RISEN: THE STORY OF CHRON ‘HELL RAZAH’ SMITH (Review)

REVIEW WRITTEN BY MICHAEL GRANT, UK AMBASSADOR FOR WU-WORLDWIDE DJ COALITION

GENERAL RELEASE: MARCH 11, 2020, Director, Frank Meyer

Imagine. As serious as the global emergency is right now, there is one man who could be laughing at the majority of the population. People like Busta Rhymes had been warning us of these times before the year 2000 hit, he said ‘brother will kill brother for a grain of overcooked rice’… one man could be laughing at many of us because suddenly sex RISEN 2doesn’t sell as much as toilet paper today. What we laughed at in the film Demolition Man (virtual sex) could become reality, every year some of wish ‘it could be Christmas every day’… that reality may hit us very soon if it hasn’t already especially in certain countries…

The one man I am referring to is Chron Smith. He is a good man. He has the entitlement to laugh at us for our foolish behaviour as of late. But my guess is he chooses not to. The reason for that is… he has survived something much worse. If this man can come back from a brain aneurysm, and still create great music today, we can come back from COVID19 and continue to achieve great things. Wu-Tang die hard fans have been waiting for this documentary since at least 2016 when I originally wrote a preview for this anticipated release, and in the midst of this global pandemic, he and director Frank Meyer decided the time is NOW. Believe me. Heaven Razah ain’t sweating no coronavirus!

…IN THE BEGINNING

The first 30 seconds of this film really sets the tone and captures your heart and mind LIKE-THAT. You are witnessing a great MC, struggling to put simple bars together… it’s a sad sight.

The feature then jumps back a good 15 or so years earlier bringing us to the genesis of The Sunz of Man, how it went down in Coffey Park and how they became one of the first Wu-Affiliates… it’s great but heartbreaking to see Popa Wu make his short appearance in the feature too. It’s hard to imagine how Sunz of Man producer Supreme explained how Razah had beef (or rather people had beef with Razah)…why would people mess with him? But there it was. It’s also crazy how the Sunz of Man members all hail Hell Razah as the superstar of the crew (the assumption would be Killah Priest), but that’s a testament to how humble they are. In Hip Hop, every MC thinks they are the best, the illest, the nicest on the mic… not these guys… then they reveal the story of how Sunz Of Man should have became bigger than they are even after the historic collaboration with Earth, Wind & Fire. Before then, we may have heard samples from the group in Hip Hop. Admittedly, that was my LEAST favourite track on the album ‘The Last Shall Be First’, I understand it now as making it the single and making unprecedented music…but that album had so many strong and consistent cuts throughout that Shining Star sounded out of place…

NOT PROMISED TOMORROW

…which brings me to my favourite track from the album, which I had to tell Razah himself in our interview we had a few years back. One minute you’re here, next minute you’re gone… true words. We have seen it happen to our loved ones, Hip Hop Heroes, and it nearly happened to the Renaissance Child himself. One minute he was on fire with a solo career and then just.like.that. We nearly had a sad day in hip hop people. Razah removes his fitted and reveals where the surgery was conducted in his head, close up shot will have viewers like WHOA… with no explanation or cause, that can happen to anybody at any given time, and that is SCARY. What’s just as scary was how he and his siblings tell us how they lost their parents…

FEEL LIKE A ENEMY

This is the part where viewers can develop their own opinions and have it up for debate… but the majority will look at Shabaaz The Disciple in a different light…so this man is running down The RZA, Gravediggaz, everything they stood for, and Razah would hear this story daily after their studio sessions…next minute Shabazz is touring with them… this makes Razah so mad that his blood vessel burst. Keep in mind this is a guy who was two years or so removed from his surgery. Shabazz will lose points in a lot of people’s eyes for that.

THE PLAN

Imagine, you discover a doctor who can repair ones legs after an aneurysm by providing a brace which can help strengthen muscles…and then he gets FIRED because he did his job TOO WELL… yes people, this is what happened to Razah. He meets a doctor who helps him to walk  a lot better, then this doctor disappears off the earth…for all we know, this doctor may have the cure for cancer or even Corona herself… is it part of The Plan to cut down the Earth’s population as conspiracy theories suggest?

HOOD LOVE

Who says online relationships doesn’t work? Tell that to Queen The Prophet. Sometimes, sending music to somebody’s DM on twitter WILL find you love! (But don’t try this at home boys and girls!) QTP wasn’t familiar with him, she could have blocked him, but she reached out and told  him to send music to her email…then she realised who he was and the relationship grew from there. Their love story is quite remarkable, and the moral of the story here is, if you approach  someone in the correct manner in which Razah did, the results can turn out amazing. We know about the power of a woman… and QTP was an integral part of the speedy recovery that Razah has made to this point in all aspects.

Side note – nice touch on the Seven Spherez fitted which Razah wore in this segment while explaining the love story.

One of the film’s highlights sees Razah & QTP attending a church and right there is where you see the iconic image of Razah looking up towards the sky as if he was thanking God not only giving him another chance in life, but also finding him love in Queen The Prophet.

THE GRANDZ

So his recovery was coming along well, walking, talking, self esteem. All that’s left is for him to return to the dance. QTP explains that he may have albums in double figures that are unreleased, on top, fellow Sunz of Man members praise his work ethic and even they cannot tell if the music is pre-aneurysm or post-aneurysm.

Producer ‘Emerge’ explains how he works with Razah post-aneurysm, and he doesn’t mean it in that way but it made me chuckle a little bit when he says… “what I do with him is… if I hear something wrong in the recording I’ll just basically stop him and say you ‘mumbled’ here, you did this or…” good to see producers helping out to cut out mumbling in music…

The final step was to have him return to the live stage… the Killah Priest 15 Year Anniversary tour. This is the big pay off right here, he may not be able to bounce around the stage like other artists, but his lyrical delivery was on point. Hell/Heaven Razah is BACK… and the energy was felt in that building between him, the fellow Killa Beez and the fans. Now it’s time for him to return home to Red Hook. Old Timers Day… a yearly event which I sincerely hope goes ahead this year in light with everything going on. Did you know he was a great b-boy breakdancer? No? Me either!

Risen promo

RETURN OF THE RENAISSANCE

Was this documentary worth the wait? Simply put – YES. It’s not just the story of a man who just happens to be an artist affiliated with the Wu-Tang Clan who suffered this huge setback and made a comeback which only Wu-Tang fans will appreciate more whereas the average fan would more likely sleep but it also gives so much information about recovery methods, in-depth interviews with the doctors involved, and Chron Smith chose to film all of this, with a unique love story to boot. This was Chron’s way of saying ‘I came back from a near death experience and I am blessed to be here, do not take life for granted, do not complain over petty things… because one day, god forbid it, something like this strikes and you gotta restart’. That’s the beauty of this documentary – you haven’t got to be a fan of Hip Hop to understand what has been presented here, and those who have experienced something similar whether it happened to them or someone close, this really hits home. Director Frank Meyer should take a bow.

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