Rza’s production triumphs are legendary. From Wu-Tang to various guest tracks, his style is both recognizable and wide-ranging. His latest endeavor, Afro Samurai: The Soundtrack, Rza showcases instrumental tracks, collaborative efforts and epic film scores all in one. Although the music here is predominantly for the Afro Samurai cartoon series, the result is a mixed effort, which combines great songs with forgettable ones.
For the most part, the film scores are dull. Tracks like “Afro Intro”, “Bazooka Fight” “Tears of a Samurai” and “Afro Samurai Theme (second movement)” are slow moving string arrangements, which hardly progress, and simply seem like filler. However, it should be noted that the intent and origin of these scores are for the TV series-which probably work well, but should have remained in that context. But for the purposes of this release, these scores are stale and unmoving. Moreover, instrumental beats such as “Afro’s Father Fight”, “The Empty 7″ and “Ninja Man” have good moments, but are repetitive bars that loop over and over, and are not active arrangements with musical change-ups. The rap tracks on the album are also wildly inconsistent, making them a reflection of the project as a whole. “Certified Samurai” features Talib Kweli, while “Cameo Samurai” teams Big Daddy Kane and the Gza. Both held massive potential, but are tremendous letdowns. In addition, other emcees that appear on the album [Lil Free, Suga Bang, Berreta 9and True Master] all deliver very predictable verses that are neither colorful or warrant repeated listens. The production for said tracks also fall into the range of mediocre and/or dreary.
But not all the songs are completely lackluster. “Just Lil Dude” finds Q-Tip delivering apocalyptic lyrics over a dark beat by Rza. Although such a song is atypical for Q-Tip, it works in this setting and the moods mesh well. Rza’s double duties on “Fury In My Eyes/Revenge”, a melodic beat accompanied by quirky raps, is a great example of his ear for samples and his unique presence as an emcee. Included in this heavy-handed project are also five Bobby Digital bonus tracks from the upcoming album. These tracks are hit or miss, ranging from good verses with terrible hooks, to good beats with clichÃ© raps. The standout is “Glorious Day” where Rza ponders “…A hundred blunts passed, before the god asked us, what’s the square miles of the planet, why is the axis slanted, how much is covered by water, how much is granite…” Hopefully, smart writing and sound production like this will be the fate of the next Bobby Digital project.
Overall, Afro Samurai: The Soundtrack illustrates Rza’s range as a producer but unfortunately, also displays his recent inconsistencies as well. But on the strength of his past work and with the flashes of potency on this project, Rza will always have the potential of another masterpiece. But for now, Afro Samurai: The Soundtrack sure isn’t it.
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