Wu-Chronicles Chapter II
Label: Priority Records/Wu-Tang Records
Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
The Wu's dynasty in hip-hop is unquestioned. Like the martial arts
they have immortalized and the films from which they drew inspiration,
their records are now indelibly a part of the pop culture pantheon.
The seed they planted on "36 Chambers" not only grew and flowered but
spread offspring to the wind, creating hip-hop explosions wherever
they landed - even strong enough to crack concrete just to take root.
History has taught us though that if anything is true about a dynasty
is that it ultimately fails. Leaders are assassinated, royal families
get snuffed out, and revolutions sweep aside the old ways for the new.
Usually these history making events occur at a moment when the elite
grow complacent in their success and let down their guard; failing to
recognize the tsunami sized wave of revolution building off shore and
heading straight for the center of power.
This "Chapter II" of the Wu dynasty is not altogether unpleasant, but
may cause a vague uneasiness in the heart of any Wu-Tang fans - to whit
it comes across as a bit smug and complacent. While the first volume
of the "Chronicles" captured some genuinely brilliant Wu-Tang moments
that some fans may have missed (including appearances with the Tha
Liks, Heltah Skeltah, Mobb Deep and Notorious B.I.G.) along with select
classics from their catalogue, this album seems to lack the depth or
seasoning of that last effort.
No one can question that leading the album with "Above the Clouds" by
GangStarr and Inspectah Deck is a stroke of brilliance, but after that
the clear waters get murky. The unknown Wu artist Two Da Road drops
a cut called "Re-Up" featuring Shyheim, a Wu artist whose own moments
of brilliance are erratic at best - the result being an unremakable cut.
If you think this is bad, just listen to him say "word to my mother I
think they eat Hostess" on the equally lethargic "In Trouble." He
actually gets defensive about his lack of appearances on Clan albums
by saying "It's best I'm kept secretive" and he's right, but for all
of the wrong reasons.
This embarassment is made up for by better cuts such as "Hip Hop Fury"
by the GZA, the seminal "Gots Like Come On Thru" by Buddha Monk and the
snappy "Three Amigos" by King Just rocking with Method Man and Sic. As
good as these tracks are, they're not really the cream of what the Wu
catalogue has to offer; especially considering how deep it runs. There
are any number of slept on songs from the solo albums let alone the
b-sides, soundtracks, and cameo appearances that are much more deserving.
What about the demented "Studio Ton" remix of "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" by Ol'
Dirty featuring E-40 and MC Eiht? How about "Street Opera" by Killah
Priest? No doubt the slamming "America" from the _America is Dying
Slowly_ compilation album merited inclusion. "Dangerous Mindz" by the
Gravediggaz is a dope cut, but the second album isn't that hard to find -
so why not include the much rarer "Mommy, What's a Gravedigga" Cali Mix?
The problem with this compilation is that it's purpose is entirely
obtuse to the average Wu fan. A few rare gems like the RZA remix of
"Eyes a Bleed" by Bounty Killer and treats like the "Wu-Tang Clan Live
Freestyle" featuring GZA and Masta Killa will have the heads open, but
mediocre offerings like "Only 4 My Niggaz" by the Black Knights do not
deserve the same limelight. The selection choices seem at best erratic
and at worst completely haphazard. On a personal note I am glad to see
they included the darkly spooky "Greyhound Part 2" by Killah Priest and
the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion; but there's not much else to crow about.
Only a few of these songs are really bad, but only a few are true gems -
a lot of the rest are either average or slightly above average. A Wu-Tang
compilation should be the best of what this great crew has to offer, but
instead the flowers seem wilted and the vase is cracked. The message I
offer the Wu-Tang is simple - complacency will quickly kill your dynasty.
Music Vibes: 6 of 10
Lyric Vibes: 6 of 10
TOTAL Vibes: 6 of 10
Originally posted: July 10, 2001