That's Gladiator Posse Wu, and for anybody questioning the grammatical logic behind this name, these Wu-Tang Clan affiliates will most certainly have some sharp weaponry to answer any queries. An album that tells the listener to NOT go against the grain seems strange, as hip hop was built on going against the grain, fighting the power and opposing the norm. The reason I dug out this forgotten CD is because 2014 sees me going on a quest to collect every Wu-Tang album (yes, even the thousands of affilates' discographies). An admirable feat, yet equally sadistic given the obscurity (and mixed quality) of some that jumped on the Wu-Tang bandwagon, but GP Wu is one of the least Wu-sounding group efforts.
Sunz of Man still had that eastern tinge to their instrumentals, Gravediggaz had a brutal imagery in their raps often reserved for RZA's collection of martial arts samples, and more recent groups like Theodore Unit had one of the Wu to guide their street slang through hard-edged beats. This record sounds less like a Wu-Tang release and more like a traditional late 90s effort from Noreaga, Cam'ron or Nature. The beats are simple yet effective, and each emcee is adept at flowing whilst providing a suitably aggressive presence to convince you of their standard braggadocio and street tales. This isn't innovative hip hop, nor does it try to be.
Pop Da Brown Hornet, Down Low Recka, Rubbabandz and June Luva make up GP Wu, and none of them ever really left a mark on east coast hip hop. It's a shame, because "Don't Go Against the Grain" shows glimpses of chemistry, sincerity and some excellent production that make this forgotten debut well worth hunting down. Songs like "1st Things First" and "Blow Up" are as good as any fondly remembered track from the Duck Down collectives such as Originoo Gunn Clappaz and Black Moon. There's a refreshing lack of skits and movie quotes that can often be overdone on Wu-affiliate albums, further strengthening the standard New York hip hop album feel.
Much of the production is mildly similar to more traditional Wu-Tang fare, but tends to veer more towards the heavier drums and moodiness of Mobb Deep. In effect, it's moody enough yet lacking the dread of mid-90s RZA, nor the eastern instruments a Killah Priest record possesses. GP Wu are defiantly street, but there are moments where their lyricism showcases just why they are down with Ghost and co in the first place. "Chamber Danger" veers on tribal cyphering, painting a dreary picture of a group of guys taking rap back to the essence. There's playfulness on "If You Only Knew", with random singing and what starts out as a warning to men that their lady is liable to cheat with them, ends up with silly statements like "the most beautifullest thing, is when I drop my pants and let my nuts swing". As moody as this album feels, it always has that underlying tongue-in-cheek element that reassures you, GP Wu may well be four street-hardened tough guys, but they're here to have fun first and beat punks down if they need to.
The grim soundscapes border on mimicry at times, as if Mobb Deep's "The Infamous" was the best thing since sliced bread - which I'll admit it can be, and if you're going to be influenced by anything it may as well be one of the greatest albums in hardcore hip hop history. But as sturdy as this project is, there's not quite enough melodies on "Don't Go Against the Grain" to distinguish this as a well-produced record, as other than one or two beats, there's a lot of forgettable instrumentals that sound uninspired. Coupled with some decent if uninspiring emcees, "Don't Go Against The Grain" ends up as a good if not great album, now lost deep within the Wu-Tang universe.
Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 6 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6.5 of 10
Originally posted: March 4th, 2014