Release Date: Nov 27, 2012
Record label: eOne
Ten years ago, Wu-Block may very well have been the most anticipated release of the time. Ghostface Killah was at the apex of his mainstream popularity following Supreme Clientele and the LOX trio of Styles P, Jadakiss and Sheek Louch were considered by many to be the new faces of east coast gangsta rap. Of course that’s not what happened, and aside from the pair of Pretty Toney Album highlights “Metal Lungies” and “Run” that hinted at Ghost’s chemistry with the LOX, collaborations have been few and far between for the two camps.
Spearheaded by rappers Ghostface Killah and Sheek Louch, Wu Block is a collaborative effort between members of the Wu-Tang Clan and the LOX. The 2012 debut is a pretty accurate throwback to the sound of golden age East Coast rap, complete with soul samples and boom-bap beats. Minus a few modern reference points, it's an album that's firmly rooted in the grimy, thuggish '90s, packed full of mafia don lyrics and endless references to jackin' marks, sportin' bling, and pushin' yeyo.
The traditional Rap group has gone the way of the Whig Party since the turn of the century. Sure, Hip Hop is swimming in “crews” galore – and Golden Era posses still come around every eclipse or so to rekindle that old school magic – but the frequency of new Rap groups emerging on the major-label level have trickled out of the ecosystem. Rising in its place have been a steady stream of Avenger-style team-ups, where oft-marginalized emcees join forces for a select mission or two, combining lyrical abilities for the greater creative good of their fawning fan bases.
On paper, getting Wu-Tang Clan and D-Block together is a pretty sweet match. Ghostface Killah and Sheek Louch have long had a mutual respect for each other, and Wu-Block gives them a chance for an album-long collaboration. With them at the center, interestingly enough, Wu-Block feels more like a duo album than a combination of two crews. We get Styles P a couple times here, Jadakiss stops by, and Wu-Tang is well represented with spots from Raekwon, Method Man, GZA, and Masta Killa.
You don't tune into a D-Block and Ghostface Killah collaborative project expecting surprises, so here's the good news: There are absolutely none on Wu-Block. Neither Ghost nor the LOX have switched up their style in over a decade, which makes listening to Wu-Block feel a little like watching a late-period Woody Allen film; before anyone opens their mouth, you already know exactly how everyone will sound, what they will talk about, what the surroundings will look like. If you're drawn to Wu-Block, it's probably at least in part for the way it promises, for 50 minutes or so, to shut the door on surprises.
Whatever happened to the good old days, wonder Wu-Tang Clansman Ghostface Killah and D-Block’s Sheek Louch on their imaginatively titled collaboration. Like a rap Grindhouse, dripped in grimy nostalgia for a 1990s New York lived on ashen corners, the release turns the clock back in sound and spirit with the languorous productions of regular Ghostface collaborator The RZA replaced by hard beats and menacing samples. The pair strike up a good chemistry, as evidenced on the soulful ‘Drivin’ Round’, with cameo-ing Wu-Tang man GZA butting in to ask: “What is the key to life, with no ignition?” The rest of the record, sadly, struggles to get out of first gear.Al Horner .
Ghostface Killah and Raekwon, arguably the two best MCs of Wu-Tang Clan, notoriously dissed RZA’s work on 8 Diagrams, the latter going as far to call him a “hip-hop hippie” for his experimental production touches and introspective lyrical themes. Regardless of their feelings, 8 Diagrams proved to be one of the collective’s best and most interesting releases due to its diversity. RZA’s increased interest in spirituality and surrealism were the perfect complement to Ghost and Raekwon’s pulpy street tales.
As with any good collective, the strength of the Wu-Tang Clan at their peak was rooted in a tidy sort of balance, one which hinged on the interplay between distinctly different personalities, all bundled together under RZA’s amorphously parasitic production style. The group’s recent strife, ensuing from its members’ dissatisfaction with their producer’s level of control, has been a rebellion against that balance, the kind of dissatisfied grumbling that often accompanies an internal stratification of success. The desire for self-assertion is understandable, considering how many of these guys have long histories of quality solo efforts, accomplishments which might reasonably entitle them to greater creative control, or more than a one-eighth’s share of the group dynamic.
A worthy, satisfying indulgence that’s been a long time coming. Daniel Ross 2012 Safe hands can be trusted, and few come safer than Dennis Coles. As Ghostface Killah, he's been responsible for dragging up the average quality of all of the various Wu-Tang Clan offshoots. Here, he collaborates with Sean "Sheek Louch" Jacobs from D-Block, a lesser-known figure but every bit as important to aficionados.
It’s been almost 15 years since Money, Power & Respect dropped, and nearly twenty since Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) changed hip-hop forever. If the Wu-Block album had been announced in 1999, it would’ve garnered an incredible amount of hype, but today, in a hip-hop industry that could be described as “in-transition,” Ghost & Sheek’s epic collab LP dropped relatively quietly. The music, however, is far from quiet, and maintains the level of lyrical consistency we’ve come to expect from these two mainstays of the old guard of East Coast hip-hop.