killah Priest, Bhudda Monk, Prodigal Sunn and 60 Second Assassin help break this album up in digestible pieces, but they don’t overpower the main attraction, although you’d probably need a team of Busta Rhymes, DMX, MOP and Mystikal to marginalise Ol’ Dirty on a track, but I digress. The guest appearances are just right in numbers and well placed.

RZA, who produces all but three tracks on here, he does his mid-’90s RZA thing: dusty drums and basslines and lo-fi piano keys that form a distinctive sound but always leave room for a rapper to showcase himself. It has been said that this album has sloppier beats than for instance Tical has, I couldn’t tell you whether that’s Prince Rakeem adjusting to his collaborator or the beats sounding different only because they happen to be in ODB’s gravity field. Oddly enough the best beat, the one on Brooklyn Zoo isn’t his, it’s done by one of his lieutenants, True Master and the Bastard himself. (An even wierder realisation is that Jermaine Dupri pretty much jacked it verbatim for that Alicia Keys song Girlfriend he produced, and how unawkward either song sounds in spite of each others existence.)

As for ODB himself, he is most definitely one of the most weirdly charming characters the hip-hop world has ever known. His vocals couldn’t be accurately described as either rapping or singing. It’s some weird hybrid, and not like Ja Rule or Eminem trying to save money on hook-singers. It’s almost as though the Bastard can’t stay in his limited range, like a drunk person pulled over, walking the line but failing, yet somehow that is supposed to be somewhat positive. This man was oddly funky. And listening to the Return it’s difficult to explain why he was one of the Clan’s most successful, but it makes sense. I’m sure no-one, including ODB understood it but everybody got it.

Highlights include the catchy-as-fuck, but inexplicable smash hits Brooklyn Zoo and Shimmy Shimmy YaDrunk Game on the first half of which he sounds the calmest he does anywhere on the album (until he starts faking an orgasm, go figure), the sinister Rae-ODB-Meth triple threat Raw Hide, the RZA/ODB duet Cuttin’ Headz, which has the balls to reverse the Clan in da Front-beat for its instrumental and still comes off as dope and the minimalistic but funky Meth-duet Dirty Dancin’ (featured as a bonus track). Though the Bastard tends to sound better when dueting other Wu-members, he has an especially good chemistry with Meth. Meth’s smooth sandpapered voice and Dirt McGirt’s insanity mesh really, really well.

There’s the cliché of somethings being perfectly inperfect, or rather suck so much they’re kinda good. This sort of applies to The Dirty Version, an album by a rapper who prides himself in not only sounding but also living old and dirty, but that doesn’t really cut it. In stead of being so bad it’s kinda good, it’s so fucking horrible it’s perfect, and it’s good quality isn’t well explained by the negative times negative equals positive because the man was literally incalculable and too incomparable to equate to anything. And I’ll be the first to admit that the grade really is a shot in the dark. You could give this a 30 and you could explain yourself very well arguing that this isn’t very good musically, but you’d probably feel that there’s something not right about your judgement. You could give this the full 100 from the bottom of your heart, but not have a leg to stand on. Love him or hate him, he was the rockstar from mars with the substance abuse problems, the illegitimate offspring, the legal troubles and the charm that Charlie Sheen wished he was. When his music is on ODB has your attention to the degree that it’s hard to look away, and more often than not that sort of confusion of being mesmerised by a mixture of raw reality and alientaing surreality that drops you right in the middle of the uncanny valley could be a sign of your senses being stimulated by high art. Unlike most people said to make high art however ODB would ironically enough seem the kind of person to be blissfully oblivious to such a pretentious qualification because all he wants is pussy and drugs. ODB was pure, honest, raw and out of his mind, and there doesn’t exist a better example of the inimitable artist or the weird and wonderful human being he was than this album. May he rest in peace.

Best tracks
Shimmy Shimmy Ya
Brooklyn Zoo
Raw Hide
Cuttin’ Headz
Dirty Dancin’

You should probably give this a spin on grooveshark or spotify before making up your mind buying this or not. ODB is not for everyone, and it’s quite alright not to enjoy him. If you do however cop the album, please do not play it in front of your little hipster friends. This shit is so intrinsically weird they will on impact irrevokably feel the need to try to understand and worse yet interpret this, which will lead to some undoubtably ghastly, daft psychoanalytic ideas, where there in reality is nothing but flesh and bone, so proceed with caution.


Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

Wu-Tang Clan
Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
November 9, 1993
Loud Records/ UMG
Wu-Tang Clan - Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

1. Bring the Ruckus // 2. Shame on a Nigga // 3. Clan In da Front // 4. Wu-Tang 7th Chamber // 5. Can It All Be So Simple // 6. Da Mystery of Chessboxin’ // 7. Wu Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta Fuck With // 8. C.R.E.A.M. // 9. Method Man // 10. Protect Ya Neck // 11. Tearz // 12. Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber [Part II]

The Staten-Island, New York-based hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan is the stuff legends are made of. Not only is there their reputation as one of the best groups to have ever passed around a microphone, with this album oft brought up as supporting evidence of this claim,  but the nine official members in the group (RZA, GZA, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Masta Killa) have all enjoyed solo-success to varying degrees. Then there are the two unofficial tenth members (Cappadonna and Redman) and countless other affiliates and subordinates who form a legitimate empire of a hip-hop franchise. And their work is acclaimed by hip-hop heads, hipsters, critics and music fans alike.

Part of their strength definitely lies in their numbers, after all with nine official members the chances of everyone’s career going bust simultaneously are nihil and there’s always someone keeping the Wu name alive putting out something someone will care about. At the same time you have something to contribute to that will demand fans attention in the form of Wu-group projects, whenever your last solo-album is gathering dust in record-stores worldNew York-wide. (The shadow side to having this many members is that begining Wu-enthousiasts will have a hard time telling the various members apart. For those amongst DITC-readers there is Mark(TM) Prindle(R) Wu-Tang Clan Voice(TM) Teller-Aparter(R) Guide(TMR) )

Size isn’t everything though. Luckily besides there being many people in and around the Clan, more importantly it is fact that each and everyone of them brings something to the table. Besides everyone included being a nice MC in their own right it is also so that their many flavours compliment one another very well. From ODB’s high-pitched insanity to Method Man’s chronic-sandpapered husk, and everyone in between. Each puts in their unique two cents, making a Wu-Tang album one of the more varied hip-hop listening experiences around. And RZA’s leadership of the group unites everyone under one beat.

RZA’s production consist mostly of dusty drums and other percussions, enriched with minimal melodies in the form of piano keys throughout the album, tea-pot esque whistles on Protect Ya Neck, a funky, brassy horn loop on the ODB-showcase Shame on a Nigga and even what sounds like a proto-Neptunes synth-organ melody on Tearz. The mood is eerie and cinematic. The tracks are sown together with silly skits and lo-fi samples of Kung-fu movie dialogue. (The group itself was named after the kung-fu movie Wu-Tang vs. Shaolin.)

Lyrically the Clan touches on typical gangsta rap subjects such as promiscuous sex, drug- use and selling, and inner city violence via pop-culture references. Not unlike Dr. Dre’s merry band of potholders the various Wu members separate themselves from the pack through the sheer tightness of their flows, rhymes and beats, as well as a goofy, over-the-top sense of humour.

Highlights include the rowdy album-opener Bring da RuckusGZA solo-offering Clan in da Front, the ode to currency-gathering C.R.E.A.M., the proclamation of dominance over hip-hop Protect Ya Neck, and (my personal favourite) the catchy ODB showcase of oddness that is Shame on a Nigga. But with twelve tracks (with the efforts of nine MCs put-in.) there’s no room for filler. This album is consistant as well as varied.

There’s only so much one can say about a classic such as this that does it any justice. Like Mark Prindle did in his review of this album I’ll end with some choice quotables.

Throw your shitty drawers in the hamper.
Next time come strapped with a fuckin Pamper
GZA – Clan in da Front

Ten times ten men committing mad sin.
Turn the other cheek and I’ll break your fuckin’ chin!
RZA – Protect Ya Neck

Burn me, I get into shit, I let it out like diarrhea
Got burnt once, but that was only gonorrhea.
ODB – Shame On a Nigga

Best tracks
Shame on a Nigga
Bring da Ruckus
Clan in da Front
Wu-Tang Ain’t Nuthing…
Protect Ya Neck

Buy this album, now!


the Genius – Words From the Genius, volume 1

the Genius
Words from the Genius, volume 1
Februari 19, 1991
Cold Chillin’ Records/ Reprise Records/ Warner Bros. Records/ WMG
the Genius - Words From the Genius

1. Come Do Me // 2. Phony As Ya Wanna Be // 3. True Fresh M.C. // 4. The Genius Is Slammin’ // 5. Words From a Genius // 6. Who’s Your Rhymin’ Hero // 7. Feel the Pain // 8. Those Were the Days // 9. Life of a Drug Dealer // 10. Stop the Nonsense // 11.  Living Foul // 12. Drama // 13. Stay Out of Bars // 14. What Silly Girls Are Made Of // 15.  Superfreak

The story of the Wu-Tang clan is a long one. One that, god willingly, will take this blog and any uneventful reader through a stack of 214 albums – and counting – released the group as a whole, its members, its affiliates and even through soundtracks of films the group’s leader, the RZA, scored.

The obvious starting point would be Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) since it is the album that actually started the movement. Fate however would have it that one of the ten core members of the clan; Gary “GZA/Genius” Grice actually had released an abum before the Clan existed. Words from the Genius is that album.

Released on the Juice Crew’s record label Cold Chillin’ Records in februari of 1991 and produced by Big Daddy Kane’s beatmaker Easy Mo Bee doesn’t show a trace of RZA, Meth, Rae, Ghost, Deck, U-God or ODB, which isn’t strange considering where and when this was released. What is strage is that there are no assists from Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie, MC Shan or Marley Marl. Considering that he was signed to their label and was a complete unknown at the moment one would think that a guest verse by at least one of these legends would both be a major selling point and something that shouldn’t be too difficult to arrange.

But no, this is just Easy and GZA and the occasional no-name producer for the entirety of Words from the Genius with zero guest appearances, which in today’s rap music landscape is almost unthinkable.

Words From the Genius‘ instrumentals shouldn’t be compared to the dark cinematic instrumentals the RZA would serve up on Enter the Wu-Tang. Easy Mo Bee’s classic old school beats have little to do with Prince Rakeem, in stead one should put it toe-to-toe with albums by the aforementioned Kane and Biz Markie, classic, swinging and a bit simplistic but still comfortably above the old school average. Still this album released at the end of the period in which this style of rap was popular doesn’t add much to Cold Chillin’ Records’ list of achievements as Kane and Biz had done just about everything there was to do with this particular style of rap. Also since nobody purchased it it didn’t earn anybody a gold plaque.

As for GZA himself, sounds exactly how he would on subsequent releases, which is to say he’s in fine form, all that’s different this time around is the beats. Lyrical themes include GZA’s mic superiority over other rappers (Genius is Slammin’), nostalgia (Those Were the Days) and the dangers of pubs (Don’t Go Into bars).

As a whole Words is pleasant, jazzy oldschool affair that’s fine when it is on but evaporates immediately from the listener’s conscience when it stops spinning. It’s a pretty consistent release, the only song that outright sucks is the Wu-jack swing opener Come Do Me. The rest is just fine, but nothing special.

Best tracks
Those Were the Days
Genius Is Slammin’
Stay Out of Bars

If you’re a fan of the Cold Chillin’ records brand of rap music and you haven’t yet heard this you should definitely give this a spin. Fans of the Wu needn’t really bother.