Release Date: Oct 23, 2012
Record label: Soul Temple
Genre(s): Rap, Pop/Rock, Soundtracks, Stage & Screen, Film Music
The martial-arts epic The Man With the Iron Fists is the RZA's directorial debut – although, figuratively speaking, the beat wizard has been making kung-fu movies for as long as the Wu-Tang Clan existed. The soundtrack is not as evocatively cinematic as the Wu's greatest songs, but it's a tasty mixtape – a blend of vintage R&B, neosoul and hip-hop, featuring Kanye West, Pusha T and many Wu members. The Black Keys bring scuzz funk to "The Baddest Man Alive," setting a grainy-film-stock 1970s vibe that's sustained throughout – even when Kanye is bragging about jet-setting and name-dropping Kurt Cobain.
Legendary Wu-Tang Clan producer RZA hasn’t always had the strongest track-record when it comes to movie soundtracks. Longtime fans may remember the disappointing Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai album from way back in 2000, that not only failed to live up to the RZA’s musical legacy, but also paled in comparison to its Japanese exclusive counterpart. Later RZA would score the 2006 martial arts extravaganza The Protector, and while his heart was in the right place, his composition fell flat and sounded uninspired.
Not only is RZA in the director’s chair for his debut film The Man With The Iron Fists, but as executive producer of its soundtrack he has helmed a cohesive, equally cinematic collection of music that stands on its own and respects the art of sequencing. Like his mentor Quentin Tarantino did with Pulp Fiction, RZA “casts” the OST with artists from his own stable, iconic veterans and hungry newcomers putting a fresh spin on a genre that has grown more anemic with each passing year. Freddie Gibbs and Method Man share the same relaxed rapport on “Built For This” as Travolta and Samuel Jackson discussing the power of foot massages.
RZA's directorial debut, The Man With the Iron Fists, may not be a great movie. But I don't think making a great movie was his goal. It seems more likely RZA wanted to make an awesome movie, and the difference lies in a willingness to embrace the absurdity of the medium. RZA skirts the line between cliché and homage, conflating eye-popping violence with gut-busting laughter.
Offered the opportunity to direct a karate flick -- and with all the freedom, funding, and flash that an executive producer like Quentin Tarantino would allow -- Wu-Tang leader and kung-fu fanatic RZA must have been like a kid in a candy store. Still, the soundtrack to his directorial debut is classic, restrained RZA, as sneaky, restrained, and cool as the Wu when Bobby Digital first landed. After a rap-rock opener that's James Bond big with RZA and the Black Keys reuniting after their collaboration on the Blakroc album, this soundtrack gives up highlights that resist gimmicks or going over the top, with fellow Wu man Ghostface Killah leading M.O.P.
For long-time Wu-Tang Clan fans, RZA's martial arts film The Man With The Iron Fists will comes as no surprise. The NYC hip-hop group have been sampling kung fu flicks since their 1993 debut album. Co-written with Eli Roth, RZA's passion project was made on a "shoestring" budget of $20 million, and the accompanying soundtrack features new music from the Black Keys, Corinne Bailey Rae and Kanye West.