There was a time in my life when any associate of the Wu, no matter how tertiary or tangential, would find it’s way into my record collection. If Ol’ Dirty Bastard was a guest star on the album, that was good enough for me. And on the Sunz of Man self-titled debut album (subtitled “The Last Shall be First”) he was indeed all over their first single, a remake of the funk/soul classic “Shining Star” by Earth Wind & Fire over 20 years after the original first made a splash on “That’s the Way of the World.” He was not the only Wu-Tang Clan member on their debut though – Method Man, Masta Killa, Raekwon the Chef and U-God all got down with the Sunz. You couldn’t get much more of an official stamp of Wu endorsement for a project than that. Killah Priest was also somehow tied into the group, but as many readers already know Killah himself has always been on the outer fringe of the Wu family, largely by his own choice and because his biblical bent never quite blended with the heavily muslim and/or 5% Nation leanings of the hardcore inner Wu.

Out of the remnants of the Sunz of Man emerges “The Return of Prodigal Sunn,” one of the most enigmatic members of that group. Who is this potential star who wants to shine brighter than the Sun? His vocal delivery feels a bit like Ghostface, a little like Smoothe Da Hustler, and somewhat like Kool G. Rap. With all those different influences in his flow, you can’t really pin down his style to one form other than to say it’s “grimy East coast shit.” If you had to pick one song on his album that really explains his lyrical style and narrative ability, the DJ Battle & Keno produced “Soul Survivor” is the one that best showcases his ability:

“Critically acclaimed, snakes tried to slither and vain
Physically I twist up they frames and hit up they veins
You don’t know who you fuckin’ with, man
It’s P-Sunn, Zini the flame, catch me car, bus or train
A royal flush in the game, it tames, sustain
Heavy on the brain, claim, reign in the hall of fame
And I’mma keep on doing my thing, diamond from the rough
I can’t get enough, we puff that sticky stuff
The bigger the bluff, the quicker to snuff
Face in your drink, and cunt blamed for stickin’ it up
And that’s the penalty for thinking you tough
Me and the kings, gleem extreme, bean pack a mean 16
Clips, whips, drips, they call it the American dream
Accumilatin’ stacks of CREAM, that black redeem
King on the scene, supreme, I stay clean
Ladies love what the Sunn bring, better than bling”

Sunn tries to crossover with a few smoother songs on his album meant to open him up to a wider audience, but his rugged flow and on-beat off-beat style may make it tough for him to connect with the mainstream. Still with Madame Dee singing the hook on “Movin’ on Up” and “Reach Out,” he has at least a chance of getting to that next level. The latter is a B Original banger with Sunn spitting some mathematical shit that would put him in perfect company with RZA or Raekwon, even though none of those founding Wu members can be found on this release. Still you’ve got to think they’d be feeling these rhymes:

“Yeah, this goes worldwide to every man, woman and child
Victims of the system, X-Files, prison exiles
Due to your trial, environmental guilty and wild
Just keep ya, head up in hell excel, walk with a smile
Preachin the babies, juveniles bleeding, key to the puzzle
Many got, knocked in the hustle, shot in the struggle
Government scams, poor less, fortunate fams
Got ’em lovin, boat by the gram, recorded on cam
Many scram for the cheddar, better things in life
High price ice, it’s all on how you scream them dice
A lot of steam broc’, white rice, keeps me precise
The magnetic, calasthetic, mathematic device
Communicatin’ through pay phones, cell phones and land lines
With mankind, American Rap Star, on Showtime”

Unfortunately it’s hard to get a grasp on what Prodigal Sunn is about with so many of the songs bogged down by people who are themselves third or fourth tier level relations to the main Wu equation. 12 O’Clock, 60 Second Assassin, and Yung Masta all appear througout the album, and very few songs on this release don’t have at least one guest if not two or three. Still it’s easy to dig the boom bap gun clap style of “Procrastinators,” the simple and effective piano loop behind “Betrayal” and the self-confessed “get it crunk like Lil’ Jon” smashed out stylings of “Manhunt.” After being held back in the shadowy nether-world of minor Wu-fame, the rapper named Prodigal Sunn seems destined to live up to his name and return home to claim his rightful due. This album doesn’t quite live up to the full potential that the MC has, but if he could cut back on guest rappers and come with some more fire on the mic and on the beats, he’d be a serious force to be reckoned with.

Prodigal Sunn :: Return of the Prodigal Sunn
6.5Overall Score