U-God’s legacy rests in the awkward space between being part of one of hip hop’s most important groups, the Wu-Tang Clan, and being that group’s least remarkable member. He’s in good company, and in the hip hop afterlife he and Pras are probably going to have a shit load of things to talk about, but in the here and now it has got to be something that weighs heavily on God’s mind. Being the least remarkable member of the Wu after all still leaves you as a member of the Wu, and how many other MC’s can say that… okay it seems like a few million but the point still stands.

“Dopium” seems like U-God has come to terms with those like myself that some might label haters and has decided to collectively hand us our opinionated asses. While the number of guests featured here rivals the Wu’s own entourage U-God, whether intentionally to prove a point or to save money, features no Rza beats on “Dopium.” Instead U-God invites a series of upstarts who’ve obviously dropped the needle down on “Enter the 36 Chambers” a few thousand times on their own until the magic formula of dusty grindhouse kung fu sound track soul and subtle beats is all they’ve got left to groove to. What you’re left with is eleven tracks of brilliant Wu-Tang tribute with one of the Clan’s own gracing his gruff pipes over each burst of samples, keys, and horns. It almost sounds like U-God felt sore about only contributing a few bars to the Wu’s debut and is time traveling to show cats what could have been had he been on deck more.

His normally subdued vocals, known more for its booming bass tone than stunning lyricism, have certainly been stepped up on “Dopium.” Throughout the record God manages to not only hold his own against everyone from Jim Jones to Raekwon to Cappadonna but actually out rhymes Ghostface Killah on the album’s stand out, and opening, track “Train Trussle.” Ghost spits fire to be sure…

“Just jewels, no crew heavy, my inside pants lay
Come packing like two machetes, one ratchet
Two clubs and a mask, jumping out a green rover
Niggas balling me down, that’s when I reached over
Figured they ain’t got no matters, young boys round here
They don’t know my status?See niggas looking for a full time jack move
But they don’t know, that these blades here crack dudes
Give it to them quick, something like fast food
Take a nigga gun like, you gon’ blast who?
Cinderella girl, fronting in them glass shoes
Homo thug, bitch ass nigga, I smash you
You mad, cause you rocking a shit bag, smelling like piss
When it popped, ya click ran, you fucking with powerful men
Come value your business, it ain’t all gravy
You pussy niggas, you’se the Avon lady, fuck you”

… but U-God’s stoned gruff lyrics simply roll of his tongue with bravado to spare.

“Yo, I hit ’em up with the snubs, puff the bigger buds
So sinister, a John Dillinger, yeah, I’ve been a thug
Fire all cylenders, swing with gritty love
Smooth talk, watch a moonwalk up in the club
I’m like Michael Jackson without the glitter glove
Go get it for sure, that’s right, a jitterbug
A minister of death, came back to finish ya
At the tip of the missile, a fish, you been a scud
That’s right, it’s in my blood, damn, what’s in them drugs
They make you spit slugs”

Sure it isn’t all killer material, but the clunkers like “God is Love” are easily over shadowed by the strength of “Train Trussle” and tracks like “Coke” featuring Raekwon the Chef and yet another example of U-God’s stepped up lyric game.

“Illegal transport, son, I throw bombs back and forth
It’s a contact sport, get your arm cracked off
Yo, I blast like I’m task force, stashed in my dash board
Exercise black thought, dance on a catwalk”

Surprises are rare and exhilarating in hip hop. U-God has managed to step up his game the old fashioned way, working on his lyrics and not letting his more famous friends ever overshadow him on his own songs. It feels like there are several hundred Wu Tang related records out there to choose from when you’re laying down your hard earned dollars. Hell I own about half of them. Add “Dopium” to the list of high value releases from the Clan, U-God has managed to kick his way out off the Clan’s 3rd string bench leaving his previous spot far behind. At least Pras will still have the St. Lunatics to talk to.

U-God :: Dopium
7.5Overall Score