Release Date: Jul 26, 2011
Record label: Entertainment One Music
Wu-Tang Clan :: Legendary WeaponsE1 MusicAuthor: Steve 'Flash' Juon"Legendary Weapons" could properly be called a sequel to the 2009 release of "Chamber Music" for a whole variety of reasons, not the least of which is that this isn't a Wu-Tang CLAN album per se. That reality comes with the realization that in 2011, this may be as close as we're going to get to one. The core membership that made the Wu so vital in the early 1990's is increasingly fractured; they're more involved with promoting their own albums, movies, and projects from their proteges than they are in hitting the studio as one unified Clan.
The collective tentacles of the Wu-Tang Clan have unwound so far over the best part of two decades that their very name has become more recognisable as a brand than for the rock-solid rap battalion they once were. Don't get me wrong, the development and expansion of Wu-Tang's creative endeavours hasn't always been a curse, with the likes of GZA, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah and Method Man flying the Wu flag particularly hard on 'solo' classics such as Liquid Swords, Ironman, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 1+2 and Tical, among others. But an almost unnecessary abundance of spin-off releases, compilations and collaborations in recent years, often featuring but a handful of Clan members, has blurred the lines as to what a 'real' Wu-Tang Clan album is nowadays - even the clan themselves are often in disagreement - with many of these products leaving their hardcore following occupied at best, if a little short-changed.
Once rumored to be a true Wu-Tang Clan release, Legendary Weapons arrived as another compilation of Wu whatnot, with affiliates and second-string producers running the show as core member GZA sits things out. In other words, this is the semi-sequel to 2009’s Chamber Music, minus the old-school theme and with more Ghostface Killah, who sounds very Ironman on “Laced Cheeba,” stocked with “rocks clumped up like overcooked rice” while threatening to “come through and season your broth. ” Elsewhere, it’s Method Man and Cappadonna doing the zombie walk on “Diesel Fluid” while RZA does the double-time rap on the up and bright battle hymn “Only the Rugged Survive.
In these difficult times for business, perhaps we can learn something from the Wu-Tang Clan about the dangers of brand extension. Has any artist in history attained quite the degree of audience bafflement achieved by the New York hip-hop collective with their endless spin-offs and franchises and affiliations? You can find desperate, doomed attempts to make sense of it all online. There are discographies featuring a plethora of mysterious record labels that may or may not have been run by RZA and may or may not still exist.
A word of warning: Legendary Weapons is not the Wu-Tang Clan’s sixth studio album, not the follow-up to 2007’s 8 Diagrams. Rather Legendary Weapons is a “compilation album,” endorsed by Wu-Tang and sold under the brand name, but not technically an album by the entire group. Like 2009’s Wu-Tang Chamber Music, the album throws together a handful of Wu members and associates in the hopes that Wu heads starving for hard-boiled gangsterisms and kung-fu beats will shell out a few bucks for a fix.
Note the lack of "Clan" on the cover of the latest Wu-Tang release. This 37-minute LP isn't a proper follow-up to 2007's 8 Diagrams. But neither is it one of those slapped-together collections of B-sides, remixes, and outtakes that mostly function as stress tests for the W's quality control. With the exception of Masta Killa and GZA, every top-ranking Clansman delivers entirely new verses here.
First, it’s worth stressing that Legendary Weapons isn’t exactly a full-blown studio effort from the Wu-Tang Clan. Rather, it’s a tribute album of sorts with heavy involvement from Staten Island’s prodigal sons and acts affiliated with them, providing fresh material akin to 2009’s surprisingly strong Chamber Music. GZA and Masta Killa are both missing in action, which leaves us with six of the original group’s lineup on the microphone, with RZA relinquishing production duties to an assembly line of beatsmiths that operate very much in the shadow of 36 Chambers‘s caustic soul sound.
It wouldn't be a shock to find out that Wu-Tang has a franchising system in place where a nominal fee will grant you affiliate status with the Shaolin clan. How else to explain the small nation of questionable associates, protegés, posses, side-project rappers, R&B singers, spinoff groups and spinoffs of spinoffs (Wikipedia lists an astounding 118 all together) to emerge and dilute the East Coast collective's venerable band over the last decade and a half? Their latest offers more presence from the clan than "Wu-Tang & Friends"-style records like The Sting and The Swarm, by Wu-Tang Killa Bees. Seven of the original nine core members show up here, as well as notable New York rappers AZ, MOP and Sean Price, but ultimately the project suffers from uninspired production and lyrics.
The Clan sounds lean, experienced and relaxed on a recommended new collection. Daniel Ross 2011 Each release by the now-legendary Wu-Tang Clan is met with trepidation by listeners. Since their game-changing inception album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), subsequent collections are worried over in the hope that they might match the majesty of that first recording, rather than the overlong hotchpotch of Wu-Tang Forever or any of their inconsistent recent work.
Ever since the release of their last two group offerings, 2007’s 8 Diagrams and 2009’s Chamber Music, the Wu-Tang Clan have been affiliated with some rather dubious offshoot projects. However, this all changes on the group’s latest not-quite-official effort, properly dubbed Legendary Weapons, which features much of the iconic crew’s usual suspects, including Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, RZA, Method Man, Capadonna, U-God and Inspectah Deck. On the album’s opener, “Start The Show,” Raekwon the Chef and RZA do just what the title suggests, over the subwoofer blaster, proving the lyrical blades remain on point.