Mosaic / Music / Reviews / April 8, 2010

Collaboration bypasses traditional rap

On March 30, Method Man, Ghostface Killah and Raekwon the Chef released their most recent project, “Wu-Massacre,” after nearly a year in production and amid a veritable whirlwind of rumors.

Unlike what many seemed to believe, the three Wu-Tang Clan alumni have not joined forces to form a new rap group but rather simply felt like collaborating with each other again, as stated in interviews by both Method Man and Ghostface Killah.

The three artists struggled to put the album together as each concurrently managed their solo careers, but with tenacity and the cooperation of a wide array of producers, their efforts paid off.

At first glance, the album is standard gangster rap fare: profanity and sexist language abound alongside the stereotypical tales of pimping and street life. Lyrical posturing is never in short supply and there is the odd skit or two serving as interludes between songs.

Standard though the content may be, “Wu-Massacre” does gain the edge in that it is brought to the listener by such venerable figures as these, since Meth, Ghost and Rae have reached the level of fame they have for a reason. The mix of their lyrical styles lends a particular flavor to the album that it might not otherwise have in the hands of a lesser artist.

Songs like “Mef vs Chef 2” and “It’s That Wu Sh*t” are among the finest examples on the album. Both feature simple but effective beats which are accented by minimalistic brassy elements, and both showcase the strengths of the rappers involved.

“Mef vs Chef 2,” for instance, is a back-and-forth pseudo-battle between the titular emcees. Raekwon packs his short and snappy verses with references, but cannot best Method Man’s raspy puns. Both have an excellent command of word play, but in the end, the listener is the winner in this rapper’s spat.

“It’s That Wu Sh*t,” the album’s closing track, features Ghostface Killah’s bombastic lyricism and not quite off-beat rhythms and, as one reviewer put it, Method Man’s “gruff, middle-aged grumpiness.” The chorus, a lone man singing in a not entirely on-key way, is perhaps the only weak point of the song, but this does not detract much from the overall quality of the track.

The trio of rappers should not be content to sit on their laurels, even with some of the better tracks on the album, because not every song passes muster.

The first single, “Our Dreams,” produced by fellow Wu-Tang alum RZA, has nothing wrong lyrically, but the beat, which samples heavily from the Michael Jackon tune “We’re Almost There,” does not always feel quite coherent, with elements playing at off-kilter times and the young Jackson’s voice contrasts with the rappers’ in a way that is not always the most pleasing.

“Dangerous” suffers as well, not due to any defect of production or lyricism but from its utter lack of memorability. The booming bass of its beat becomes a drone over which the rappers are overlaid and the song fades into the background of one’s mind almost as soon as it is over.

If one is a fan of the Wu-Tang Clan, then “Wu-Massacre” will likely make an excellent addition to a musical library, but for all others, the album is hit-or-miss in its appeal.

Dan Dyrda

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