A mix of old and new that hits robustly yet classily, like a fine malt.
Adam Kennedy 2010
In the harsh light of retrospect, the love afforded to Staten Island leviathans Wu-Tang Clan’s overdue 2007 studio return 8 Diagrams was largely a by-product of relief. Finally, hip hop’s premier crew ceased solo projects, feuds, acting and – in the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s case – getting dead long enough to reconvene as a single force. When old friends return, you embrace and ask questions later.
Quite aside from longing nostalgia for classic debut Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), 8 Diagrams was a patchy proposition rather at odds with itself. What it really required was more objective hands at the wheels of steel. Enter associated family member Mathematics, producer/DJ, who mixes this collection of lost gems, re-fixes and mixtape-ready bangers from the extended Wu crew.
Where 8 Diagrams meandered through smatterings of tracks lasting longer than the average chart rapper’s moment in the limelight, Return Of…’s non-stop attack lends a street cipher vibe. Reminding how very fresh the Wu’s rhymes are on top form, its continuity defies the collated tracks’ origins, spanning 2000 to 2008.
Clap 2010 immediately cuts to the chase with leading Wu lights on the mic, an updated flashy beast befitting choice lines from Raekwon and Ghostface Killah. The latter is in fine fettle throughout the record, too, plastering a cocksure grin to patented street pimp wisdom and unapologetically explicit sex chat.
With skits kept to a merciful minimum, a funky strut is audible in exclusive cut Steppin 2 Me and, later, on Masta Killa’s Iron God Chamber. The heart remains hard, no-nonsense lyrical pugilism, however, even where Mathematics could have ratcheted reminiscence levels on ODB-featuring Early Grave. Closer Keep Pace, meanwhile, equals any prior cinematic Wu timelessness.
Few contemporaries have stuck to their guns – possibly literally – with such conviction and avoided descending into irrelevance. And should patriarch figure RZA ever fancy a break, his charges could do worse than employing Mathematics on beat selection duties.
More importantly, if the Wu’s raw, unreconstructed side is your poison, Return Of… represents a custom-made catchall, hitting robustly yet classily like a fine malt, only minus usually infuriating distillation times.