By Mike A. Bryan, Staff Writer
Long-time producer Mathematics and the majority of the Wu-Tang Clan are back again with another Staten Island-style album—sample-heavy with funky horns, sparse piano, and Asian-influenced strings.
Unfortunately, due to legal complications, member U-God does not appear on this album, so they modified the group name to “Wu Tang” (no hyphen and no “Clan”) to indicate the change. As usual, RZA’s influence stands out—music that is spooky, groovy, and cinematic-sounding. Redman appears on both of the radio singles, “People Say” and “Lesson Learn’d.” This is no surprise, when considering his strong connection to the group, and especially to Method Man. In particular, “People Say” is a standout due to its sampling of the classic movie, “The Warriors.”
Well-known former NYC rap personality Sean Price appears on one track, “Pearl Harbor,” along with Ghostface Killah, Meth, and RZA. Other notable guests include Hue Hef, Mzee Jones, Streetlife, and Swnkah. The album has the consistent Wu-Tang sound, and is a good follow-up to “A Better Tomorrow,” even though neither album is really breaking any new ground. It is admirable that longtime production collaborator Mathematics can consistently produce this RZA-inspired combination of Kung-Fu samples, Asian-inspired violins, sparse keys, soul and funk-inspired horns, all layered over dark, moody drums. But it seems that the vocals are just maintaining the status-quo. There are not many memorable bars here, and the subject material is tried and true.
The true stand-out MC here is Method Man; he carries multiple tracks, appearing on five of the eighteen on the album. Other than that, “generic” is a word used to describe this album by other reviewers, and it is an ample descriptor. The music is not boring, offensive, or bothersome in any way, it just does not hit like those classic Wu-Tang Clan albums, even though this album is slightly reminiscent of the 1993 debut album, “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).”
This connection has more to do with Mathematics’ attempt at recreating the earlier Wu-Tang Clan style, a divergence from RZA’s recent more esoteric and experimental style, than it has to do with the MC’s energy. Their lyrical style and composition are reminiscent of that earlier work, showcasing at least some of that lyrical wizardry for which the Wu-Tang Clan is so well-known and revered.
For true fans of the Wu, this album will be a renewal of earlier beats; for those who are new to the Clan, it may be a bit much to bite off. The music of the Wu-Tang Clan exists in its own hip hop galaxy, and they have never paid attention to current hip hop trends. They make the music that is true to Staten Island, RZA’s influence, and their upbringing. In the end, the album is the best work that Wu-Tang Clan has put out in years, but it still does not come close to their former greatness.