Wu-Tang Chamber Music

Title: Wu-Tang Chamber Music

Artist: Wu-Tang Clan

Label: E1 Entertainment

Format: CD,  LP, MP3

Catalog No.: KOC-CD-4215

Release date: June 2009

Joke’s on us! Despite the looming “W” on the cover of this album, Wu-Tang Chamber Music, is not technically a Wu-Tang album. Masta Killa, Method Man, and the GZA are sadly absent, replaced by fellow ‘90s East Coast rappers like Masta Ace, Cormega, AZ, and Kool G. Rap. But with RZA as executive producer, the album retains a very strong Wu vibe, featuring terrific rap lyricism and original beats that fill the void 8 Diagrams disappointingly did not. Also produced by Fizzy Womack (Lil Fame of M.O.P.), Andrew Kelly, and Bob Perry, it’s difficult to know exactly who’s doing what on any given track, but the philosophical vociferations that sprinkle the album are clearly the work of ‘the universal Buddha,’ as RZA so names himself.

Here is a clip of RZA speaking about Wu Tang Chamber Music Vol. 1:

Though only 8 of its 17 tracks are actual songs, Chamber Music is impressively sincere, maintaining that loveable stubbornness that Wu-Tang fans adore. Ghostface is still rapping about ripping limbs and sexing women, the RZA is still being eerily strange, and Inspectah Deck is still lord of syncopation. Paired with live musical backing by Brooklyn soul-funk band The Revelations, the songs flow easily into one another in spite of the spoken word tracks.

“Ill Figures” is lyrically the best song on the album—the wordplay, slang, and OG style fit perfectly with the repetitive chorus-free beat, giving each rapper’s verse a unique pulse. “Harbor Masters” is also solid, but the weird echo on Ghostface’s verse distracts the listener from how great it is. On “Radiant Jewels,” non-Wu rappers Cormega and Sean Price rock the mic and, regardless of how overstated a line like “lyrical elevation causes mental stimulation” could be, Cormega switches it up by also referring to his lines as a “lyrical aquaduct,” making it OK. On “I Wish You Were Here,” Ghost delivers raw rap sex to every female, and to no female in particular, as Tre Williams provides perfect soulful accompaniment. Meanwhile, on “Sound the Horns,” U-God informs us that he’s “that superhero with the brand new costume.” Lastly, lest we Wu-Tang Clan fans forget, there is also a brief tribute to ODB in which the RZA talks about the importance of freedom.

All in all, the album was short and sweet with a simplicity that propelled the tracks forward and didn’t disappoint. It would have been great if there could have been more songs, but as this is the first thing any Wu-affiliations have put out in so long, allowances must be made. The live music was refreshing and effective, not in the least impairing the Wu-Tang groove. RZA claimed that, “The goal of this album is definitely paying homage to our early sound.” That it did; job well done.


Reviewed by Rachel Weidner

Hip Hop

GZA/Genius.  Pro Tools (Babygrande, August 2008)

GZA, one of the original members of the Wu-Tang Clan, once again proves he is a master of production, combining great rhymes and beats into an album that is sure to become a classic. A host of guest producers were involved as well, including Bronze Nazareth, Allah Mathematics, True Master, Arabian Knight, Jay Waxx and Black Milk. Featured artists also include GZA’s son Justice, and Wu-Tangers RZA and Masta Killa. Tracks include the ode to ghetto youth “Short Race” and the politically charged “Columbian Ties” and “Path of Destruction.”

Knarls Barkley. The Odd Couple (Downtown/Atlantic, May 2008)

The duo known as Knarls Barkley is a collaboration between producer Danger Mouse (a.k.a. Brian Burton) and Atlanta rapper/singer Cee-lo Green, a former member of the Goodie Mob who pioneered the Dirty South style.  This was one of the break-out albums for 2008, which built upon the success of their previous release St. Elsewhere.  By merging hip hop with neo-soul and blending in large doses of special effects, they’ve created a style that’s all their own.

Young Jeezy.  The Recession (Def Jam, July 2008)

When Southern rapper Young Jeezy released The Recession last summer, he probably had no idea that the economy would continue to freefall.  And he cut the final track, the Obama shout-out “My President,” well before the election.  Addressing these topics put him somewhat ahead of the pack and add a significant degree of social relevance, though its not sustained thoughout the album. Then again, maybe he’s found a new focus since it was just announced that he is performing at the “Hip Hop Inauguration Ball,” along with T.I. and LL Cool J.

Akrobatik.  Absolute Value (Fat Beats, February 2008)

Boston rapper Akrobatik, who interestingly has a side gig as an announcer for the “Sports Rap-Up” segment on Boston hip hop station 95.5 FM, released his most significant album to date in 2008.  Absolute Value positions him firmly within the socially conscious alternative rap pantheon, with tracks such as “Rain” that addresses gang violence, and “Front Steps, Pt. 2 (Tough Love)” which slams gangsta rap with the rhyme “They shut down the conscious rosters/But talk about being a pimp you’ll get an Oscar.”   Among the many guests are Talib Kweli (“Put Ya Stamp on It”), Little Brother, Chuck D, and B Real.

Will C.  Down the Dial (Double You Productions, 2008)

Compiled by Will C., a Boston area deejay,  Down the Dial is a mix of highlights from the influential radio program Rap Attack, hosted by DJ Mr. Magic and broadcast over New York’s WBLS-FM in the 1980s. Will C. combed through piles of old DATs and cassettes containing airchecks from the show, culling watershed moments from the original programs. What is unique about this project though, is the manner in which the old is mixed with the new.  “What I did with this project was absorb the format of Mr. Magic’s radio shows over a period of years . . . when I went into the studio to put together some Will C. mixes, I always kept in mind the master mixes of deejays like Marley Marl and Chilly Q on the Rap Attack. . . The end result, if all went according to plan, are moments on Down the Dial where you can’t tell if you’re hearing the vintage side of things or the new pieces.”