Ghostface Killah and Sheek Louch
Wu-Block (to be released November 27, 2012)
Wu-Block should be my dream album.
Combining The Wu-Tang Clan (arguably the most influential rap group of all time) with The LOX (often considered the second coming of the Clan) is like a hip-hop Reese’s peanut butter cup. It’s a concept so simple, yet unbelievably satisfying.
Wu-Block was marketed as a union of the two groups – and at many times it is – but the album is clearly a join project between Wu’s Ghostface Killah and LOX’s Sheek Louch. I’m not complaining: GFK has been the Wu-Tang MVP for years now. And while Sheek is often seen as the low man on the LOX totem pole he’s still stronger than 95 percent of today’s nursery-rhymers.
“Your opinion didn’t matter since BIG heard me rhyme,” Louch defiantly spits on “Comin’ For Ya Head.” That’s the story of Wu-Block, two industry veterans doing what they do best – painting street murals over pavement-cracking beats and soul samples. There’s no cute commercial appeal here, and they could care less.
Ghost and Sheek are joined by Raekwon and Jadakiss on “Crack Spot Stories” for a great ’90s throwback: A grimey tale about chillin’ in the trap with ridiculous metaphors (“Garfield eyeballs/pulling all-nighters”) against a soulful backdrop. You’ve heard it before, but you probably haven’t heard it this well. “Guns For Life” is one of those tracks where rappers personify their weapons – sure, it’s not Nas’ “I Gave You Power” (the gold standard for living firearms) but the storytelling remains superb.
Wu-Tang vets GZA and Masta Killa stop by with Erykah Badu to give us a glimpse into street life on “Driving Round” while Method Man totally steals the show on “Stella,” a tale of a deceiving mistress who gets caught trying to pull a fast one with Ghostface’s cash.
Speaking of The Wizard of Poetry, it’s Ghost who stands tallest on Wu-Block. His outlandish metaphors and limitless charisma make him the driving force behind every track. When he’s not dropping killer punchlines (“Bob Barker microphones, I get paper” on “Cocaine Central”) he’s just unloads baffling but entertaining metaphors, like his wild rant on “Pour the Martini” about his glowing utility belt and demanding exercise equipment on stage.
Ghost’s shining moment is on “Take Notice.” In a raspy voice, Pretty Toney complains about being sick (“they telling me to throw onions and garlic in my socks! I ain’t wit all that!”) before going ballistic on the beat: “You can catch me on G Street, snowflake fur on/cuban’d out, neck looking all beastly.”
Some rappers catch colds. Ghost is ill 24/7.
Wu-Block falls short of greatness because a handful of tracks – most notably “All In Together” and “Pull The Cars Out” – just don’t make a mark, despite A-list talent. They’re the kind of tracks these guys can make in their sleep and you can tell the effort just isn’t as strong as other songs here.
Wu-Block isn’t an instant classic but it’s much more cohesive than the 2010 Wu-Massacre collection. Collaboration albums are notoriously tricky but I’m happy to say that Christmas has come early for Wu-Tang and LOX fans. Forget about those horrible joint albums from Jay-Z and R. Kelly, Wu-Block is the true Best of Both Worlds.
Best tracks: “Take Notice,” “Cocaine Central,” “Crack Spot Stories”
4 stars out of 5