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There’s something to be said for persistence. That’s especially true in music, where it’s admirable for an artist to stick to it and keep releasing new material because he loves what he’s doing, even if it never blows up.

Inspectah Deck has certainly had his share of heady success back in the heyday of the Wu-Tang Clan, but he’s never really captured the imagination of hip hop fans as a solo act. Yet he’s still at it, writing rhymes and handling a big chunk of the production duties for his fourth studio album, Manifesto.

Though Deck has never had the charisma or unique personal style of some of his teammates, he’s always been a dependable, straightforward rapper who excels at both street tales and more abstract lyrics. The Alchemist sets him on the right path with “The Champion,” which falls in the latter category and musically sounds more stereotypically Wu-Tang than some of the stuff that the Clan’s in-house producers put out.

“This Is It” also sounds like what you’d expect from the Rebel INS, who still raps with some urgency in his voice: “Nearly died for it, cried for it, hustling blow. / Wife and the seed, competing with my love for the dough. / The hunger it burns, no wonder they yearn / They tried skipping my turn, this time, motherfuckers gonna learn.”

Sadly, this momentum doesn’t keep up through the middle part of the disc, much of which features Deck behind the boards. He does switch up the sound and the subject matter on tracks like “Luv Letter,” but nothing really stands out or makes you want to press repeat.

Just when you’re about to give up on Manifesto altogether, though, there’s a few pleasant surprises coming down the stretch. “Do What U Gotta” proves that Deck’s flow sounds great over jazzier, less gritty beats – who knew? – while “5 Star G” sees him put a better than normal spin on spitting game to the ladies. The final track, “Ghetto Love,” is up-tempo and sexually charged, and if you played it for someone without telling them who did it, they may mistake it for Jay-Z – not a bad thing in this case.

The title of the album makes it seem like Deck is trying to make a statement of some sort, and it’s not really clear if there’s anything there beyond the fact that he’s going to keep grinding. But when you stop to think about it, longevity is it’s own reward, and at the very least, the Inspectah shows us he has enough left in the tank to keep going.


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