Tag Archives: Wu-Tang Killa Beez/ Various artists

Method Man – Tical

Method Man
Tical
November 15, 1994
Def Jam RecordingsBMGSME
080/100
Method Man - Tical
1. Tical // 2. Biscuits // 3. Bring the Pain // 4. All I Need // 5. What the Blood Clot // 6. Meth vs. Chef (feat. Raekwon) // 7. Sub Crazy // 8. Release Yo’ Delf (feat. Blue Raspberry) // 9. P.L.O. Style (feat. Carlton Fisk) // 10. I Get My Thang In Action // 11. Mr. Sandman (feat. RZA, Inspectah Deck, Streetlife, Carlton Fisk & Blue Raspberry) // 12. Stimulation // 13. Method Man [Remix]

Considering that Shyheim wasn’t a Clan-member and that AKA the Rugged Child didn’t really have that much Wu-involvement, and that Words from a Genius and Ooh I Love You Rakeem were released before the Clan even existed, Method Man’s solo debut Tical gets the honour of being the first Wu-offshoot project. An honour indeed since the Wu’s debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) was instrumental in bringing the focus of the hip-hop community back to the east-coast after the west had dominated for a while, and helped to redefine the east coast hardcore sound for the mid-’90s (and went platinum to boot).

Off course these are the kinds of critical acclaims that create unreasonably high expectations for subsequent work, expectations that are impossible to fulfill, even if more material of the exact same quality is dropped. (If an artist sticks to the sounds of his last album he’s accused of not going along with his time and if he chooses to emply new sounds he’s oft accused of not catering to his own fanbase, or even worse; selling out.) But with the aid of hindsight it is safe to say that Tical, while falling short of 36 Chambers‘ greatness is in all likelyhood as good as it could’ve been, and most definitely a must-listen for those who loved that album.

Due to the Clan’s contract, which signed them to Loud records, every individual Clan-member was able to get signed to whatever record label they wanted, Meth chose Def Jam.

RZA produces every track on here, and supplies more of the same minimalistic, ominous beats that made 36 Chambers such a critical and commercial success. Meth puts them to good use, and brings the ruckus with his unmistakable husky, low, cotton mouthed vocals delivering his grimy street-raps.

A Raekwon duet, allegedly created as a friendly rap-battle over who got to keep the RZA beat for his own album, (which would imply that Meth won) brings some of the lyrical chemistry to Tical that made 36 Chambers  a texbook classic, as does the posse cut Mr. Sandman with RZA, Deck and Clan affiliates Carlton Fisk and Streetlife.

But most of these songs consist of only Meth’s rhymes and RZA’s beats, making this album mostly a two-man show, which is a mixed blessing. On the one hand it was the group’s vocal chemistry that was a considerable amount of their appeal, and perhaps an ODB verse on for instance I Get My Thang In Action could’ve made the proceedings even more enjoyable than they already are. Tical shares this aspect with the first solo-album by an N.W.A member: Eazy-E’s Eazy-Duz-It.)

“What if”-bullshit aside though, Method Man gets to hold his own really well over the course of these thirteen tracks, with or without company and create a true solo-album, which is something for instance Raekwon never got to do since his textbook classic album Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… has so much Ghostface Killah on it that Pretty Toney gets “guest starring” billing on the front-cover. RZA and Meth made a choice there how to go about with Tical and this decision has its merits. Also Tical is a solid effort that gives Wu-fans exactly what they wanted to hear sonically (as opposed to pushing the boundaries and introducing new sounds, again this is not a straightforward criticism, like the paragraph about few guests being included, this is just a reviewer noticing a choice having been made, which is a necessary thing to do in order to create good, succesful music.)

Meth shines particular on Bring the Pain, the album’s lead single, Method Man’s signature song and a classic hip-hop song in general, with his inescapable hook and RZA’s eerie beat.

All I Need is a ghetto lovesong that needs nothing but a hardcore RZA beat and Meth’s rhymes to get by (although it most certainly did need a Puff Daddy/ Trackmasters polish and an added Mary J. Blige contribution on the hook to make it one of the best-selling hip-hop singles of all time, the kind that has such an universal appeal your parents could dance to it on a fucking wedding party.)

Release Yo’ Delf manages to interpolate Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive while almost completely bypassing the queso, which is an admirable feat in any genre, let alone hip-hop, keeping in mind the direction the genre would go into a few years later with the rise of P. Daddy and Ma¢e.

Tical is a grimy, thugged-out release from start to finish from a bygone era in which there was an actual demand for non-gimicky street-rap undiluted by genre mixing. That’s not an automatic dismissal of whatever came after its late-’94 release date. Even Puff Diddy and Nelly have their moments, and when one is in the club one wants to hear club-bangers, but nevertheless one doesn’t have to be a hip-hop purist to start feeling nostalgic listening to it, the mid-’90s were golden years for hip-hop and Tical is a jewel.

Best tracks
Bring the Pain
All I Need
Meth Vs. Chef
Release Yo’ Delf
I Get My Thang In Action
Mr. Sandman
Stimulation

Recommendations
Buy this album, and find the single version of All I Need titled I’ll Be There for You/You’re All I Need to Get By off iTunes. It would be a horrible fit if it were included on this album what with it’s shiny, radio friendly sound, but it didn’t sell all those copies and win a grammy without a good reason. Judged out of Tical‘s context, it is not only accessible, but pretty good as well.


Shyheim – AKA the Rugged Child

Shyheim
AKA the Rugged Child
February 22, 1994
Virgin Records/ EMI
070/100
Shyheim - AKA the Rugged Child
1. Here Come the Hits // 2. On and On (feat. June Luva & Milk D) // 3. Pass It Off (feat. Rubbabandz, Down Low Recka & K-Tez) // 4. Never Say Never [Interlude] // 5. One’s 4 Da Money // 6. Here I Am (feat. Down Low Recka) // 7. Move It Over Here (feat. Pop Da Brown Hornet) // 8. Buckwylyn // 9. You Da Man (feat. Down Low Recka) // 10. Napsack // 11. The Rugged Onez (feat. June Luva, Prophet & Quasi) // 12. Little Rascals // 13. 4 The Headpiece [Interlude] // 14. Party’s Going On // 15. Shouts on the Outs

Following the classic that was Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) the first thing to come out of the Wu-camp was strangely enough not a solo album by one of the group’s actual members, but the debut album by Ghostface Killah’s fourteen year old cousin Shyheim. One would assume that music buyers would be more interested in a solo-album by, for instance, Ghostface Killah himself.

But then Shyheim’s link to the Wu, besides his family relation, is rather indirect. No one from the actual clan throws a verse in Shy’s direction, only loose affiliates GP Wu appear. The only indication that the original Clan has actually ever heard of Shy (besides him getting a shout-out by RZA on the intro of Clan In da Front off 36 Chambers) is one lone RZA instrumental on Little Rascals. The rest of the beats are provided by rumoured Prince Rakeem mentor RNS. It is therefor reasonable to assume that AKA the Rugged Child wasn’t part of RZA’s five year plan, unlike 36 ChambersTicalReturn to the 36 Chambers, Only Built 4 Cuban LinxLiquid SwordsIronman and that Inspectah Deck album that almost literally got flushed. Not surprising considering that Shy was never a card-carrying member of the Clan, but worth mentioning considering how often Shyheim and the occasional GP Wu member mention their affiliation with the Clan, as though no-one would give half a fuck about any of them if it weren’t for their more famous friends, who quite possibly could give half a fuck about any of them, but not really.

Let that not be an automatic dismissal of AKA the Rugged Child, a solid album to say the least, by a rapper with more skill than you can shake a stick at. The only thing that gives away his tender age is his prepubescent voice. It’s not entirely clear who wrote all these tight rhymes (one would be hard-pressed to believe it was Shy himself, although it remains a possibility), but what is clear is that Shy recites them very well. Shyheim may have been fourteen years old when AKA the Rugged Child dropped, but this certainly isn’t child-friendly rap. Go listen to Will Smith’s back catalogue if that’s your thing. This is a straight-up East-Coast gangsta rap album. And although it is especially unlikely that Shy commited any crime beyond shoplifting a candy bar, at least he raps about these subjects with gusto. And besides, what rapper do you know that beyond a shadow of a doubt lived the gangsta lifestyle, that’s alive, out of prison and doing well?

The boy comes in swinging with the mildy jazzy album-opener Here Come the Hits, on which he’s literally promising a succesful string of hit singles. (Unfortunately nineteen years later the man has yet to deliver on that promise, but his youthful optimism is engaging.) On On and On June Luva, as well as Audio Two’s Milk D lend a hand on the hook which is a reprise of Audio Two’s signature song Top Billin‘.  On Pass It Off our host outrhymes everyone of his older fellow Wu B-teamers in the GP.
On One’s 4 the Money the boy has the audacity to ambiguously dis 2pac, Kris Kross and you girlfriend over a beat that wouldn’t sound out of place on 36 Chambers. Shyheim doesn’t suffer from a lack of confidence, what with 2pac’s notoriously short temper. It marks the second time of the night that Top Billin’ is being referenced.
Little Rascals has the lone RZA-produced beat, and it sounds pretty good even though clocking just over two minutes it’s too short to make much of an impact.
Move It Over There has a fantastic dark RNS beat put to good use by Shy, and Pop da Brown Hornet who only appears in ad-lib capacity.

There are some minor complaints about some of the tracks.
On the posse-song The Rugged Onez the man of the hour fails to catch up with his invited guests, which is the only time that happens on this album.
Here I Am once again stresses the Clan-affiation thing too much, with the refrain being “It’s a Wu-thing”.
Buckwylyn is all graphic violence and no substance, and on You da Man the Down Low Recka and our host are kissing each other’s ass Coming of Age-style (a Jay-Z song off Reasonable Doubt on which Shy was allegedly supposed to appear before he was replaced by fucking Memphis Bleek) and it’s not very interesting to listen to.
Napsack is an ode to Shyheim’s beloved backpack, in which he claims to carry around a gun, which is just a silly concept, since he wouldn’t be very quick on the draw if shit went down, that way.
Party’s Goin’ On has our host performing a misogynic sex rap, which no ammount of goodwill, nor a sample of the Clan’s Tearz can fix or even distract from.

Even these songs aren’t outright failiures because RNS keeps bringing the banging beats, makes one wonder just why the man appears to never have gotten any work, besides on Shyheim’s first two albums and GP Wu’s lone album.

All in all AKA the Rugged Child is a surprisingly entertaining album. Sure, the little homie makes some beginners mistakes (some songs aren’t that well thought-through) but -and this is surprising- not as many as most rappers aged twenty and over usually do on their debuts. The Wu-Tang Clan gets namechecked more often than it should, especially since there wasn’t much of a working relation to speak of, but a talentless associate the boy most definitely is not. With all but one of the tracks being produced by RNS the album has a unified sound, and a good one at that. And Shy has enough talent to take advantage of this.

Best tracks
Here Come the Hits
On and On
Pass It Off
One’s 4 the Money
Move It Over There

Recommendations
Buy this album.


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

Wu-Tang Clan
Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
November 9, 1993
Loud Records/ UMG
090/100
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
C.R.E.A.M.
Wu-Tang Ain’t Nuthing…
Protect Ya Neck

Recommendations
Buy this album, now!


Prince Rakeem – Oooh I Love You Rakeem

Prince Rakeem
Oooh I Love You Rakeem
July 1, 1991
Tommy Boy RecordsWarner Bros. RecordsWMG
050/100
Prince Rakeem - Oooh We Love You Rakeem
1. Ooh We Love You Rakeem [Baggin’ Ladies Mix] // 2. Ooh We Love You Rakeem [Baggin’ Ladies Instrumental] // 3. Deadly Venoms [Vocals Up] // 4. Sexcapades [DMD Mix] // 5. Sexcapades [Wutang Mix] // 6. Sexcapades [DMD Radio Mix] // 7. Sexcapades [DMD Instrumental] // 8. Sexcapades [Wutang Instrumental]

Like his boy GZA, RZA had something of a career before Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) came out, gained a cult following and started a hip-hop dynasty. Not that it was going anywhere in the direction of what one could consider succesful, but Ooh I Love You Rakeem, which isn’t named after the single Ooh We Love You Rakeem, exists, so therefor it is an inevitable speed-bump in the Wu-Tang discography, much like GZA’s Words From a Genius.

Ooh We Love You Rakeem, officially called an EP, but in reality it is a glorified maxi-single, what with its instrumentals and remixes sequenced right after their original incarnations. It would seem that the intended audience for this is DJs and, once RZA became the legend he is today with the Clan, Wu-completists. (Just kidding, I don’t actually think Tommy Boy had the foresight to predict Rakeem becoming what he is today. Everything on this EP more or less points to them pushing RZA in the opposite direction.)

Eight tracks long this “album” has only three actual songs; the sorta, kinds title track, Deadly Venoms and Sexcapades: all of them about how much play he gets from the ladies. On most of these songs his rapping sounds like a mix of LL Cool J’s and label mate Shock G’s, and not as this album cover implies: the Fresh Prince. Allegedly (according to himself) he already was in fact already the grimy rapper the world would get to know on later releases, but Tommy Boy records forced this radio friendly style upon him.

The surpise is that it doesn´t suit him that poorly. Except for the Ooh We Love You Rakeem on which he goes balls-out Digital Underground on us, which should be left to Humpty, nothing here sucks balls. Deadly Venoms, which would an have all-female Wu-Tang offshoot group named after it, definitely wouldn’t sound out of place on 36 Chambers if it had Meth, ODB, Deck, Rae or Ghost on it. Both the Wu-Tang Mix and the DMD Mix of Sexcapades knock, although they don’t sound different enough to warrant inclusion of both.

Also, the instrumental versions of Ooh I Love You Rakeem and the two Sexcapades may be interesting to own for aspiring rappers, but offer little to the average listener.

So, there you have it. Two, or three out of these eight are commendable whereas the rest isn’t. Devout Wu-followers should have a peep at this, although even they have little reason to pay for something that includes three instrumentals, two remixes and only three actual songs.

Best tracks
Deadly Venoms
Sexcapades [Wu-Tang Mix]

Recommendations
Get the above two tracks off iTunes.


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
060/100
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
Drama
Genius Is Slammin’
Stay Out of Bars

Recommendations
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.