Legendary Weapons: Wu-Tang Clan

Wu-Tang Clan
Legendary Weapons
(eOne Music)

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Wu-Tang Clan’s new release, Legendary Weapons, isn’t quite a studio album: it never features more than three Wu-Tang members on any track. Instead it’s a compilation of Wu-Tang orientated songs, each one steered by at least one prominent member of the group. Its release, however, is overshadowed by the Wu-Tang Clan’s impending sixth studio album, which is due next year.  But Legendary Weapons is a fine piece, whose quality makes it one of the group’s better records. Still, it doesn’t come close to the energetic brilliance of their most revered records.

The album opens with a familiar kung fu movie audio sampling that leads to the introductory piece, “Start the Show,” rapped by Raekwon and RZA. Raekwon is in blistering form and his opening lyrics are a whirlwind of quick, coolly delivered rhymes. RZA’s flow is made to look comparatively pedestrian, but the quality of his lyrics sustains the track. The second number, “Laced Cheeba,” is a Ghostface Killah showpiece. Packed with threat, his verse rotates incidental anecdote and neatly rhymed threats. He talks of, “Rocks clumped up like overcooked rice/I’m nice, you the reason why the game went soft/Playing niggas, I come through and season your broth.” It’s a song that intermingles hip-hop braggadocio with flashes of street life narrative.

Of the eight remaining songs (there are three interludes and an “Outro” on the album), “Meteor Hammer” and the title track stand out–it’s no coincidence that Ghostface Killah features on both. The former recording, with the robust production of Noah Rubin and Lil’ Fame, celebrates a kind of bloody-minded bravado, embodied by repeated reference to “Charlie Sheen out in Vegas.” The album sparkles most vividly on its title-track. “Legendary Weapons” is a classic Wu-Tang joint, powerfully self-acclaiming (“Rock that black and yellow before Wiz Khalifa”: a nice summary of a manifesto that puts content before posturing). Ghostface is “like Billie Jean/Lighting up the floor when I walk,” his performance enhanced by a first-rate contribution from AZ, and a final verse from M.O.P. It’s a suitable centerpiece to another expert offering from one of hip-hop’s most trustworthy outfits.

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