The endless branches on the Wu-Tang family tree are infamous in hip-hop circles for just how many artists hang off Staten Island’s coattails to validate their musical contributions. The list of producers with ties to the Wu, however, is much shorter, and Bronze Nazareth is arguably the most active of the Wu-Elements collective (which includes 4th Disciple, Mathematics, and True Master). I still maintain Bronze is the one that should produce a full Wu-Tang Clan album because he represents the modern Wu sound better than anyone. But the lazy Wu-Tang comparisons are largely hollow at this point, given his albums are now devoid of martial arts samples, Clan members, and any mention of the Wu. A Bronze Nazareth album is its own thing and should be judged accordingly. Particularly when you consider his position as a respected beat-maker, Bronze is a better rapper than many Wu-Tang-affiliated rappers, There’s a sloppiness to his flow whereby words feel like they splatter over instrumentals, rather than expertly slotted into place; yet his delivery is convincing and rewards repeated listens.
“Moroccan Hash” is probably the best example of Bronze Nazareth’s growth in 2022. His 2006 debut LP “The Great Migration” is a cult classic in this household, and while I don’t think he’s quite recaptured that level throughout a full album, he’s shown improvements in both his production and rapping at various points in the last fifteen years. Last year’s strong showing “Season of the Se7en” alongside Recognize Ali was a welcome reminder of how Bronze Nazareth can combine with a hungry emcee to great effect. Ali appears on “Guard Your Food” and shows up a surprisingly rough Killah Priest contribution in the process,
It’s the more heartfelt performances that succeed in their vision: “Heart Full of Misery” is classic Bronze Nazareth where a beautiful sample carries the load, as the Michigan emcee shares his pain on having lost his Wisemen comrade Kevlaar 7. He sounds sharper and more genuine when introspective, and tracks like “Dome Windows” lean into the reflective sense of spirituality someone with Nazareth in their name you would expect to possess. There are tracks where Bronze raps over Apollo Brown beats which are predictably enjoyable for anyone wishing to headbutt the floor, but the rapping feels more secondary than it should. It’s hard to argue with a beat like “Talk My Shit” though because sometimes that’s all you can do:
My primary gripe with this album is the adoption of a Stove God Cooks technique whereby Bronze raises his vocal pitch with the last word of his bars. It’s often reserved for boastful songs, but it threatens to derail them. There’s nothing immediately special about the way Bronze raps, but he shows some willingness to experiment with his rap style – there’s a conversational Jonwayne feel to “Snub Nose” and an in-your-face brashness reminiscent of Action Bronson on “The Guv’nor” – but it all comes back to what Bronze can do behind the boards. He’s on a run at the moment, and while it’s easy to be distracted by the standout Apollo Brown contributions, the production from Bronze himself continues to impress.
“If You’re Worried, You Should Be” is nowhere near as meek as that title suggests, even if it does explore Bronze’s fascination with religious imagery and lingering existential dread. Affiliation with the Wu in 2022 may have lost its appeal, but affiliation with Bronze Nazareth certainly hasn’t – if anything he’s in his prime.