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23 July, 2009@2:49 am

The Wu-Tang logo has been used and abused like a cheap prostitute, slapped on just about everything from blue jeans to Playstation games, but it’s most criminal charge was in the late 90’s / early 2000’s, when just about everyone was a “Wu-Tang affiliate.” This spawned countless albums from cousins and nobodies all with the name “killa” or “god” attached to them, not to mention a series of failed label imprints at Priority, Epic, and countless other labels. While this unwise chess move is even mentioned on this album, (RZA “I got 40 million records sold / some platinum, some gold / some we just put out to meet the tax code), it has forever tainted the legacy of the original Clan, removing it’s once pristine track record for delivering a classic album anytime the logo was attached.

The Wu-Tang Clan will never officially break-up – there’s too much at stake for them to dissolve the entity entirely – it’s no secret that the crew has had inner beefs over the years. Strangely, this latest release from “Wu-Tang” (no “Clan”) on the album art, features everyone from the original line-up, however curiously Method Man and GZA/Genius are nowhere to be found. But perhaps it’s only because this isn’t a traditional Wu-Tang Clan release. No, this album is not littered with second cousins and little brothers, but its guests take the form of established NYC emcees such as Havoc, Kool G. Rap, Cormega, M.O.P., and others.  Another new addition breaking the typical Wu formula is that the album is executive produced by RZA, but produced entirely by live Brooklyn funk-soul outfit, The Revelations.

Sewn together with the usual symbolic-of-their-place-in-the-game kung fu flick samples, the album does try to evoke the sound and style of the Clan’s early releases, and for the most part, it succeeds. It opens with “Kill To Hard”, as each Inspectah Deck, U-God, and Masta Ace (!), a back to basics approach that finds the trio over a minimalist beat charged with percussion stabs and chanting ambience. “Harbor Masters” follows, a track built over live performed dirty drums that sounds like they came from RZA’s stable, as M.O.P. and AZ join in the fray. The aptly titled “Radiant Jewels” finds Raekwon in his element over “Paper Thin”-esque drums, as he is joined by the odd teaming of Cormega and Sean Price. The crown jewel of the album however is Ghostface’s cover of “I Wish You Were Here”, played perfectly to fit his style, without him rapping over the original sample’s vocals (thank da gods).

However while it’s exciting to see all of these guests among our beloved Wu-Gambinos – and yes, this is a pretty solid release – with so many guests it starts to sound less and less like a Wu-Tang album as it progresses. Furthermore, it’s deceiving tracklist suggests 17 tracks, but it only ends up clocking under 40 minutes, with really only eight songs – the rest are skits. Among these sketches are mostly RZA waxing philosophically (read: making shit up as he goes along), which interrupts the flow of the album after virtually every song. Finally, while the new addition of The Revelations is a welcome one, and there sound might be perfect for the Clan’s live performances, they just barely miss the mark of recreating a classic Wu-Banger.

All in all, Chamber Music is a much better approach to making a Wu-Tang offshoot project than we’ve seen over the years (The Swarm, anyone?). It’s nice to see RZA and the (most of) the Wu come together for a project that is more for the love and less for the prospect of sales. If you are going in expecting the official follow-up to 8 Diagrams, you will be let down, but it serves as a perfect appetizer to Raekwon’s imminent Only Built For Cuban Links 2. – DJ Pizzo

  Mixtape D.L.
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