RAEKWON – THE WILD

RELEASE DATE: March 24, 2017, ICEH2O RECORDS/EMPIRE

Written by Michael Grant, C.E.O. of RePPiN4U, member of GGO – Ghetto Government Officials and Wu Worldwide DJ Coalition

IN THE LAST EPISODE…

“Usually, the chef will tell their customers, what is in the dish that they prepared for them in detail. Raekwon has done no different in many interviews prior to this album coming out months in advance. So why didn’t Rae’s loyal heads not take heed? While this album has been received well by casual hip hop fans, the hardcore fan base are not so pleased, especially in a time when Raekwon most notably trashed the Wu album – A Better Tomorrow…”

Raekwon The wildThis basically summed up F.I.L.A. Fly International Luxurious Art. I saw what Rae was trying to do. We all did, but I stand by what I said last time. He let his fans know before hand and as a result, the fans let themselves down with their expectations. Rae’s most hardcore fans want the Wu-Tang sound and nothing less. But with RZA’s production sounding more left field as of late, this has led our Wu generals looking elsewhere for beats that will appeal to their fan base.

RZA has handed the Wu keys over to Ghostface Killah if we are to see a new Wu Album, and who is Ghost’s longtime tag team partner? The Chef himself, who has heard the constructive criticism regarding F.I.L.A. and so this is another attempt to fine tune his sound to appeal to loyal fans and new fans. We recently learned that Justice League will be producing on the new Wu Album, and they are featured here on this new project – The Wild, which has no Wu features at all, and dedicated to Mel Carter. With all this in mind, is this an early inkling to what the new Wu Album could sound like?

No messing about, straight into the first single. ‘This Is What It Comes Too’ right? Raekwon is bringing the ferocious flow back over classic drums brought into 2017. A remix has recently surfaced featuring that man who had been gone for 36 Seasons. Now not for ‘Nothing’, Rae comes through with sonics which resemble the Wu-sound. You will not find Kung Fu skits here, but instead you hear parodies based on the real in the form of a guy singing about shorties getting their head right…

Talking of stories based on the real, Rae takes you back to April 2, 1939 with a sure-fire album highlight, sending a tribute to ‘Marvin’ Gaye. The track is a soul drenching winner thanks to the hook supplied by Cee Lo Green. The soulful flow continues on into ‘Can’t You See’. If the listener is not zoned out at this point with a tear in their eye… I don’t think this album is for them.

This is the ‘controversial’ track of the album. Wu-fans worst nightmare has come true in ‘My Corner’. All the Lil’ Wayne hating memes, all the pictures of his album in the toilet or set on fire, has all come to bite Wu-Fans in their backside. The chief hip hop villain joins the Chef here and to make matters even more disturbing, Mr Carter Jr brings his A-Game in his rhymes over a vicious frantic beat because he knew he had no choice against a hostile Wu-audience.

Rae shows a bit of a comedic side to him which you don’t see very often, introducing the ‘F**k You Up Card’, a young kid (whose voice sounds suspiciously like Rae but switched up and we have seen Rae do this sort of thing before – remember Clyde Smith?) puts Rae on to a service where he can get his enemies taken out for a small fee. 02-Andra-Day-wim-crop-bb31-kdln3-billboard-1548

In ‘M&N’, Rae and P.U.R.E. go bar for bar on some Grid Iron Rap style. Then Andra Day provides her vocals on the 2017 dedication to the incarcerated in ‘Visiting Hour’.

‘The Reign’ is Raekwon’s new victory championship belt anthem. the production on this is epic and sounds like Rae raided the Maybach Music studios and put the beats to good use. Then Rae brings more soul and that feel good factor as he puts the ‘Crown of Thorns’ on his head.

G-Eazy looks like a fan whose wish of rhyming with his long time idol come true. He’s on point in ‘Purple Brick Road’ when he states that 20 years from now he would be still rock the purple tape. Go back a bit into the track and the production intensifies in glorious fashion.

However was the Chef being a bit too experimental here? ‘You Hear Me’ sounds out-of-place, could have passed as a bonus track, or a track where Rae edited out the trap artists that may have featured with him. Granted Rae rhymed over the trap sounding beat with ease, it’s not something he should do often, or better still, kept off this album – it really doesn’t suit the body of work which is presented here.

That’s the only mis-step on The Wild, otherwise this is a massive improvement over the last offering. If you imagined Raekwon as a stand alone artist and Wu-Tang did not exist, this is the album that reflects that imagination. Even Lil Wayne’s appearance is not a factor (remember Nas & Damian Marley’s Distant Relatives?) Raekwon has finally hit his stride as far as a non-Wu endorsed offering.

The time is still running on Cuban Linx 3, but for now, this is a nice album to take minds away from the WWE-like nonsense they call ‘beef’ that’s happening currently.

 

 

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GZA/GENIUS – LIQUID SWORDS – 20th Anniversary

GEFFEN RECORDS

Release Date: November 7, 1995

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: THE RZA

Written by Michael Grant – C.E.O. of RePPiN4U

What if I told you, that the making of this classic dated back to the year I was born? It might be a 20th Anniversary special but this is 35 years in the making.

GZA_Liquid_Swords_CD_CoverOn November 11, 2015 we mark the 35th Anniversary of Shogun Assassin. A film about a man and his son who escape and go on a violent journey after the wife of the Shogun’s Decapitator was murdered. The violent scenes were ahead of its time and was later banned in 1983 by various countries. It would later resurface in the year 2000 and was available for free for consumers who purchased Kill Bill Vol.1 on Initial DVD release.

I had a friend back in the 90s who was fascinated with banned films and went on a personal conquest to hunt them down. This film was one of them. I must have watched this a few months prior to the release of GZA’s Liquid Swords. After the Raekwon album, I decided to go on my own personal quest: To own every single Wu-Tang release. With the seemingly ever-growing affiliation of Wu Killah Bees, maybe I have underestimated the clan’s domination in Hip Hop.

This is MY STORY. This is the 20th Anniversary of The GZA/Genius – Liquid Swords.

A miserable November night, cassette inserted in the Walkman, full Duracell batteries, headphones over my head with the sellotape on it to hold the phones together, my paper round begins. And as soon as it comes on, I have that ‘Wu-Tang moment again’… Oh Snap – The Wu-Tang have sat down and watched this (Shogun Assassin)! You instantly imagine the Clan actually sitting down and watching the same film you just did, and you’re just mind blown. If you haven’t seen the film RZA samples, you make it your duty it find out which one it was. That was the beauty of being a fan those days and even now.

LIQUID SWORDS

First time I heard this, the album wasn’t out yet. I heard it on my friend’s cassette from the radio. He was raving on about GZA’s new tune, saying the tune is ‘dark’… back then the word dark was slang for ‘good’, like the youth today use the word ‘sick’ as slang for good. I heard it and I LOST IT (my mind). The beat was on some tick-tock-tick-tock business, and the hook has gone on to become one of my favourite hooks of all time. I didn’t even know the tune was called Liquid Swords because the tracks were not arranged in the album inlay. You had to kind of, match the song with the title, and I don’t care what anybody says, you are not a Wu fan if you didn’t fantasize about performing on a big clock (hence the beat) while your friend breaks the wack records across the wall.

DUEL OF THE IRON MIC

My best memory of this was the Wu-Tang Disciples of the 36 Chambers DVD, or you have seen him live. If you haven’t, watch this DVD. Look at GZA while he’s performing this. The man is ‘IN THE ZONE’. Screwface and all. That’s how you gotta be when you’re on the microphone. If that is not your reaction, you’re not hip hop! This tune is major in the Wu shows. Should have been an official video. GZA even said in an interview that this was his favourite track on the album. CASE CLOSED.

LIVING IN THE WORLD TODAY

Sometimes I love when a clansman (in this case Meth) is featured in a cameo but doesn’t actually drop a verse,even though it would be nice if he did. Almost as catchy as the Liquid Swords hook, I like the little touches in this, the ‘Chic-POW!’ in the hook, the emphasis in GZA’s voice when he says the line ‘you’ll be hearing the slang what the WUU-TAANG say’… This was my favourite track on the album at one point. Don’t you just love albums where your favourite track changes almost daily? That’s when you know you got a great album.

GOLD

I could be wrong, but I think this is the album’s most underrated track. Of all the tracks people post on social media, I don’t see Gold posted as much.

Today I learned something fascinating. In that same interview where he talks about ‘Iron Mic’, GZA says the hook was inspired by Diana Ross’ Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. For 20 years, I had never clocked on because of the contrast of the two hooks.

COLD WORLD

Funny thing about this was, I had always prefered the remix featuring D’Angelo. But this tune right here was a personal moment. GZA had come to Birmingham Ballroom in February of 2012. He was performing this and he came over to my side, fans reciting the lyrics as we do, I said the line ‘Therefore, your 52 hand-blocks was useless.’, GZA heard me say that, and took my camera out of my hands and filmed himself with us – the Wu-Nited Kingdom/RePPiN4U family. That was the start of the surreal interactivity with the clan that I had… it really feels like the 20 years of being a Wu fan was paying off in an unexpected way.

LABELS

The irony of this tune 20 years later is crazy. Before I get into that, just like Cold World, I prefered the remix over this so admittedly I felt slightly disappointed when this version was on the album initially. The version I heard on radio (Yes people, hip hop existed on radio – I know what you mean by those memes but RePPiN4U is out to crush all that) sounded like a run down sports car on the verge of crashing. The album version sounded a lot more cleaner. Anyway back to the irony. Bear in mind it was over 20 years ago, The first line that comes out of GZA’s mouth – ‘Tommy Ain’t My Muthaf***!n Boy, When he fake moves on a n!&&@ he employ…’ The year is 2015 and Ghostface Killah scored another classic with 36 Seasons, and Method Man received critical acclaim with ‘The Meth Lab’, both released under Tommy Boy Records. But Labels sparked off two things: One, some Wu fans discovered that through that one line, there was a first album entitled ‘Words From The Genius which was released before 36 Chambers and in the process discovered RZA’s first album ‘Oooh We Love You Rakeem’. The other thing it sparked, was the art of name dropping in songs. GZA wasn’t the first to do it but it was the style of how he did it, Publicity from Beneath The Surface was just as good, but Fame in my opinion from the Legend of The Liquid Sword album was the one that did it for me,

4th CHAMBER

I could be wrong here but I think Wu-Tang were the first to fuse two tracks together in a video the point where fans actually wanted that version. Inspectah Deck & U-God are usually credited for being the best posse cut starters (kick off the tune wih the first rhyme). But Ghostface should get props as well. He kicked off 9 Milli Bros on his Fishscale album, Bring The Ruckus from 36 Chambers, and most notably this track. Sometimes I’ve seen Ghost almost forget it’s him that sets the tune off as it drops after the response of capacity crowd jumping up and down as high as they can under RZA’s command.

SHADOWBOXIN’

At this time Method Man was still my favourite Wu-member. This tune dropped along with Wu-Gambinos on Cuban Linx album – I noticed subtle changes in meth’s voice, like he lost a bit of that raspy effect in his voice when he was saying the rhymes. Listen to Meth on 36 Chambers then listen to him on this track and you will see what I mean. TRUE STORY – I was in my last year at school. They installed internet in the school – it was a dial-up connection – OLD SCHOOL! We weROAre supposed to use it in our own time to work on our Record of Achievement – remember that? Back in the day we used to use that to get jobs. I don’t know if the youth today use it, but if they don’t, put it like this: If you had one of these (pictured right) YOUR CHILDHOOD WAS AWESOME!

Back to the story. Me & my school friend (Paul Whittaker) were meant to work on this… we used that time to find the lyrics to Shadowboxin’ and other Wu tracks and that’s how we discovered Ohhla.com (Original Hip Hop Lyrics Archive). We printed off as much as we could til one day we got caught by the teacher… I remember the name – Mr Collett – he said he was gonna take these explicit lyrics and show our parents. 20 years later my moms knows nothing about this… put it that way! He was probably a closet Wu fan himself!

HELL’S WIND STAFF

I think Wu Fans know the story behind this track now…originally a track on the album, it became a skit, and then actually manifested as a track on Wu-Tang Forever. The other question remains – What happened to the ‘Unexplained’? Meant to be  a track on the album but it seemed to have manifested on the Gravediggaz ‘Pick, Sickle, Shovel’ album. Do you know a Don Rodriquez? No? Yes you do. We ALL know a Don Rodriquez. There he is, snitching to Mark Zuckerberg about what you post on your Facebook. Great album sequencing here, as this leads into…

KILLAH HILLS 10304

…with a few references to Tony Starks… We already know Tony and Lou (Ghost & Rae) are the mafioso kingpins of the clan, but it was good to see RZA & GZA put their spin on things, complete with one of my favourite RZA traits which was let the beat ride out, and when you hear that, you hear RZA ‘playing about’ on the keyboard… yeah, I miss those times too.

INVESTIGATIVE REPORTS

The Wu-Tang have 6 million ways to influence us. Today I don’t say – ‘I’m gonna investigate the problem’, I say (and it happens naturally) ‘I’m making Investigative Reports’, and the summoning of Tony Starks has brought him forth and it couldn’t happen without Rae, with additional support from U-God.

Liquid Swords InlaySWORDSMAN

This was the tune that eventually would become my true favourite on the album, if Bruce Lee explained his theory of ‘Emotional Content’ into song, it would sound like this. Not only could I feel it in GZA’s voice, but I felt the same way. It was haunting, it was thought provoking, and even though past Wu tracks spoke of the 5%, this was the one that caught my attention. I started looking at people different when GZA said the lines –
“I suffered brutal pain, from whips and chains/Punishments that were set to wash the brain/So look listen observe and also respect this jewel/Drawed up, detect and reflect this/Light I shine, because my powers is refined/Through the truth, which manifest through eternal minds…” I love this hook more than the Liquid Swords oneThe hook had me really want to slap people in their face like Batman and it relates up to this day when people try to put your boy down… then it turns out that the real title of this tune was indeed – UNEXPLAINED… which makes more sense but at the same time, ‘They say he’s a Swordsman’…

I GOTCHA BACK

This brings me back to the days of Yo! MTV Raps…those annoying nights when I’m hitting record on the video recorder, cranking the volume up but my moms telling me to turn it down… funny how mom told me crank it up when Lost Boyz ‘Music Makes Me High’ came on! But at this point I didn’t even clock on that a GZA album was coming. As far as I was concerned, this was for the movie ‘Fresh’, and I remember that film as plain as day. Back in the day, Swordsman/Unexplained became my favourite track, after that, admittedly I couldn’t listen to I Gotcha Back… nothing against it, just that Swordsman/Unexplained to me was becoming too personal!

B.I.B.L.E. Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth

I never heard this tune til 1998 when Killah Priest dropped his first album – Heavy Mental. I had the cassette tape of Liquid Swords and Cassette tapes didn’t usually have bonus tracks. I didn’t convert to CDs until it was clear that cassette tapes were extremely hard to get in my area. I didn’t even have a CD player. I had to play CDs from my Sega Saturn… I miss that console. I could play a tune such as this and zone out – and when I did, the Sega Saturn’s screen saver was a spaceship travelling through space, remember that? So technically, I read the Basic Instructions Before Leaving earth and then took off in my spaceship!

Congratulations to The GZA for finally making it platinum after 20 years…. but what I wanna know is, if millions of Wu-Tang Fans around the world consider this a classic (and it is…) why has it only gone platinum now? Don’t get me GZA Daggerswrong, RePPiN4U cares not for album sales, but we as fans post about Liquid Swords everyday… some of us consider it a classic over Cuban Linx… surely there are more than a million  Wu fans… and that’s just in the states alone!

Take a bow Gary Grice, it’s all about that Dark Matter now… the salute the man who could be responsible for finally derailing the mighty 50 Cent off his game (Paper Plates). Let’s be real, he hasn’t been the same since that day has he? 50 always loved slaying MCs across the neck with his diss records, he did that to hear that sound of wailing winds, but to have it happen to his own neck, was just…. ridiculous…at least to him!

CHEF RAEKWON – ONLY BUILT 4 CUBAN LINX… 20th ANNIVERSARY

I’ve waited a long time to write this, and finally, that day has come.

OB4CLI want to introduce you to Michael Grant at 15 years old. He was a video games geek, he was shy around the girls his age. He had crushes on certain girls at school but never confident enough to approach them and ask them out, but he was actually a fairly popular kid. He wasn’t a heart-throb, but he was known for being the best at Street Fighter II in his year. Many would challenge him, but they would all fall. He developed a hatred for the boy band Take That, while the girls would mark their school book with the Take That logo, Grant would draw the Wu-Tang logo on his. Take That split up as a boy band and while the girls were heartbroken, Grant would rub it in with his friends chanting WU-TANG! all over the school. The last weeks of his year was work experience for two weeks. He was unexpectedly awarded £25 for his work, and then he decided to buy his first album.

In the summer of 95, the two artists that were hot in Grant’s mind were Nine (Whatcha Want?) and Lords Of the Underground who had singles called ‘Tic Toc’ & ‘What I’m After’. Grant set off into town with two friends and made a B-Line for Ruby Red Records and those two artists were in his crosshairs, unknown to Grant however was an album waiting to be purchased and it had this magnetic aura about it…

Grant was drawn to Only Built 4 Cuban Linx by the mighty power of the Wu logo… now he was torn between three albums. His moms instilled the thought in his head of getting ‘value for money’. He picked up the cassette tapes and thought, ’13 -15 tracks on these albums while Raekwon got 17 for the same price?’ And that, along with the persuasion of his friends (Leon Crooks & Winston Chamberlain – I hope they don’t mind me mentioning them) Grant took a risk and brought the album he never set out to buy. Chef Raekwon as Lex Diamonds Guest Starring Ghostface Killer as Tony Starks: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… THIS IS MY STORY.

AUGUST 1, 1995.

I was there just looking at the inlay and fascinated by the Purple Tape I was holding. I left Winston & Leon because it was time for me to do my paper round. I remember this day so well – it was a beautiful sunny day. 57 Express & Star newspapers in a large bag strapped around my shoulder, Headphones connected to my Sony Walkman, Purple Tape inserted, I was ready to begin delivering my papers for the day. For some reason I had a spring in my step, not sure why, I didn’t lose my virginity, it was just another day delivering papers right? (actually it wasn’t just another day, it was my Grandma’s birthday…)

1. STRIVING FOR PERFECTION – 1:43

I mis-understood what Rae & Ghost were saying on first listen… Ghost was like “I’m hanging my sh!t up if my sh!t don’t work right here God…” Rae agreed “I feel the same way…” For a moment, I thought they meant their hip hop career. I was worried…I only hit play and this was what I heard for the first two minutes???

2. KNUCKLEHEADZ – 4:05

Featuring Ghostface Killer A.K.A. Tony Starks and Golden Arms A.K.A. Lucky Hands

Entering my first block of flats in Lowe Street, my ears heard a BANGA… this album re-defined goosebumps… I had to hit the rewind button… this would be the first of many rewinds on the album that I was yet to experience. Hey, ever played this track with bass turned up to 10? No? I suggest you add it to your things to do before you die…

3. KNOWLEDGE GOD – 4:27

My naïve 15-year-old self didn’t know what all that weird sniffing noise was in the track…When it hit me later I was like… ‘Should have known…’ but coming from a smoke free family, I wouldn’t know anything about that. I wanted to know about ‘Wu-Tang Karate’!!! If only they opened ‘Wu-Tang Kung Fu Sword Style’ schools over here…

4. CRIMINOLOGY – 3:49

Featuring Ghostface Killer A.K.A. Tony Starks

Before the album dropped, Leon borrowed me a cassette tape of tunes he taped off the radio. This track was one of them… I had to get a copy and give him the tape back! Ghostface went OFF on this one… while Rae continued to make his trademark gun sound effect famous… BLAOW!!!! It was so dope that he convinced us that’s how guns actually sounded when you pulled the trigger!

5. INCARCERATED SCARFACES – 4:30

I made a foolish mistake here, instead of letting people check out the album for themselves, I borrowed the tape to certain people. That would come back to haunt me as it went round the whole Whitmore Reans district and the Purple Tape came back damaged… something happened to this track like the tape got chewed up and whoever was responsible used the pen and carefully put the actual tape back together. The tape could play, but when it came to this track, half the track was missing. That’s them taking kindness for weakness, but fair play to them for fixing the tape the best they could.

6. RAINY DAYZ – 5:17

Featuring Ghostface Killer A.K.A. Tony Starks, and Blue Raspberry

Still delivering the papers on a warm summer day, it was anything but Rainy. On first listen, Ghostface didn’t finish his verse. The RZA beat took me to another dimension so much my eyes were watering… I hit the rewind button more than once. The song was so powerful that I could willingly stand in the pouring rain listening to this, and NOT catch a cold.

7. GUILLOTINE (Swordz) – 4:21

Featuring Ghostface Killer A.K.A. Tony Starks, Inspectah Deck A.K.A. Rollie Fingers, and Genius

THERE SHOULD HAVE BEEN A VIDEO TO THIS! I remember myself, Winston & Leon randomly hum this beat in class or outside of school for no reason, like our minds synched and we’d just start humming the beat. See in school there were only a select few who knew of the Wu-Tang. One day I was at my cousin’s house. We were watching a film called Shaolin Vs Lama, a film we borrowed by a guy known as ‘Big Tec’ (he knows who he is if he’s reading this!) I heard the movie samples that RZA used and that was my first starstruck experience. I was like ‘YO CLINT! (CUZ) THE WU-TANG HAVE SEEN THIS FILM!!!’ Since then, I have been on an ongoing quest to collect every kung fu film RZA has sampled. I believe some Wu die hards on my FB friends list have succeeded…

8. CAN IT BE ALL SO SIMPLE (Remix) – 4:10

Featuring Ghostface Killer A.K.A. Tony Starks

What I miss about skits is that back in the day, they were so authentic and you could paint a picture in your head and R-4803369-1376004500-7871.jpegimagine. In this case I could imagine walking with Rae & Ghost going up to the fool and jacking him for his riches before the fool bust his gun. Nowadays you can tell that any skit was recorded in the studio and staged. Albums these days hardly have any skits though. I prefer this to the original though… I loved how RZA was just playing around with the original beat and thought – HMMMMMMM!!! I also miss how back then you knew that Side 1/A was coming to an end and you knew it was time to turn the tape over.

9. SHARK NIGGAS (BITERS) 1:39

Oh dear Biggie and Bad Boy had really done it didn’t they! The most memorable line was Ghostface saying “I don’t want n!&&@$ sounding like me…on NO ALBUM…” So in a way I waited for 19 years for someone to dare sound like Ghost. And on the 20th year, that man would emerge. He was actually in the game years before that but it came to boiling point recently. Ghost approached him via social media and just like that, Wu-fans turned against the sinner in a heartbeat. See the Wu-Tang has that power on their fans. They don’t tell their fans to do something, fans react in an almost loyal, worshipping way. Ask the guy who flipped the bird at Ghost at a show… you won’t see him again!

10. ICE WATER – 4:02

Featuring Ghostface Killer A.K.A. Tony Starks, and Cappachino

Did Chef Raekwon have this vision from 95? To have his record company to be named after this track? Probably did… unless you never saw the Ice Cream video, this is the first time we would hear the 10th member of the clan. I thought RZA went off on one with this beat…but then….

11. GLACIERS OF ICE – 4:54

Featuring Ghostface Killer A.K.A. Tony Starks, & Master Killer A.K.A. Noodles

Vocals by Blue Raspberry & 62nd Assassin of Sunz of Man

If Ghostface Killah wasn’t a rapper, he would be an outstanding Door to Door salesman. Listen to his sales pitch with the Wallabee Clarks. If he turned up to my house trying to sell em, I would be ordering a pair for every month… but then… the tune kicks in… WHAT WAS RZA THINKING??!!! Here I was, 15-year-old paper boy named Michael Grant losing my mind on street delivering these papers, Banging my head, face screwed up. Instant goosebumps, then Blue Raspberry just had to go and sing out…..”OHHHHHHHHHH!!! WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!” I hit the STOP BUTTON. I had to comprehend what was playing on my Walkman… the thoughts of ‘best tune on the album’ were emerging. It was like a BOMB hit Whitmore Reans/Dunstall with the excitement. THEN I hit rewind. I was the eldest of 3 at the time. My moms wasn’t working, the Pound currency changed to a W. That’s how I got Wu-Tang Money all up in the FAMILY!

12. VERBAL INTERCOURSE – 4:07

Featuring Ghostface Killer A.K.A. Tony Starks, and Nas A.K.A. Nas Escobar

I had to calm down after multiple epic rewinds of Glaciers of Ice, and RZA knew we all had to. what better than to feature Nas? One man singlehandedly changed the game with Illmatic, he had to be on this album. That was the beauty of this era – heads brought the album of the artist they were feeling. These days? It’s like ‘What’s the line up??? this person’s on the album? That person’s on it? This album gotta be good because look at all the appearances…’ NO. STOP THAT. I’m glad that artists are now bringing it back to the original purpose of having one producer all the way through the album with minimal guest appearances. It should be about YOU not them.

13. WISDOM BODY – 2:34

Featuring Ghostface Killer A.K.A. Tony Starks

True say the Wu-Tang among other artists were embracing the 5% Nation in the records, it never clocked in my brain til I was 17 when Wu-Tang Forever came out. I call this the ‘prelude’ to Ice Cream…

14. SPOT RUSHERZ 3:51

The crazy thing about this tune, wasn’t the tune itself. My cuz (Clint) was like ‘What is that tune that’s on in the background’? It sounded off the hook!!! Clint was like – ‘we are Wu-Tang Fans… that means we must grab hold of EVERY TUNE they had’. We said that at 15/16. It’s 2015, and that mission has still not accomplished. Turns out that the tune appeared in a ST Ides Commercial that aired in the US. So we in the UK never knew anything about that… however you can get the tune on WuTang-Corp.com

15. ICE CREAM 4:15

Featuring Ghostface Killer A.K.A. Tony Starks, Method Man A.K.A. Johnny Blaze & Cappachino

If you didn’t label your women after these ice cream flavours something was wrong with you! Do they still have these Ladies T-shirts in rotation? It’s just a thought if I held a 36th Birthday party (HINT) that all women must wear the proper T-shirts…back in school, myself, Winston & Leon were calling certain girls in our year ‘french vanilla, butter pecan, chocolate deluxe, caramel sundaes….’ they know who they are. I’m not naming names as I don’t want no problems, I don’t want their men responding to this, nor any women who feel ‘insulted’ that we didn’t address them as such!

16. WU-GAMBINOS – 5:09

Featuring Ghostface Killer A.K.A. Tony Starks, Method Man A.K.A. Johnny Blaze, The RZA A.K.A. Bobby Steels and Master Killer A.K.A. Noodles

As much as we love Wu solo albums, nothing beats a good ol’ Wu-Banga. What I don’t understand is, why doesn’t the clan perform this live? I’ve seen them twice and both times I haven’t seen them perform this. Same goes with Guillotine (Swordz)… this tune actually brings me to 1997… because I had brought the ‘Triumph’ single. On that single was the Hidden Chambers Remix to this, which I actually prefer. I remember me and my friend Nigel, we used to catch the same bus to go to work and Wu was all we talked about. We used to refer them as ‘The BOYZ’!  We loved the remix crazy, every day the commuters on the 504 bus would hear us reciting lyrics and I wished that this along with RZA’s Tragedy made Wu-Tang Forever.

17. HEAVEN & HELL – 4:57

Featuring Ghostface Killer A.K.A. Tony Starks

First time I heard this, it was on Yo! MTV Raps on the Fresh Soundtrack. At that time I didn’t even clock on that Raekwon’s album was coming. Because I had the Purple Tape, here’s me thinking that’s the end of the album… I didn’t have the CD version yet simply because we never had a CD player… so I didn’t know about the album’s REAL outro…one thing is for sure, I couldn’t play this in front of Grandma (God Bless her Soul) Well I couldn’t play hip hop in front of Grandma period. But given this tune’s hook, and Grandma being a full Christian… you figure it out when you get home…!!

18. NORTH STAR (JEWELS) – 4:00

It wasn’t until around 2004/2005 I heard this. What happened was I landed a full-time job in West Bromwich, it was the sort of job which you could play your own music while you work. So I went on a mission to collect nearly every classic CD from the 90s that I loved, specially those that I didn’t have before because I was always buying Wu albums. first artists to break that mould were Biggie and Busta. So when I heard this, eyes were watering… hearing Ol’ Dirty Bastard harmonizing in the background like that… it hits you that the album’s over. It’s one of those, zoning out, look up into the sky like moments, especially now with ODB gone…Even with Popa Wu talking to Rae it was like one of my elders talking to me…

raekwon-6As you can tell, from the moment I made that decision to buy my very first album, all the way til the album finished, this was a special moment for me, and I want it quoted in my Big Red Book when I reach 88 years old and some guy approaches me and says ‘Michael Grant, This Is Your Life’, and all my peoples re-emerge and reunite. Yes Supreme Clientele is my favourite album ever, but you never forget your FIRST. You never forget your first time you kissed someone, or the first time you smoked a blunt, (I don’t smoke so I wouldn’t know anything about that) Your first time going to a nightclub, the first time you had sex… but you NEVER FORGET YOUR FIRST TIME YOU BROUGHT YOUR FIRST ALBUM.

Thank you Chef Raekwon! You just need to bring your 20th Anniversary tour over here in the UK!

CHEF RAEKWON – F.I.L.A. Fly International Luxurious Art

“I suppose your security is your success and the key to your success is a fine palate…” (Gordon Ramsay)

Raekwon FILA2I am a big fan of cooking programmes, Hell’s Kitchen, Masterchef, and particularly Nigella Lawson (for the wrong reason….) But these programmes and others I could mention have one thing in common: The cooks involved know how to cook a wide range of food around the world. You can’t call yourself a ‘Chef’ if you know how to cook just one dish. You gotta study, travel the world, understand different ways of how food is prepared.

This is what Raekwon the Chef has done. From 1993, he has come from cooking ‘fish’ in his Staten Island projects, to making his specialities only built for certain people in ’95, to becoming head chef in 2009, to becoming the boss in 2011. Now in 2015, he has mastered his craft… or has he??

Close your eyes. Imagine that Raekwon was but another MC in the game, and he was never in the Wu-Tang Clan. In fact imagine an alternate world where Wu-Tang didn’t exist. Not even the Chinese dynasty way back when. This is what this new album is: F.I.L.A. Fly International Luxurious Art is Rae’s reflection of loving life, travelling to so many places around the world that the airport cannot stamp his passport because there is no room on it.

The album kicks off at 4 In The Morning, with his long time partner Ghostface Killah up to their usual tales, then Rae goes ‘Mayweather mode’ with A$AP Rocky in ‘I Got Money’… both emcees coming through with street rhymes. Not exactly ‘Trillmatic’ but Rocky came through and stepped up his game.

Could Wall To Wall have been over saturated with French Montana’s presence? Perhaps…but thankfully Rae & Busta Rhymes recover the track well. Putting Busta on a track last always works. Proven since Scenario.

Heads will gladly skip Wall To Wall but will find it difficult to skip this one. Heated Nights is a standout track and is one of the few that features Rae going for dolo. This is that chill out on vacation – zoning out enjoying the night air music…the album flows nicely into F.I.L.A World, which has that Ludacris ‘Lovers Than Friends’ syndrome, or the Q-Tip Renaissance Remix syndrome. By that I mean it’s a great dreamy track until you wake up from the horror that is 2Chainz coming through for the third verse. This is one that might find heads hitting the skip button after Rae’s two verses.

FILA Single wallpaper1,2 1,2 sees Raekwon and Snoop Dogg going Tag Team Assault on the mic over an amped up sample of Issac Hayes ‘Ike’s Mood’. Expect a remix of this sure-fire single. Whereas Live To Die continues Rae’s stories from the real: “He was drunk spazzin’ on a young n!**@ with cash/They did the best to him, whooped his @$$/Bloody out, his ear was ripped, they know he loved his music/They poked him twice, his gear was ripped/Ninja style, n!&&@$ whipped him with a Benz belt, broke his arm…”

F.I.L.A. was an album in development that even began before the Clan’s A Better Tomorrow… two singles were released back then, this is one of them. Raekwon, Melanie Fiona and Assassin take the dancehall to the block party with ‘Soundboy Kill It’, sure to set fire in carnivals in the summer. Then in Revory (Wraith), Rick Ross puts in another stellar performance that even Rae almost adopts a style similar to Rosay. Finally Ghostface brings his vicious flow to the Bluerock production.

This was actually the first single to be released from the album. All About You Ft Estelle is a feel good track that sees Estelle on the hook admitting defeat and knowing her ‘man’ is making it big, yet she gives him the full support whatever the situation. Rae switches gears and goes Murder Spree mode in the epic ‘Nautilus’. By this time the dreamy vocals of Liz Rodriguez let’s Rae know that he well be his own Worst Enemy by the way he walks. The iTunes version has a bonus track entitled ‘Internationalism’ is his attempt to bring his 1995 hit – incarcerated Scarfaces into 2015. Rebuilding a classic like that is not easy and Rae struggled with that one and he knew it.

“See, it’s like, ok, where I come from, In my neighborhood, my people know me, youknowhatimsaying? See, if I try to come any different, they ain’t gon’ respect me no more…Youknowhatimsaying, but if you try to like jump and crossover to the other side, people won’t understand that, and they don’t like that…” (Ol’Dirty Bastard, sample taken from Raekwon’s Ason Jones, 2009)

Usually, the chef will tell their customers, what is in the dish that they prepared for them in detail. Raekwon has done no different in many interviews prior to this album coming out months in advance. So why didn’t Rae’s loyal heads not take heed? While this album has been received well by casual hip hop fans, the hardcore fan base are not so pleased, especially in a time where Raekwon most notably trashed the Wu album – A Better Tomorrow, saying it needed better production but FILA almost contradicts Rae’s statements in terms of guest appearances and production… which actually isn’t bad, but not the traditional Wu-Tang sound that loyal fans expected, and if they expected that…

badnewsbarrettRaekwon had already stated he wasn’t using that sound, that he was catering to a wider audience. So much so that not even the mighty Wu emblem is emblazoned on the album back cover. Has Rae done anything wrong? Should he be crucified? The answer is No. Rae already proved his point with the Shaolin Vs Wu-Tang album. After all, he’s a chef, he’s gonna try new dishes. He’s not gonna cook the same old dish … that would show no progress and growth in an artist. Raekwon has shown more versatility and current frame of mind than anything else in this album and try to open people’s minds. It may not work with the more hardcore fans because they remember that one line…

“Cuban Linx III coming, don’t know when, but the time is running…” (Raekwon, Silver Rings, 2011)

GHOSTFACE KILLAH – Supreme Clientele – 15th Anniversary

“Usually a producer comes in, makes a beat, mixes it, and gives the direction for it. But not with this album. That’s why you get that special sound. I just needle and threaded the beats all together.” (RZA, The Source Magazine, March 2000)

3 years earlier… (1997, after Wu-Tang Forever)

supremeclienteleRZA vowed that the next Wu album wasn’t coming out until the year 2000. He promised a flood of music would be coming on the long road to the group’s third album – The W, that they did,  Cappadonna released The Pillage. Wu-Tang Killah Beez hit you with The Swarm. Sunz Of Man told you that The First Shall Be Last and The Last Shall Be First. Inspectah Deck supplied that Uncontrolled Substance. The Chef changed his ingredients and came with Immobilarity. GZA took his fans Beneath The Surface. Killah Priest was on that Heavy Mental. Method Man counted down to Judgment Day and Blackout in the process. U-God was seeking Redemption, RZA hit a blunt and turned into Superhero – Bobby Digital In Stereo, and Ol’Dirty Bastard thought N!&&@ Please when Puff Daddy won best hip hop album.

While the die-hard Wu fans appreciate these albums a lot more now, there was no denying that the dominance the Wu once had were diminished somewhat. Now fans were turning to No Limit, Ruff Ryders & Cash Money, some even turned to House & Garage, and had the nerve to tell me that the Wu had fallen off and House & Garage is where it’s at.

This was the era of Moschino and Armani Jeans. The era where it was cool to be ‘Sweet Like Chocolate’, when buying fake roses from dodgy people just to pull a girl was cool, and no one was without a customised Nokia 702 complete with a ringtone, competing against each other on the game ‘snakes’. I used to roll into clubs blatantly with baggy Roc-A-Wear jeans and Southpole shirts. I was with a female companion at this time…. then on February 14, 2000… that was the day everything changed….

THIS IS MY STORY ON MY FAVOURITE ALBUM OF ALL TIME.

Ghostface Killah’s sophomore album ‘Supreme Clientele’ was released January 25, 2000 under Epic Records. But since my ‘then lady’ failed in her efforts to get me this album on Valentines Day, I kicked her to the kerb and brought the album myself. Am I cruel and cold-blooded for that? Not if your first love is HIP HOP. February 14, 2000, I walked into HMV, marched right to the Hip Hop section, grabbed the album, paid the bearer on demand the sum of £13.99, took the album home, listened to it, loved it. Best Valentines Day ever.

15 years later, I write this story for you, and take an in-depth look of how Ghostface Killah became – my favourite artist of ALL TIME, and it all surrounded this album.

1. INTRO

Ghostface Killah My HeroLet’s start the album right! I recall a friend on my Facebook saying on his status – ‘are intros important in an album’… the answer is an emphatic YES. It sets the tone, the mood, and what the album is going to bring. In my opinion, if fans skip intros and go straight to the songs, chances are they will criticise the album. De La Soul ‘invented’ skits, they are pioneers in this rap thing. So for people to just skip the intros/skits on first listen? It’s up to them but it’s ignorant in my opinion.

The intro tells the story of how Ironman has an injured heart but continues to do what he do. In this case Ghost has taken it upon himself to fly the flag of the clan to reclaim that dominance they once had.

2. NUTMEG

This tune dropped – I lost my mind. I didn’t know why it was even called Nutmeg. All I knew was – my head was boppin, but it was in a circular motion for four minutes with brief rest periods! Gritting my teeth, squeezing my eyelids tight, goosebumps all over. This is straight vicious, then RZA had to come in on the third verse… UNREASONABLE!!!! Remember – They studied under Bruce Lee! He was on the fourth, they was on the third!

3. ONE

JuJu you are crazy for this ONE!!! This is one of the many tunes that RZA was referring to, where he says he added that special Wu-Tang sound to it. Did you use to play that game with your fellow Wu-Tang fans where you came up with a question and every time that answer would be – ONE!!!! I know I did!

4. SATURDAY NITE

I remember playing this album while getting ready to go out…I set it at random, but this track would be the first to play… grab the iron board, press out my shirt and trousers (see back then you had to dress SMART to go out to clubs). Freshen up, hair trimmed… and ready to party with the women out there… Yeah your boy was a bad bugger back then!

5. GHOST DEINI

The funny thing about this track was I didn’t know there was an original version, and that’s the version Ghost performs at his shows. So I consider the album version a ‘remix’. The original version had an instrumental used in a track by the Ruthless Bastards on the Wu-Tang Killah Beez The Swarm Vol 1 album. The original version had more of a haunting, ‘Tomorrow’s World’ kinda vibe to it. If you remember the show Tomorrow’s world, you would know what I mean with the shows theme music.

6. APOLLO KIDS

This is the tune/video that did it for me and solidified Ghostface Killah as my favourite artist of all time. One night watching MTV, suddenly this video appears… I nearly broke the VCR rushing to get the tape in and hit record. What I saw was a triumphant track, a man in a robe rhyming with an ice cream in his hand, who played the boss man of a Wally Clark factory and threw wack shoes off the assembly line, and his business boomed to the point he was able to party with nice women alongside his Wu-Brother Chef Raekwon both sporting championship belts… but as I’m more of a wrestling fan than a boxing fan, it filled me with joy when I saw Ghost rocking the World Heavyweight Championship belt. That video put me in a state of mind where I felt like a champion when I was out there partying. A tune so epic that he named his later albums after it in 2010.

7. THE GRAIN

The moment I heard this, Busta Rhymes ‘Rhymes Galore’ popped in my head… not realising that this was sampled before. Ghost & RZA also bring their ODB element in this track flipping the lyrics ODB sang in ‘Don’t U Know’. That head nod that I explained in ‘Nutmeg’ occurs again for me. Ok this is the part where my neck starts hurting!

8. BUCK 50

The first of two posse cuts on the album. Apart from Method Man’s album, it was a wonderful feeling to see Redman appear on a Wu solo album, even better over a RZA beat as well. For such a critically acclaimed album, I wished more videos were released from it, and this is one of them. But it’s that jaw dropping moment when Ghostface flips that famous Mary Poppins line backwards and does it without flinching over a frantic RZA flow! “Supercalifragalisticexpialidocious –
Dociousaliexpifragalisticcalisuper!” AMAZING!

9. MIGHTY HEALTHY

Classic beyond belief. You can hate on Kanye West all you want, yes he is a bit of a nutcase… but you cannot deny his musical genius. Where am I going with this you ask?

Kanye knows G.O.O.D. music… let’s be real. He took the Allah Mathematics produced banger, and recreated it into 2012 with a New God Flow. It was only right that Ghostface himself laced the track in the end… it would be criminal not to!

10. WOODROW THE BASE HEAD

Everyone knows that familiar crack head around the block! God Bless them, but they do have that annoying factor that makes you wanna knock them the f**k out! But will it do any good? ‘Crack Rules Everything Around Me’… wow… these days I miss the art of skits… put the album on, there’s no story. Just a body of work.

11. STAY TRUE

Who flipped it better? Inspectah Deck or Ghostface Killah? Such a hard decision that I would rather avoid the question! Even Deck was nice enough to give Ghost this beat, even though Deck released his first on his album… that’s family for you. It’s like my nephew borrowing my games so he can play on his PS3.

12. WE MADE IT

This tune right here was showing signs of an emerging crew known as the Theodore Unit. Ghost was looking to the future and a new wave of Wu affiliates, while Hell Razah brings his vicious delivery to the album: “We conversate like Christ and the twelve apostles/Livin life without you, can’t count you as great men/Murderers in the state pen’, bein caged in/The wages of sin, before they read up they pop our tape in/You ain’t gotta tuck you chain in cuz here we want the head of Satan…”     Imagine if this was on a cassette tape, this would have ended the first side beautifully.

13. STROKE OF DEATHghostface_march_2000_source_cover-1000

This track was weird as hell but it showed RZA’s genius. The Source cover photo (pictured right) made me so proud. I must have read that issue more times than any other magazine I had ever purchased… plus the album got 4.5 mics when the magazine was still credible…it gave me that extra validation that Wu-Tang Clan are STILL ain’t nuthin to f’wit…no one could tell me anything after that.

14. INTERMISSION

This is just telling me – ‘Yo Grant, don’t sweat the haters, Ghostface Killah will bring the Wu essence back from the No Limits and The Cash Moneys of the world, this is just the appetizer, and when The W drops, those people who told you to stop listening to Wu, will be listening again and will apologise to you. And I believed it.

15. MALCOLM

See back then, Puff Daddy and Ma$e were seen as the ‘villains’ of hip hop. When RZA dropped that announcement on Wu-Tang Forever about artists taking this art form make it a ‘fashion show’, misleading the people, it made fans instantly turn against anything Puff & Ma$e did. So when we heard Ghostface talk about how he beat up Ma$e, fans felt overjoyed. Iron Man strikes back! He threw his plate at Ma$e, used the 5 Elements, and did by Any Means Necessary!

16. WHO WOULD YOU F**K?

“Rain, rain go away, come back some other day!” By far my favourite skit on the album for obvious reasons! Did you discuss this with your people? So right here and now I’ll reveal who I would f**k out the selections the clan discussed!

KIM OR FOX: Foxy Brown!

EVE OR DA BRAT: Eve!

MARY J BLIGE OR DEBROAH COX: Gotta go with Deborah Cox!

MISSY ELLIOT OR HEATHER B:… Missy… she has done well lately!

LADY OF RAGE OR RAH DIGGA: Rah Digga!!

JANET OR CHRISSY (Three’s Company): Not sure, I think Chrissy would get it!

NAOMI OR TYRA: Tyra… definitely. Don’t get me started on Higher Learning!

NIA LONG OR HALLE BERRY: Hard decision… (no pun intended)… Nia, when I see her… I’m gonna Long (CENSORED!)

If Ghostface Killah releases Supreme Clientele 2, can we get a sequel to this?

17. CHILD’S PLAY

Yes, we all got that schoolgirl crush!!! I got mine, she knows who she is! And back then she knew it and used to play on that… other guys saw the flirtatious behaviour and one in particular wanted to challenge me in a wrestling contest, I was whupping his @$$ until his big frame picked me up and charged ,me into the school window thus breaking the glass! The whole school was like – ARRRRRRRRRRRRRGHHHHHHHHH!!! The headmaster was like – you gotta pay for the damage. 20 years later… I have yet to contribute…

18. CHERCHEZ LA GHOST

True story – I hated this song back then. It came as a shock when it first played, like it didn’t match the Wu-Tang sound throughout the album… I never realised the true essence of this until I saw what happened in the clubs. Some hail this as the best track on the album which to this day I find insulting. Even now, I would have replaced this with the Charli Baltimore track – Stand Up…

Charli Baltimore & Ghostface Killah19. WU-BANGA 101

I just think they couldn’t think of anything to call this track so they just thought f**k it, call it Wu-Banga 101… well at least it does what it says on the tin! This was a track that could have done with a video as well in my opinion…imagine Ghost explaining the story of the corrupted pastor.

20. CLYDE SMITH

50 Cent has always been in my bad books from the day he broke in. He and the Madd Rapper did say ‘you can take 50’s How to Rob track how you want it’… so what happened was I took offence to the track, I thought the track was wack anyway, and the album it came from was rubbish. One day I put the Supreme Clientele CD in my Sega Saturn, and I actually turned up the pitch of the ‘Clyde Smith’ voice. Turns out to be Chef Raekwon even though you could tell it was him by the context of the things he said. From that day forward, I was never a 50 Cent fan. 1 good album – Get Rich Or Die Trying – That’s it.

21. CONCLUSION

You have just read my personal story of why this album is my favourite of all time. Key word – favourite – you can talk about Illmatic, Ready To Die, It Takes A Nation of Millions… etc… but everyone got that one album that is so personal to them. If I had any negative things to say, it was that I wished Cobra Clutch was on the album as well… which actually was planned to be the first single until Ghost got caught up so the album was delayed. I’m A die-hard Wu-fan who was told by those who didn’t know better to stop listening to Wu and follow what they’re on… I never listened to them. That’s like telling me the stories of what they do to Chinese food or KFC – I continue to eat all that, you know why? Because that’s just what I do! Not listening to them was the best thing I had done at that time… would I be writing articles like this now? Would I have met so many great people? Or would I have met the one who inspired me all these years? Where is No Limit now? Look how Cash Money is ridiculed, look how the House & Garage era was just a phase… and Wu-Tang Clan is still #1.

GHOSTFACE KILLAH: SALUTE THIS MAN.

GRANTFACE KILLAH

WU-TANG CLAN – A Better Tomorrow

abettertomorrowI’m gonna run this review slightly differently from how I write my reviews… been as I’m a Wu fan from the beginning, I don’t want to sound biased, but this album is two years in the making. Wu fans know the story, so I’m just gonna recap as concise as possible. Originally slated for a July 2013 release to mark the 20th Anniversary, every member was on board apart from one man: Chef Raekwon. Making guest appearances on everyone else’s album apart from the Wu… that bothered me a little bit. He even laced a freestyle over Drake’s Pound Cake instrumental. Usually the name Drake is blasphemy to Wu fans.

“I actually composed for orchestra. So it’s been a strange evolution. At first, I was interested in chopping sounds. then I got more into keyboards. Now I’m like, f**k that. Hip-Hop is gonna be able to be played in Carnegie Hall! But not with a DAT – with a hundred-piece orchestra and a turntable…” (RZA, The Wu-Tang Manual, 2005)

Rae and RZA had creative differences, very similar to the 8 Diagrams situation. After demands and ultimatums, Rae and RZA found common ground, and the album would be pushed back until December 2, 2014. Fans were willing to wait as long as Rae was fully on board. This is it people, the final album from the 10-man collective. Are they going out in a blaze of glory? Or are they gonna fall on their own Wu-Tang Sword?

Usually Clan albums begin with a classic Kung Fu sample…. this doesn’t… but RZA wants to make it clear that the clan can still bring the ruckus….Ruckus In B Minor that is… judging by this Rick Rubin produced banger, it was clear that the album needed a full clan track, even if it meant sampling past ODB vocals. It appeared as though the track was finished as well before Raekwon & Masta Killa came in and laced their verses, over a somewhat prototype version of the original beat. Then the clan wants you to feel how they ‘Felt’ when they reached their goals and personal tragedies…I do like how RZA brought back the element of letting beats ride out to the end…

Allah Mathematics also takes an upbeat militant approach with ’40th Street Black/We Will Fight’… The Clan suits up, SAM_3844trades in their swords for rifles, lyrically marching in the streets of hip hop. This is of course after they experience a Mistaken Identity…it’s great to see a returning StreetLife on the hook, shame he didn’t lace a verse though… it would have been even nicer if this was switched around – have this appear on the album before ‘…We Will Fight. To many cases of police grabbing the wrong man because his facial features are similar – you know how it goes, Black man, black hair, brown eyes….

Ever imagined what a more amplified, uptempo ruckus version of ‘Shadowboxing’ sounded like? Here, ‘Hold The Heater’. Cappadonna continues to fight his frenemies and tricknology, U-God is ready to go ‘Careful’ on people… GZA brings scientific wordplay, and Meth pays homage to Nas & Aretha: “I’m focused, tryna roll the reefer, let’s turn it up/Forget the cope, I’m tryna blow the speaker, that’s all he wrote/One verse could turn your soul to ether/It’s time you gave me my respects just like the old Aretha, Mr. Meth!”

In every Clan album, one member goes in for dolo while the clan stands back. This time it’s the turn of Raekwon in ‘Crushed Egos’, after all he deserves it. While RZA jumps in for the hook and bridge. Very interesting here, RZA’s hook has a double meaning: It’s taken from Clan In Da Front, at the same time, are the Chef & the Abbott crushing their own egos here?

‘Keep Watch’ is the first single from the album, yet that is not exactly true, I will explain later. Initially fans were divided, Producer Allah Mathematics defends his case: . “It’s bittersweet,” he says. “It feels good, but at the same time the version that they put out, that’s actually the wrong version. That’s not the mixed and mastered version, so I just hit ‘em so I am trying to get that up right now so everybody can get the real feel of it. Other than that, it feels great. It was just good to work with brothers again.”  (Original source: XXL Mag, March 19, 2014)

Warner Bros. Records Signs Legendary Hip-Hop Group Wu-Tang ClanSome fans may scoff at this, but the chorus in ‘Miracle’ is actually an act of genius. Yes it sounds like an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, but the clan’s storytelling here is moving… Inspectah Deck buts his tears on wax when he tells the story of burying his home girl after a case of crossfire, Masta Killa describes that what he’s seen in his life mirrors what is depicted in the Godfather saga, Raekwon flips Drake’s ‘Started from the Bottom’ and transforms it into a mafioso tale, & Ghostface cries for help for his people dying from Ebola and other diseases while the government hides the cures. When Ghost comes in however, 4th Disciple switches the dramatic beat up to epic proportions.

The Preacher claims to fear no man but God, but what about his daughter? Meth, Masta, Cappadonna & Ghost give different perspectives on the rebellious one over the Dusty Springfield sample ‘Son of a Preacher Man’.

Fans that thirst for that true Wu-Tang Shaolin sound are going to rejoice here… Pioneer The Frontier & Necklace fully embraces that. The former sees RZA reaching back for his DAT player, chopping up music from classic kung fu flicks, throwing classic ODB samples and looping it while the Clan’s pen hits tremendous. The latter has production credits from S. Bougard, not sure why that is but fans know it’s 4th Disciple behind the boards. Unlike those other artists showing off what jewellery they got, the clan have legitimacy and express what the chains they wear actually mean to them, anyone foolish to do or say something slick obviously don’t value their neck.

The Kung Fu sample in-between flows nicely into ‘Ron O Neal’, Here the clan pay tribute to the actor who featured in the film Super Fly, Masta Killa brings back one of his memorable lines from Ghostface Killah’s Assassination Day, while RZA demonstrates how he will wake up people with his digital bullet: “I hold the steel like Ron O’Neal/Super fly, do or die, Killah Hill, Brownsville/Never ran, never will, yes I can, yes I will/Put a dot upon your knot then I drill through your grill…”

I’m gonna call this ‘A Better Tomorrow Part II’… as this is a title track on Wu-Tang Forever and there is no explanation of why this track has the same name. Over the Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes ‘Wake Up Everybody’ track, RZA brings the 1975 classic to 2014 as Method Man starts it off in an inspiring Nas One Mic fashion, Masta Killa & Cappadonna continue to teach the seeds but it’s the Chef who has the shining moment as he address the latest goings on in police brutality ad injustice: “We want justice, police supposed to protect and serve/And then they shoot us down like wild animals/The nerve of them cold-hearted killers/With blue suits slaying our black youth/The earth cries from all the blood that’s being spilled…” The backward quote comes from RZA “The original man is God, the supreme being, black man from Asia” It’s done that way because Rae’s last bars explain the slavery tactics of turning black people against each other. A stunning track, but compared to A Better Tomorrow Part 1, well that’s another story…literally.

Shout out to Martin Luther King – he made the album! How crazy is that!!! In ‘Never Let Go’, the clan drop jewels all over the track… even if RZA clearly got his message across, he could have sounded a bit more savage or have that tone of voice he had in the Gravediggaz Shovel album…Wu-Tang Reunion closes out the album… originally called ‘Family Reunion’ when it was released in the Spring of 2013, the soul is all there but there were issues of the first single that it should be a head banger…

…and that’s the main reason Wu fans are divided over this album: Lack of raw, head bangers, that 4th Chamber like sound, that Winter Warz type sound. Fans all over social media are disappointed over this album, and rightfully so… yet a lot of them don’t break it down properly, this is where I come in.

“…and the RZA, he’s the sharpest muthaf***a in the whole clan he always on point…with the beats, with the rhymes whatever, any DJ..” (Method Man, Intermission, 1993)

Is that statement still relevant 20 years later? Or is RZA ahead of his time? What RZA has done is incorporate a lot more live instrumentation over traditional Wu beats – if you listen very closely, the Wu-Tang sound is all there. This is all good – IF RZA did this on his solo albums… the fans may receive it a lot more. The fans were told – this is the last clan album. So in that case, the clan needs to go out in a bang.

N!**@$ can’t even understand half this sh!t
I think n!**@$ ain’t gonna figure it out til the year Two-G…” (RZA, Bells Of War, 1997)

SAM_3845…but the album doesn’t seem that epic to be that LAST album, we did feel that vibe with Jay-Z’s The Black Album, but not this. Fans say no wonder Raekwon had his issues… listen to Raekwon on this album – he truly shined. He wanted outside producers to add-on. RZA should have agreed, maybe not Dr Dre as reported, but maybe producers that can capture the Wu-Tang sound like MF DOOM, Apollo Brown or 9th Wonder. Having said that, if RZA did allow that, the same fans with the gripes would complain that they want a fully produced RZA/Wu-Elements album. Two of those aforementioned producers are criticized for not varying their beats, but RZA shows growth and progression. Is it really a bad thing? This is 20 years later, you can’t expect it to be 1993. The clan have evolved from that, even though there are moments in the album (Hold the Heater, Pioneer The Frontier, Necklace).

Side notes: Even though Tekitha was not as dominantly featured like earlier albums, it was good to hear her background vocals in the Better Tomorrow Part 2 track. A few WU-TANG!!! Chants wouldn’t have hurt either, severely lacking in this album. It was great to see the more dominant MCs in the crew step back a little while Masta Killa, U-God and Cappadonna in particular moved forward with more fire in their belly.

One other thing worth noting, When Wu-Tang Forever first dropped in 97, a lot of fans actually dismissed it. Fast forward over 15 years later, and fans hail it as arguably the best Wu album. Let’s see what happens with this album in about 10 years time. Even the clan have hinted that A Better Tomorrow may not be the last album at the conference. With all that said, Is A Better Tomorrow a good album? YES. Is it an album we had hoped for as its last album? NO. Is it a classic? Ask me in 10 years.

WU-BLOCK (Ghostface Killah & Sheek Louch)

Wu-Block album coverIf 2012 is to remembered for something in hip hop as well as top quality albums, it is hip hop album collaborations. It’s something not really seen in the early days maybe due to label deals and other politics, but artists have established themselves now to a point where they can pretty much control their own career paths. This year we have seen Ras Kass & Doc Hollywood, Apollo Brown & OC, Apollo Brown & Guilty Simpson, and now Ghostface Killah & Sheek Louch.

These Wu-Block collaborations began in the mid 2000’s, on Ghostface’s Pretty Toney album, where The Lox/D-Block featured on two tracks, Metal Lungies and Run respectively. But since then they have appeared on each others albums and mixtapes consistently so, they thought it was only right to give the fans (and the streets,) what they want.

Wu-Block 2012 (the title suggests more collaboration albums from the two camps) is a 14 track album (16 if you count the iTunes version…) strictly for the streets, you will find NO radio joint here, neither will you find a super producer here either (apart from Erick Sermon). A risky move, one might say, but RePPiN4U sees it as artists who recognize hungry producers who may make it big in 2013. So did the risk pay off? Or is it a case of Immobilarity?,

No messing about, no intro, just straight into the bangas. It begins with Crack Spot Stories. You may recognize the beat from J Dilla’s Love It Here, or perhaps Masta Killas new track, Are You Listening? from the Selling My Soul album (which will be reviewed on RePPiN4U top of 2013.) But I think Ghostface, Sheek, Raekwon & Jadakiss flipped this beat the best.

Time to ‘Pour Tha Martini’ with Sheek, Cappadonna over a triumphant beat… both guys go in ferociously, but it’s Ghostface who has to fight the groupies off here.

Photo courtesy of Mike Jackson

Photo courtesy of Mike Jackson

After that they gotta ‘Pull Tha Cars Out’, Cappadonna tags out, Method Man tags in. If Ghostface was fighting the groupies off before, he will have to give in now that his fellow clansman has entered the arena and we know how the ladies feel about Hot Nix…

The wordplay here by Sheek on ‘Guns For Life’ is amazing: “I known him ever since he was nine, now he 22 Thinking he 45, that n!**@ is live, Like to come with me everywhere when I drive Trouble maker same time, keep you alive His ego too big, he be getting pumped I told him chill, he said it’s better when you getting jumped…” Styles and Ghostface tell equally amazing stories about their ‘significant other’… no secret these guys but their gun and they sound as if they almost love it as much as Allah…

Back in ’93, the clan told you to proteck ya neck…. now obviously fake wannabe gangstas have not taken heed the warning. Styles P stays in tow, and now Raekwon joins him and are ‘Comin For Ya Head’. Th joint coalition tell their hustling tales on ‘Cocaine Central’, they make it sound mad exciting. Sheek becomes amusing when he leaves a message on Ghostface’s phone telling him to get his stuff together and do the Wu-Block tour. Reportedly Ghost is making excuses that he has the flu but he left with women the night before….hmmmm!!!

Wu-Block are urging you to ‘Take Notice’ here. Sheek continues is stories of fantasizes about president first ladies, and Ghostface is going on like he does have the flu…. he doesn’t sound like he’s rhyming through his head!!!

‘Driving Round’ features the album’s only non Wu-Block guest – Erykah Badu. Think of the clan’s video for It’s Yourz when it switches to Older Godz, but slow that video right down. Instead of Raekwon, Sheek is in the car. Now you get the picture. Masta Killa’s flow suits the chilled out pace of the track, and ironically enough, GZA, who also appeared on Older Godz, compliments the track. These guys are driving round observing the state of the projects and letting the misguided know how it really goes down instead of all these other artists sugar-coating everything.

Don’t you just love at the start of tracks either Ghostface or Raekwon go on a random rant before they go in? Ghostface, Sheek Louch & Inspectah Deck show no

Photo courtesy of Mike Jackson

Photo courtesy of Mike Jackson

matter where they are in the world, doesn’t matter if they are in ‘Different Time Zones’, they all connect and get their hustle on regardless on a beat that sounds tailor-made for Killarmy. The Fifth Brother tags out, in comes Jadakiss. as they pay homage to Method Man & Redman’s Blackout as they become the ‘Stick Up Kids’.

The next banger may solidify Wu-Block as the ‘modern day All In Together’ crew, and they intend to keep it all in together in the club if guys be frontin’, Ghostface warns those who think snitching is a good idea: “Trust me, you ain’t convincing/And this’ll be the same club you get lynched in/And it’ll be the same blood you get rinsed in/Doctor bills don’t play they expensive…”

The chemistry between Sheek and Ghostface is almost reminiscent of the Cuban Linx saga, as they speak on half-ass rappers wearing all this fake jewelry and having a suspect chin, and fabricating hip hop. They are letting them know this on the Erick Sermon produced ‘Do It Like Us’, featuring a more vicious sounding Raekwon. It’s good to hear that side of Rae as opposed to the more mellow side that we hear now. Raekwon tags out, tags in a shining Method Man on the shady lady tale ‘Stella’…. “It’s survival, homey, you ain’t never lied, my lord But the Pretty Toney baby ain’t never lied before That’s a hundred lucci, word to Bully, I smoke too many loosies I know her history, if something fishy, must be the coochie It ain’t no mystery, your finger itchy, if she a groupie Once you go up, once you go down, let’s keep it Gucci…”

Finally Sheek and Ghost go line for line on the humorous ‘Been Robbed’… Ghost’s robbing game is so tight that he even has the most ferocious dog acting like a puppy, while Sheek takes off with hustlers jewelry and their ‘podium’… insinuating that they are b!tches.

‘Bust Shots’ is the hidden bonus track on the album, and arguably the most Wu-sounding, reminiscent of GZA’s Liquid Swords. The iTunes version has an equally impressive remix by Andrew Kelley, which has a more Bulletproof Wallets feel.

Wu-BlockThis is a very solid effort by the Wu-Block coalition. On first listen,  some tracks sound uninteresting and skippable, that is after learning that the clan’s abbott is absent in the album, maybe due to his Man with the Iron Fists project…it is also a shame that they didn’t include their anthem track that was produced by RZA as well as a bonus track…but give it more listens and you find that they have maintained a consistency. This album is not as immediately catchy and absorbing like other quality albums that has come out this year, but throughout the album you can see that they have remained a constant unit, no slacking from either camp, plus the fact they kept the guest appearances within the two camps and just let Erykah Badu come through to lay those necessary vocals. With the Wu’s presence, D-Block definitely brought their A-game. Here’s hoping that now the Wu will make that dream collaboration with Boot Camp Clik, we have already seen great stuff from them collectively in the Chamber Music and Legendary Weapons albums, but as we enter 2013, the clan’s 20th Anniversary, we don’t mind waiting on that dream. In the meantime we can enjoy this, The Man With the Iron Fists Soundtrack and Masta Killa’s Selling My Soul without ruining our appetite.