The year was 1993. America’s first “Black” president was preparing for a term filled with success and scandals, Michael Jordan was in the midst of leading his team to their first era of three-peat championships, and up from the 36 Chambers, nine hungry MC’s made their mark on the Hip-Hop culture that would forever be cemented in history. The Wu-Tang Clan. Unveiling a style that would influence an entire generation of aspiring rappers, they mesmerized audiences with shrewd ideology, street inspired chronicles, unforgettable beats, and that was just Cuban Linx. But that was then and this is now.
It’s 2007 and in-house fighting, solo careers, and the death of Ol’ Dirty Bastard have all tainted the legacy of the once mighty collective. 8 Diagrams, which was supposed to be their triumphant return to the past glory days, only delivers on half its promises as the album’s potential is hindered by tepid production and incongruous songs unbecoming of the Clan given their talented nature.
Still it’s been six long years since their last outing and it’s always interesting to hear the Wu to spit in numbers, and spit they do. The Spanish horns underneath the ghoulish bassline of “Wolves” gets ripped to shreds by U-God, Method Man, and Masta Killa and serves as one of the more ambitious cuts. Likewise the hypnotizing melody on “Stick Me For My Riches” proves to be a suitable platform for Inspectah Deck and Gza to engage in a lyrical joust for the hottest verse. On the moving “Life Changes”, the Clan forms like Voltron to pay their respects to O.D.B. as Meth tries to make light of the situation with lines like “In your honor/I’ve grown a fetish for loose ladies and baby mommas…” and the album’s most cohesive track “The Heart Gently Weeps” contains the highly publicized Beatles’ interpolation and showcases the vivid imagination of the Clan’s top members.
Sadly, The Abbott is to blame for the majority of 8 Diagram‘s miscues. As of late, Rza’s been using the Wu-Tang projects as his own personal experiment and the album’s range suffers because of this. Whether hogging all the “Sunlight” for himself, tossing dull darts on “Weak Spot”, or recruiting George Clinton and Dexter Wiggles to add more gibberish where he left off, all indicate that his best days may be behind him. Throw the poorly executed “Starter” in the fray and you’re left with the most unfocused Wu album to date.
With razor sharp lyrics still intact (see “Campfire”,) the lack of potent production ultimately leaves the bulk of the content to fall on deaf ears. A mixed bag of sorts, 8 Diagrams can be categorized as a plus for the decreasing amount of traditional Hip-Hop, a disappointment for the Clan. Behold the results of underestimating the proper planning needed to create a superior album. But if the days of old are ever to be revisited, talks of creative control and making sure everyone is actively involved are crucial. And with Rza’s latest approval rating parallel to George Bush’s, one can only guess when that’s going to happen.