Afro Samurai is a violent Japanese anime series featuring the voice of actor Samuel L. Jackson in the lead role. Premiered on Spike TV in Jan. 2007 (and soon to be released on DVD), the musical score for the series was prepared by Wu-Tang Clan super producer/rapper/composer RZA and was recently released by Koch Records. Over the course of 25 tracks, Afro Samurai: The Sountrack provides a healthy mix of hip hop, funk, and soul and further adds to the RZA’s already rich legacy.
RZA is most well-known as the brains behind the legendary group Wu-Tang Clan. Since 1992, RZA and the Wu-Tang Clan have released numerous hip hop classics including their first two group albums—Enter the Wu-Tang: The 36 Chambers (1992) and Wu-Tang Forever (1997)—plus the solo albums GZA/Genius Liquid Swords (1995), Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (1995), Old Dirty Bastard’s Return to the 36 Chambers: The Thirty Version, and Ghostface Killah’s Iron Man (1996); all produced by the RZA. Furthermore, RZA has produced well-received musical scores for a number of movies including Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai, Kill Bill Vols. 1 and 2, and Blade: Trinity.
Afro Samurai: The Soundtrack is a very experimental album that contains a number of soul and funk pieces; two genres that RZA has not previously mastered. The overt hip hop pieces on the album are, unsurprisingly, very strong. “Certified Samurai” is a banger that features Talib Kweli and Free Murda dropping hot verses over an old school drum pattern and a vocal sample provided by Suga Bang. On “Jus a Lil Dude” A Tribe Called Quest rapper Q-Tip sounds rejuvenated over RZA’s triumphant horn part. On “Cameo Afro,” Big Daddy Kane and GZA prove that 40 is the new 20 as the two old school Brooklyn MCs trade verses over RZA’s brilliant beat.
Aside from the hip hop pieces, the two best songs on the album are the back to back Stone Mecca/RZA soul collaborations “Oh” and “The Walk.” Although the ordering of these songs somewhat corrupts the albums nearly flawless sequence, the outstanding quality of the tracks are unquestionable. Stone Mecca’s strong and unique voice meshes well with RZA’s neo-soul meets boom-bap sound. Also, the brief funk/soul instrumentals are adequate segues between the full-length tracks.
Afro Samurai: The Soundtrack is definitely one of RZA’s finest releases. Although he is very much a hip hop veteran, the successful experimentation on this album proves that he is ever-growing as an artist. If the forthcoming Wu-Tang releases are nearly as good as this, then the group will once again reign over the hip hop nation.
Posted by Langston Collin Wilkins