Thursday, November 29, 2007

Don't Speak Much...Deluxe Plus Imagination

Ghostface has a new response for the RZA. The Rhapsody interviewed Ghost recently in advance of his approaching solo album Big Doe Rehab. The report begins with the standard prealbum fare, but soon becomes interesting as Ghost addresses/denounces both Tony Yayo & prior collaborrator Lord Superb [Lord "If you don't bring me some motherfuckin' cognac I'll kill you" Superb]. Then Ghost turns to 8 Diagrams & the RZA.

Shifting to the upcoming Wu album, how would you say the music on 8 Diagrams measures up to classics like "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'"?

Could never match up. You crazy?!

Raekwon recently had voiced his displeasure with 8 Diagrams’ musical direction. Are you happy with how the album came out?

That shit is wack. I heard RZA was changing some of the beats around the last minute. I didn’t hear that. I don’t know what y’all listening to out there. I never heard it. I’m with Raekwon.

Both you and Rae had spoken about being owed money by the Wu hierarchy. RZA stated in an interview with Tim Westwood that he doesn’t owe anyone money.

I just won my court case from them niggas. The suit been in there for three years. So put that out there. They just lost their fuckin’ case. So who don’t owe who money? Let’s get it straight, RZA. That’s all I’m sayin’, baby. It was a loss, they lost. L-O-S-T. That’s really it.

How you and RZA’s relationship now?

I don’t see RZA, man. That nigga’s real sneaky. I love him, though. Ain’t no bad blood. Ain’t nobody doing no bad to him. It’s just that you can’t get money with a nigga.

Meanwhile, Big Dough Rehab drops Dec 4th, a week before 8 Diagrams. Like the Rhapsody writer mentions in his/her intro: there used to be a time when the world would be excited to get a new solo one week & a new Clan album the next. Perhaps the time to return to that sort of mindstate has arrived.

* * *
& now SOHH has their own interview with Ghostface, where he continues his separation tactic. But Kanye & Pharell? Ghost & Rae might have more credence if they didn't continually have bad ideas & questionable projects.

"RZA ain't listening," Ghost revealed. "He wanted to make [8 Diagrams] how he wanted it and it ain't come out right. He wanna always do the whole thing himself, produce the whole album. We're like, let's bring in some other producers too. Bring in Kanye, bring in Pharell. You ain't gotta do the whole thing yourself. He wanna make his own instruments and shit and it sounded real horrible."

"So now it's like when fans come up to me like, 'Ghost, why you let them put that out,' it's like nah, we ain't taking the blame for that," Ghost continued. "That's what Rae was saying. We ain't co-signing that. It's like, the game is different. It's not how it was 10 years ago. We're trying to tell him, you can't just put a Wu-Tang album out and just think it's gonna sell just because. We been gone for what, six years? It's hard to win new niggas. A lot of the fans now was in fucking diapers when we first started doing this. That's why a nigga like me drop every year. I stay relevant."

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& now even more from Ghost, this one from MTV, in which he calls the album "bullshit" over & over... is anyone else starting to get tired of all of this?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Someone Finally Gets How Good The Beats Are

That someone is Tom Breihan writing for the Village Voice, in an article called "8 Diagrams: RZA's Drug-rap Masterwork." After beginning with an apt point in regards to the vocal sample that precedes Campfire, Breihan soon arrives at

The fact that 8 Diagrams even exists is some kind of miracle, and it's even more amazing when you consider that not one song on the entire album has the faintest chance of becoming a crossover hit. 8 Diagrams is a deeply weird album, a total immersion in weed-fried mythology and willfully obscure tangled-up black psychedelia. It's clearly the album that RZA wanted to make, and recent developments show that he may have burned up all his goodwill with the rest of the group in the process.

The one thing here that I might disagree with is his sense that nothing on the album could blow up--either version of Wolves, given the right treatment, could be huge, ditto Stick Me For My Riches, perhaps even Starter. Another questionable Breihan take is his statement against the RZA as a rapper, saying that while he enjoys him on Sunshine, "I've never much liked RZA as a rapper because he always sounded totally content to ignore his own beats." This is an oft repeated opinion--at least distaste for RZA on the mic, if not for that precise reason--that continually makes no sense to me. Bobby Digital is one thing, but RZA's mid-nineties performances on tracks such as 4th Chamber, Assassination Day, After the Smoke Is Clear, Windpipe, '96 Recreation, Mr Sandman, Diesel & Wu-Gambinos are as forcefully interesting as anything in Wu history. But then Breihan does correctly note Method Man's incredible performance on the album, & then continues to praise the record as a whole:

The things that Raekwon doesn't like about 8 Diagrams are the things that make it something like a masterpiece. At least during the recording of the album, all the Wu guys seemed to realize how great they sound over RZA's bent orchestral beats, and they stepped it up accordingly. And even if RZA never manages to get these guys back under his spell, the end result may be worth it. It's going to take a long, long time to untangle 8 Diagrams, but even a few days after it leaked, it's pretty evident that we won't be hearing another rap record this bent and fascinating anytime soon.

Video of RZA on Tim Westwood

Check out the above video featuring RZA's recent conversation with Tim Westwood on UK Radio. The interview proves very insightful into the Abbot's current mindstate in regards to the impending 8 Diagrams, & he directly responds to Raekwon's recent negative comments. The quotables from the RZA are too numerous & he becomes quite animated a few minutes in, finishing with a flourish in which he forcefully insists that he neither owes nor has owed money to anyone. Interesting bits are all over the video, one of the most interesting being the fact that it took GZA a few weeks to really appreciate the album, but he now loves it. RZA's comment about how his Wu-Tang presence differs from his Bobby Digital persona (vis a vis his original Thug World verse) is noteworthy as well. When RZA begins naming himself "a master producer" (especially now that the album has leaked) you can't help but want to agree, perhaps begrudgingly for some. The production on the album is, if nothing else, extravagant & forceful.

Meanwhile, an overall look at the Wu's discord heading into the release of the album can be found on MTV's website. The article is pretty thorough & has some good insights into all aspects of the construction of the album, from the tension within the Clan to RZA's production techniques to some reviews of tracks. Pretty much the best overall article on the state of all things 8 Diagrams that can be found in a single friendly dose. The following section is particularly interesting:

"When you read on the Internet that Ghostface is upset that his album is coming out the same day as the Wu-Tang's album, that's because after the tour, Ghost was gone for two or three months into his own world [and] we went back into our own world," RZA added. "So nobody was in synergy of what's really happening and that's what makes the problem. You've got to build every day. ... I can honestly say, though, we did come together to do this record, and it was recorded without money. Nobody got any money in the beginning to do this record — we worked the deal out later — but to sit down and do it, we were still negotiating, but every MC came to the table. Method Man came to that studio, his lawyer called him up [and said], 'Meth, don't go to the studio.' But he came. I think Method Man gave one of his most vicious, most hungriest performances in years on this album. U-God was the first one to come to the studio and said to me, 'You know brothers are trying to say that your production is on left. Let me hear what you got, brother.' I start playing the music and he was like, 'Man, we're going to be on fire. This is beautiful.' When he said that he loved the music I was producing, I knew I was on the right track, because he's the one that that really will say, 'Fuck you.' I took it on face value that we all came because this is what we believe in. Now I think it's a little different, because all this flak is popping up, and it's like, 'Wow, I thought we were all on the same page.' "

Also, if you listened closely to 16th Chamber, the last track from the album leak, perhaps you picked up on the detail RZA reveals about the former Wu names.

That unified sentiment was the inspiration for the album's title, 8 Diagrams. RZA was watching a kung-fu movie almost 15 years ago, and the light bulb turned on. "There was a movie called 'Eight Diagram Pole Fighter,' which features a group of brothers all fighting for their country," he explained. "Their loyalty to their country and their loyalty to each other really struck a nerve to me, and when we first formed Wu-Tang Clan, we actually was called Brother Number One, Two ... Brother Number Five — that's originally how we did it. As time went on, we just took different names and abandoned that idea. For me, it's time to bring that idea back in effect, and that's what the 8 Diagrams is helping to do."

But perhaps the biggest thing to question from this video/article update is do you believe RZA when he says the differences between he & Rae have been resolved?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

8 Diagrams has leaked!

What is presumably the Euro version--since by all reports the US tracklist numbers 14, the UK 16--has leaked to the internet. I wish I could put a link up here, but I don't want to step on any toes, & anyway the album shouldn't be too hard to find. I will drop my impressions after the album has had time to sink in, but one thing is clear, that the RZA delivered in a major way. Some further changes have been made to some of the leaked tracks--perhaps most notably to Wolves, so it will be interesting to catalog & keep track of these. Track it down everyone, & enjoy.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Windmill HQ + RZA Speaks on UK Radio

Though definitely not CDQ, this is the best version of Windmill yet to be released. The track is from a RZA interview on the Choice FM radio station in the UK--what follows is a loose recap of what the RZA spoke about during the conversation. If we are lucky perhaps the full feature was recorded & it will make its way 'round the internet soon...

"No platinum Wu-Tang records have come out since they stopped coming to me. Meth is a 2x plat artist guaranteed, until he stopped messing with me. ONLY ONE GOLD WU TANG RECORD CAME AFTER 2001"

"[in 1994] Busta Rhymes was the only artist who kept it real with me, other rappers wouldnt tell me how much they were making off a platinum album when 36 chambers went platinum and i wanted to know how much people are getting for selling a million"

"I got $4 million just to hand in Wu Tang Forever [not counting royalties]"

"I signed away all of their contracts with me in 2001, $23 million for free, as long as I kept the Wu Tang name"

"I paid for Wu Tang's solo managers at $70,000 a year, for each of them"

"I was at the club dancin to Soulja Boy with the ladies, but I'm not buying his album, I dont want to own it..."

"I pretty much left hip hop in 2003, I was pretty much retired, I went hollywood"

"I used to think.. yo Ghost and Meth are on Def Jam? Rae is on Universal? everything is good, I could leave..."

"The only rap albums I've bought are Jay Z (Kingdom Come and American Gangster)"

on 8 Diagrams...

"Ghostface is the only one who didn't rap on the ODB Life Changes tribute song... I was really disappointed he wouldnt give me a verse for it... aside from Gza, Ghost used to be closest to Dirty.... me and Ghost and Dirty were running partners in the streets from 89 to 92...maybe he'll do one on his album"

"U-God and Inspectah Deck said they would do it if the music is good, they didnt mention money. I was impressed by their responses compared to some of the other ones."

"Our 2007 European tour and Rock The Bells tour are some of our most successful ever"

"If you ad up Meth's 5 million sold, Wu-Tang's 10 million sold, Ghost's millions sold, Rae's million sold, Dirty's millions sold, add it up and it's easily over $300 million off raw hip hop, it only takes maybe $1 million to make a Wu-Tang member album.."

"My agents hate it when I make hip hop again, because Cali is making us rich"

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Starter, Rushing Elephants, Unpredictable, More on BBC Radio

The BBC Radio show 1Xtra played 5 Wu-Tang songs on last Sunday's show, including Take It Back, Rushing Elephants, Unpredictable, Starter, & Windmill. You can listen to the entire show here, but as of now the tracks are unavailable individually. But this is only a matter of time--with the final version of 8 Diagrams in so many different people's hands at the moment, a full retail leak cannot be too far off. For now, enjoy the new tracks.

Starter reuses the main sample from Certified Samurai off of the Afro Samurai soundtrack, & does feature some unnecessary singing between INS, GZA, U-God, & Streetlife's leadoff. Nonetheless, the song is full of wit & the beat is on par with the excellent work we've heard so far from the RZA.

Windmill is longer here than we've heard before, featuring Meth & Cappadonna verses, & it remains a great track. Rushing Elephants has a light, almost cartoony sample, but that is not a bad thing. Yet again Rae appears on the track. For all the vetoes he handed out against the RZA, perhaps the Abbot should've returned the favor, as Rae seems like he's on every song. GZA follows Rae, & then RZA has a verse. Finally comes Masta Killa. The best thing about these tracks is that there are plenty of members per song.

Unpredictable, formerly Thug World, ends the broadcast. The quality of the broadcast seems to fade in & out, yet the track seems more interesting mastered, with some added elements in the beat, & a fairly weird hook. The beat switches up for the RZA's verse, then the horn stabs come back in--there is plenty guitar added to the track, but in an aggressive way.

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Rushing Elephants



Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Reviews: HHC, Spin

Some reviews are starting to find their way to the net. HHC reveals a new final tracklist along with clarifying a few other details.

1 Campfire
2 Take It Back
3 Get Em Out Tha Way Pa
4 Rushing Elephants
5 Unpredictable
6 The Heart Gently Weeps
7 Wolves
8 Gun Will Go
9 Sunlight
10 Stick Me For My Riches
11 Starter
12 Windmill
13 Weak Spot
14 Life Changes
15 Tar Pits
16 16th Chamber ODB Special

Their review follows:

Meth opens the album, spitting steady over a heavy warped plodding beat that definitely cocks a nod towards the ’36 Chambers’ days. Ghost declares “We gon’ have a ball – might as well pick a testicle.” We hope he’s talking to the ladies.

Subtle flip of a classic break with the Wu lining up to rhyme over it – these days there’s a good argument that you don’t really need your older rap gods to do anything more than that. Rae sounds fresh, and Ghost spits hard.

Big beastly electric bass tones underpin this, and it’s a reinvigorated Meth who takes the spoils again while Ghost and Rae tag-team on the chorus.

Rae’s talking about “Excalibur swords, T-Rexes”, GZA’s explaining “energy that shifts in colours”, and RZA’s mush-mouthing about, er, the Lord Of The Rings. This is the Wu getting their nerd on.

Ramping up the tempo, this rattles along a fair treat with all sorts of percussion mixing with some punchy horn stabs. Deck destroys it with his verse (though “Wu-Tang – keep it fresh like Tupperware” might not be his most assured punchline) and RZA references Meth’s recent crowd surfing tendencies. A Wu-Tang toe-tapper and not a million miles away from U-God’s overlooked ‘Wildstyle Suppafreak’ or Masta Killa’s ‘Digi Warfare’.

AKA the one that’s meant to get indie rock kids to buy the album. Not as unhinged and exciting as Ghost’s original solo take, it admittedly sounds much better in the middle of the album than on its own, and Meth’s great on it, basically rapping as if he were his character Cheese from The Wire. It was blatantly meant to be titled ‘My Gun Gently Weeps’ though.

There’s some animal predatory nonsense going on in the chorus while the beat’s again got that mystical vibe to it. Not one of the essential album moments.

Some late night dark alley business, Rae opens rapping in that hush-hush style he’s been rocking on and off for a while now, then Meth builds on it talking about “Poverty Island”. Two-thirds of the way through RZA throws in some almost dubby echo effects, but this would be a billion times more brilliantly menacing if they ditched the singing on the chorus.

Basically a skewed Wu-Tang funeral march, with RZA holding down all duties on the mic. Not too far removed from ‘Jah World’ on ‘The W’, and a suitable mid-point for the set.

Unless it’s sampled from an old soul record, you really don’t want to hear a modern Wu-Tang Clan track open with a whole minute of singing, as happens here. The bounce style hi-hats seem out of place too. Possibly the ‘Ugh!’ moment of the album.

The Wu talk about girls, in their own inimitable way: “She acting all shy but she likes handcuffs”. Again, there’s a lot going on in the background with the beat, but the singing in the chorus could go. What happened to rowdy chanting?

RZA in soundtrack mode, this is an atmospheric slow-burner with a low key vibe to it. At the risk of getting repetitious, it’s a pleasant surprise how motivated Meth
sounds across the project, spitting self-referential boasts like “In living proof I’m the wittiest unpredictable/Most talented rap motherfucker you ever listened to.”

Classic breakbeat with the Clan in straight braggadocio mode: “You can never find Zig’ weakspot – stop looking,” throws down RZA. There’s a small ODB interview snippet at the end of it to boot, which segues into…

Seven minutes of ODB tribute, with short laments from the Clan split up with a simple chorus. Deck gets the most introspective (“And I share the blame ‘cos you was calling for help kid/Shoulda coulda woulda had the time – I was selfish,”) while RZA’s tribute is the most comprehensive, revisiting Dirt Dog highlights. Not a verse or word from Ghost though, which doesn’t look good…

Too much mentalist ranting at the end scuppers this. One to skip.

Bonus ODB from the vault business, suitably dusty sound quality and all, but it would have been nice if it followed straight on from ‘Life Changes’.

RZA’s definitely on something different with the production here, but it’s definitely in the lineage of the original ’36 Chambers’ style – the off-key and warped moments just sound sonically clearer these days. (It wouldn’t be too out there to suggest that during the recording the Abbott was listening to a lot of vintage Bjork and Timbaland while taking breaks out from the board to watch the Lord Of The Rings trilogy.)

Meth’s all over the album – and generally sounding really up for it – and on the basis of this you imagine locking him and RZA in a studio together would produce something very tasty.

Edit out the few too many tracks with sing-songy choruses, trim a little of the flab (‘Tar Pit’, ‘Wolves’), and you’ve got a set to please the Clan’s faithful fan base if not something to endear them to a whole new generation. Which was probably their intention at the start of the project anyway. Job done.

Spin follows with their own take, though their tracklist cuts off after track 14, Life Changes. The question arises, will the UK version have the two final tracks, & if so, why?

Spin's take:

Much controversy has circulated on Wu-Tang's forthcoming album 8 Diagrams, the group's first set since 2001's Iron Flag; from losing their indefatigable spirit ODB, a.k.a. Ol' Dirty Bastard, in 2004 to the recent licensing deal for the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" to rescheduling the record's original release date to accommodate Ghostface Killah's forthcoming LP, 8 Diagrams has been somewhat of a feat. De facto frontman RZA has also earned the wrath of both Raekwon and Ghostface for his alleged micromanaging and recent guitar-playing trysts.
Produced by RZA, the 14-track 8 Diagrams -- out Dec. 11 via SRC/Universal -- harbors the usual martial arts-inspired themes like on "Weak Spot" and "Rushing Elephants." Still procuring mostly antique beats and drab sounds, Diagrams is as much a revival as it is a throwback. Check out our notes from last Friday's listening session. RODNEY DUGUE

1. "Campfire" -- Sampling Curtis Mayfield's "Gypsy Woman," 8 Diagrams begins with an old kung-fu master preaching about kindness and justice, evidence of their long standing fixation with martial arts. Method Man's voice emerges rapping: "cruising on the interstate follow me while I innovate." He later adds: "I don't eat berries" except Halle [Berry]. Impossibly accurate it would seem.

2. "Take It Back" -- "Before you had a name / You were screaming Wu-Tang" is a great indication of what Wu-Tang means to Wu-Tang as a united group despite the recent divisiveness. Co-produced by Easy Mo Bee, the dusty sparse chills are pure nostalgia. The title doesn't disappoint, appropriately taking it back to antiquity.

3. "Get Them Out Ya Way Pa" -- Ghostface provides the chorus, "If he drunk and he runs his mouth then we stomping him out" and then the refrain ("Get them out Ya Pa"). The tough guy ethos feels a bit out of place, but fits well with the grungy brassy beat.

4. "Rushing Elephants" -- GZA talks about his "big booty cousin nasty Nadine" -- and then double-teaming her. Incest notwithstanding, it's a great track.

5. "Unpredictable" ft. Dexter Wiggle -- Inspectah Deck and Raekwon split the lyrical duties manhandling this spooky off-key instrumental. Lines like "we keep it fresh like tuberware" only rival "bitches ride like the scream machine." Complete chaos reigns on one of the best tracks on album.

6. "The Heart Gently Weeps" ft. Erykah Badu, Dhani Harrison, and John Frusciante -- Falsely billed as the first successful Beatles-sampling record of modern day, Ghostface makes most of the hype. Ghostface talks about taking his "bitch to Pathmark" then lamenting about getting his shoes dirty before realizing he's out of bullets. The sort of inscrutable oddball genius Ghost is famous for.

7. "Wolves" ft. George Clinton -- George Clinton paints some weird yet effective imagery of running in the forest a la Little Red Riding Hood. With a distinct western whistle in the background, U- God cements the song with his running verse and pertinent drink choice -- "the apple martini of course is stirred." Our early favorite.

8. "Gun Will Go" ft. Sunny Valentine -- Over these really articulate strings, Atlanta-based rapper Sunny Valentine sings an irresistibly charming hook about gun violence, remarkably. Raekwon spits an immeasurably deft verse, cautioning: "Y'all n**** be making shapes / Ours is art / Yours is trace."

9. "Sunlight" -- Executive producer RZA makes one of two rapping cameos, performing a paean to Allah on a stormy, indiscreet track. "Allah is the most gracious / He made the earth so spacious," he raps stoically.

10. "Stick Me for my Riches" ft. Gerald Alston -- The appropriate backlash for the rags-to-riches stories that dominates hip-hop these days. The hollow chute pistons ingratiate the track really well in spite of the tried theme.

11. "Starter" ft. Sunny Valentine and Tash Mahogany -- A nasty sports/porn allegory persists where the female in question is the "number one draft pick." Don't forget about the "human highlight," either. A really wet misogynistic track, naturally.

12. "Windmill" -- There's no formal chorus on here, just a disorganized lyrical exercise built on a guitar trapeze. "Nobody can't fuck with me I'm too nice / Smack a kid / On his head every time I'm right" stands the test of memory.

13. "Weak Spot" -- Inspired by a kung-fu theme, this stuffy track, courtesy of the chafe bass line, is a chest-pounding, good time harkening back to some of the Wu's older material.

14. "Life Changes" -- The heartfelt and emotionally sharp ODB eulogy that everyone chimes in on, accordingly. Raekwon pays his final respects, "My son gonna remember you / Rubbing a statue on his lap / That resemble you." An appropriate tribute? Yes, definitely.

Though the Spin piece makes a few obvious errors ("Executive producer RZA makes one of two rapping cameos"--obviously there are more) interesting information can still be gleaned. For one, they get Wolves right, while HHC mentions it as a throwaway, which is basically retarded. Also, the track known as Thug World throughout the pre-album festivities has been renamed Unpredictable. The 2nd track from yesterday's Wake Up Show leak is Windmill. It is also interesting to note the similarity of some of these track titles to older Wu tracks, Windmill vs Windpipe, Sunlight vs Sunshower. RZA does indeed have a verse on Life Changes, though Ghost is lamentably absent. How great is it that there's a track named Rushing Elephants?
Meanwhile, MTV is still pushing the dissension angle: Meth refusing to really comment, followed by more self-centered stuff from Ghostface:
"Wu-Tang will survive." God, we hope so. Wu-Tang Clan fans everywhere have been shaking their heads lately — not so much in disbelief (they've had public squabbles before), but in disappointment at the Clan's recent round of airing dirty laundry. Ghostface Killah, Raekwon and RZA have all spoken their piece on the subject, but what about the most visible member of the triumphant hip-hop unit? Method Man is keeping his mouth shut for now.
"There's a reason why I ain't spoke yet," said Meth, standing next to the RZA recently in New York. "When the album drops, we can talk.""We're here though," RZA added. "We're spreading the culture."Ghostface Killah, who was the first Wu member to go public with the group's dissension, talked to us on Friday, just a couple of hours before he went onstage at the Hip Hop Live tour with Rakim. He let it be known that he doesn't stand firmly behind the new Clan album, 8 Diagrams.
"I love the Clan and all that, but we got certain problems right now," Ghost said. "Am I supporting the album? What's going on in the air right now and all that ... I'm supporting what I gotta do for right now for Ghostface. No disrespect to the album, I haven't really listened to the [project] like that, but I heard the responses and I kinda had an idea it was gonna turn out however it turned out. ... No telling how [the group situation] is gonna be tomorrow — a nice conversation or something to make your heart feel good. But as of right now, it's two weeks before my album The Big Doe Rehab comes out on December 4; I'mma do what I gotta do for Tony Starks. I can't worry about all this other stuff that's trying to take me out my game.
"Everybody is grown men on that side," he added about Wu-Tang. "There's no way in the world we shouldn't make the best album. You got me on your team, you got Rae, you got Meth, you got a dream team. The people been waiting for us for years, and to try and bake something that's not all the way baked and ready and rushing, I don't agree to that. So I'm not signing off on that. Don't put my name on that. I don't want people looking at me like, 'Ghost, what did you do?' I didn't do nothing. Nobody wanted to listen. Yeah, I came in [during] the ninth inning because I been played with the past couple of years, so I wasn't really going in on the Wu album. I was like, 'Forget that, I'm not doing that. N---as owe me money.' What I look like?"

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Wake Up Show: New Tracks!

Check out this mp3 of yesterday's Wake Up Show debuts from the forthcoming 8 Diagrams. This is a single 12 minute 30 second file containing all 3 tracks. The first is a longer version of Stick Me For My Riches--containing a verse from INS (tho he doesn't sound entirely like himself) after Meth's now-familiar leadoff. 2nd comes an amazing track--probably the best produced song we've yet heard--that starts with Rae, follows with the GZA, Masta Killa & INS. There are elements of everything in this, western sounds, guitars, even a few Gravediggaz throwback touches, beautifully rhythmic drums--it is an utter hit.

The 3rd track has me about to take back what I just said about the previous song, because this is insane. Presumably this is Wolves, as it features U-God leading off & the production is utter beauty drenched in funk. Meth follows U-ey, then the beat changes up for Masta Killa's verse--the track is nothing short of wonderful.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

New Version of Life Changes

A longer version of Life Changes has just been leaked, with a new ODB intro & outro & a U-God verse. With hope, this is not the final product, as we still lack RZA & Ghost verses--certainly RZA wouldn't fail to appear on Dirty's tribute song. Today marks the 3rd anniversary of Dirty's death.

Also, MissInfo had another interesting tidbit today:

NOTE: one interesting thing….in a Wu Tang press statement, it says:

“The [8 Diagrams] tracklisting that was floating out there isn’t necessarily the FINAL version…there has been changes to the album in a few ways since Ghost and Rae spoke.”

Word? What kind of changes? I’ll let you know if/when I find out.

Though I obviously side with the RZA over Ghost & Rae, & continually don't think it was a good look for them to go public with their opinions, I suppose as long as the record comes out on time, that is the most important thing for Wu fans at this point.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Ghostface: Disgustin' + New Track "Campfire"

* * *

Ghost recently participated in a radio interview with Peter Parker, where he continued his recent campaign against the RZA. Ghost reiterated that he originally didn't plan to be on the album, he cosigned Rae's recent comments against the production on the album, & the word is that some beats may be replaced causing a delay in the release of 8 Diagrams. Until we hear this from RZA or Rifkind I wouldn't take this as gospel or even close to being true--but overall Ghost's ego seems overblown. His upcoming album Big Doe Rehab does seem promising in the fledgling stages, as it will heavily feautre Raekwon, though the single is the standard Ghost first single fare, a halfhearted stab at a radio-friendly track that is somewhat enjoyable. It will be interesting to see if the two release dates hold firm--Ghost's on Dec 4, 8 Diagrams on the 11th--without a doubt the two albums will be heavily compared both sales & quality-wise, which may give a bit of finality to the dispute between Ghost & Rae vs RZA.

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* * *

Billboard recently published an article on Raekwon's recent denounciations, with a short comment from RZA at the end:

Although he declined to address specific gripes, RZA talked to Billboard yesterday about the inherent difficulties of blending his sensibilities with those of his group mates.

"My idea with this album was to have an hour of your day be different -- you go into this other world of beats, hardcore lyrics and imagery of hip-hop," he said. "I wanted the listener to be stimulated by the music. I don't know if everybody agreed with it. Everybody has their own opinion. This is in my vision at the end of the day."
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RZA very recently appeared on The Wake Up Show, & debuted a portion of Campfire, which is, in short, incredible upon first listen. It features Meth & Ghost preceded by a long, quintessential sample from an old kung fu flick, the contents of which are pretty ironic given the current tension within the Clan. Meth can't resist referencing Justin Timberlake along with other stars, & his verse ends, then Ghost's begins, referencing their loyalty to the RZA. If we were to simply judge from the music alone, hype for 8 Diagrams would be reaching peak status--all of the tracks sound great, the chemistry within the Clan seems decent enough on record--but of course we all know better. RZA's interview on the Wake Up Show is excellent, recapping the history of the Clan, from the demo eras, to 36 Chambers, Forever, & beyond. He has a finished copy of 8 Diagrams in hand, & plays part of the first track, Campfire, which is linked by itself above. Then, Take it Back is played &, interestingly, is referred to as the first single. RZA goes on to answer some random questions about current events & general hip hop--& he even goes on to say that Ghostface is the illest current MC.

Definitely looks like Ghost & Rae's hope for some beats to be replaced is pretty futile, since The Abbot had a copy of the finished product in hand.

At the very end of the Wake Up Show interview, they go to play Stick Me For My Riches, & though the track gets cut off for lack of editing, RZA mentions that the full track features Meth, INS, RZA & GZA--which is unequivocally great news.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Diagrams Details

After the longish, more exciting news of the past couple days, some small details from an interview between BET & the RZA are revealed.

Initial reports said the Wu-Tang album had more outside production than usual…

The original album, we had a song from Marley, a song from DJ Scratch, a beat that was produced by Q-Tip, Easy Moe Bee. At the end of the day though, we only ended up with the Easy Moe Bee track, a Mathematics produced track and that’s it, mostly because of samples. Marley’s track, the sample wasn’t gon' clear in time. DJ Scratch, who had a crazy ill fucking song, he had a couple of songs he brought in. But the one that we finally got lyrics on, we couldn’t clear the sample. So the sample clearances kinda threw off my rhythm of plannin’ the album. At the end of the day too, the Clan didn’t verbally attack every song. Even the Q-Tip song, which I thought is a unique production, we collaborated on. We kinda wanted Ghost to spit on it, but he didn’t really set it off and shit, so we kinda put it to the side.

What’s going on with your solo joint, The Cure?

To be honest with you, I wrote The Cure. The way this world is, it kinda discouraged me. Even on the new Wu album, I tried to give you a little taste of what my heart be at as far as lyrically. And I’ve had to take some of those songs off, because sometimes the brothers just feel that sometimes the God is going in too deep. The world ain’t with the deep shit. To me, this whole album 8 Diagrams, is vegetable, son. It ain’t hamburger, it ain’t french fries either. You can’t get it at Mickey D’s. You gotta go to the health food store to get this shit. That’s what we need. It’s time for that balance. Even us as an artist, it’s hard to accept balance in my life. I know I love some ghetto, Cuban Linx shit. That’s the epitome of the Wu. At the same time, we got enough niggas, I’ll still kill and all this other shit. Who gives a fuck if you killed, how much money you got and all this other shit, yo? It’s about the heart and the mind.

It's pretty amusing that people are still asking about The Cure at all. Furthermore, I could kick whoever it is (probably Raekwon, judging from past reports) giving the veto to some of RZA's more metaphysical stylizations. After all, his lyrical prime, in some ways, was in '97, with his performances on Forever and the second Gravediggaz album, The Pick, The Sickle & The Shovel. A plethora of RZA verses would do nothing but benefit 8 Diagrams.

These tidbits are also interesting because it shows that RZA is not entirely obstinate in the making of this album, as Rae seemed to indicate in his most recent video interview. Watch Your Mouth will be missed, & I think everyone really wanted to hear the Q-Tip collab. This perhaps indicates that Thug World is also gone, which would be unfortunate.

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The following appears in a new MTV article about the Ghost & Rae situations. For the most part, the article recaps the growing fued between the participants. It ends thus:

In a 2003 reader-generated interview with Blender magazine, Method Man designated RZA's business partner, Divine, as the #1 person on his "shit list" when presented with the question. Meth claimed the Wu-Tang Management associate "took something major from me that he had no intention of giving back."

A representative for the RZA, when reached by MTV News, said the RZA's only comment in regards to the financial dispute Ghostface and Raekwon are claiming was that, "It's all his fault, and he'll take the responsibility."
So RZA continues to play the role of peacemaker while Ghost & Rae rely on complaining publicly. Regardless of the facts of the situation at hand, RZA remains the only participant acting appropriately. If only this were simply for the publicity...

The Ghostface Situation...

...has just become (fittingly) the Ghostface & Raekwon situation.

I've been meaning to recap all of the difficulties Ghost has created for the Clan & 8 Diagrams since before this blog began. Today, Raekwon added himself to the mix with these two youtube interviews with Miss Info.

When Ghost first voiced his problems, the biggest concern for the Wu fan was that the disharmony might hamper Clan chemistry, & cause the album to suck. The fact that they weren't exactly getting along wasn't especially troublesome, because to all long-time fans of the Wu they are known as one of the most discordant collectives in all of music (which is saying a lot). The word they've always used is family, & this applies nicely, as they've had their many quarrels but always managed to come back together.

But Ghost's recent denunciation of (presumably) RZA & Divine was the most public Clan beef perhaps ever, & rightfully caused nervousness in the fanbase. While at this point it seems that the album surely won't suck, it's important to recap & examine the details of the developing dissent within the Clan. Also, when it was only Ghost who was denouncing the RZA publicly, that could be chalked up to his growing distance from the group combined with his growing ego, & somewhat easily cast aside. With Rae adding himself to the mix, this becomes somewhat more difficult.

Word of Ghost's issues with RZA coincided with the announcement of 8 Diagrams. The first reports of the fledgling project featured RZA talking about the reunited Clan minus one glaring member--Ghostface. Surely, no one should be excluded, but Ghost has been perhaps the most (musically) visible member in the past few years, & has risen from a mid-level if underappreciated member to a media & fan favorite.

The cited reason over Ghost's absense was a disagreement over money, specifically payment for the Rock the Bells tour. Incidentally, at the New York show I attended, Ghost was MIA. All of this lead to a fair amount of dubious attention & apprehension from the media & fan sectors over the 8 Diagrams project as a whole. Anxiety was soon quelled, however, as announcement came that Ghost was finally on board, & then as the first three songs leaked, wham, Ghostface was on each of them. End of story.

But of course that would be too easy, & as the 8 Diagrams release date slid back through October, through November (briefly landing on November 13th, which will be the 3rd anniversary of Dirty's death), onto December 4th, the Ghostface situation reappeared, this time much more serious. This report came from MTV's Mixtape Monday:

You'd think all would be well in the land of the Wu-Tang Clan right now. The Shaolin set finally settled on a date for their long-delayed The 8 Diagrams comeback. But if you ask Ghostface Killah, things actually aren't that sweet with the Wu. Ghost is fuming that the group's album is set to drop on the same date as his next solo album, The Big Dough Rehab. According to him, he had that date already secured, but setbacks with the Wu project planted The 8 Diagrams on the same day. And now he's not budging, he said. At all.

"I had December 4 for the longest," he explained. "But the Wu album, brothers was kinda late on doing whatever they were doing and pushed it back ... on my date. You can put this in there, I'm not [mad at] all the members. It's not based on the members, but the hierarchy at Wu-Tang Clan is on some bullshit. They trying to fuck around and make me push my album back and doing all this. But niggas ain't fucking around or give us money when we did them Wu-Tang tours. The first one, they paid us after a while, but this last one, niggas is holding onto a lot of money. And [they're] upset based on that. It's a battle right now." Ghost did not specify exactly which Wu members are the "hierarchy."

"The Big Dough Rehab is my album," he continued. "8 Diagrams is their album. But it ain't got nothing to do with the regular members. 'Cause I love Raekwon, Masta Killa, U-God, Genius, all them. But it's on right now."

Ghost said he's frustrated because his album would have been finished by now had he not chosen to be loyal and go on tour with the Clan over the summer as part of the Rock the Bells ticket with Rage Against the Machine. He even claimed Steve Rifkin, who signed the group to Loud and is releasing their latest album, put calls in to execs in hopes of stopping Ghost's album from seeing the light of day. (Inquiries made to Rifkin's office had not been returned as of press time.) In the meantime, Ghost is moving ahead with his album. The first single, "Celebrate" — featuring Kid Capri and produced by Sean C. — should be leaking soon, he said. Others set to contribute to The Big Dough Rehab are Scram Jones, Raekwon and Method Man.

Ghost is also set to drop a book, "The World According to Pretty Toney," on December 4. The book — based on skits from MTV2 — will feature Ghost dishing out his particular brand of advice on a number of topics, from gambling to education. As far as Ghost's participation on The 8 Diagrams, though, so far he's only jumped on a handful of tracks.

"I got on some of them," he said. "A few of them. ... Niggas better pay my fucking money. Matter of fact, they can keep the money — just get me out of their life right now. They can keep that money, it's all good now. I don't even wanna talk about it no more."

Such a report was public & serious enough to trouble any serious Wu fan. At this time, also, we'd only heard a few tracks, & the fate of the album was surely in doubt. This report was quickly followed by a response from RZA, also on Mixtape Monday, which revealed the current 8 Diagrams release date, December 11th, video of which follows.

The hope among Wu fans was that with the release date duel settled, Ghost might calm down again. But after a few quiet weeks, yesterday we received this report, from a show on NYC radio station Hot97:

Cipher Sounds just played Take It Back.. But before that he was talking about the drama with Ghostface & Wu... He said Ghost left him a voicemail saying, "Yo play my new record [Celebrate] ... make sure it's MY shit... not that WU-TANG shit."

Then Cipher Sounds was just saying how this hurts him, because he grew up listening to Wu, etc...
& then, almost as if it is too much at once, we get the Raekwon interviews which further elucidate the rift between RZA & the Clan.

But several facts go against Raekwon's points in these videos. He argues for quality control, saying the entire Clan is not on board with what RZA is doing musically, while the latest project Rae has helmed, the Ice Water record, is barely worth listening to. Furthermore, while Ghost's two 2006 albums had plenty of quality material on them, there were some serious mistakes, especially with personnel. I mean, how are you going to put Shawn Wiggs on a track with Redman? Also, Rae's performance on the tracks we've heard from 8 Diagrams is decidedly understated--occasionally just lazy. There are times in this interview when he acts more animated than during his verses on the album. & all of this coming from someone who can't even get a label to release the supposedly-classic followup, Cuban Linx II, to 1995's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. & how have Raekwon's RZA-less projects been in the intervening years? Ice Cream pt 2, anyone? & what about the fact that the music we've heard so far from 8 Diagrams is pretty much undeniably dope? I could go on.

Raekwon does bring up a very interesting concept--a Clan album without the RZA. Of course, the chances of a project such as this actually happening are pretty slim at this point, given the fact that for one, most projects announced by the Wu never materialize and two, RZA is the organizer of the Clan. Without him, they wouldn't be anywhere. It seems that Raekwon remains aware of this fact, at least moreso than Ghostface, but given some of the utter shit that has appeared on Rae's recent projects, it is certainly his ears that are broken, not the RZA's. His report is troubling, but if Rae becomes the new leader of the Clan, then I am truly concerned for the welfare of the group.

Yes, the Wu-Hierarchy, especially Divine, has been notoriously shady about money owed, but such are internal issues. The music is external, & right now the music is good.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Ready on the Firing Line

After the deluge of today's new tracks, Weak Spot, Thug World, Stick Me For My Riches, & Life Changes--I thought I'd make a survey of what we've got so far.

There were 8 tracks previewed to journalists awhile back--& to date we've now heard 7 of them. The only one waiting to leak is Wolves, which has received much hype as a U-God showcase featuring gritty production. Per Ghost, an interesting note comes with the fact that while he appeared on the first three leaked songs, he's yet to show up on any of the other tracks.

It seems safe to assume that Watch Your Mouth will probably not appear on the album, as no recent tracklists feature this song. The word is that sample clearance will keep this track from appearing. Which is a shame, because it's a more-than-solid track, featuring all the remaining members. It seems like most other songs feature about 3 or so members, but this sense could be stemming from the fact that in some cases we are dealing with partial tracks.

The other track that is in doubt given the most recent tracklist is Thug World. This track was previewed at Wu-Tang shows throughout the world, with rough audio versions showing up online several months ago. Today we finally received at least a portion of that song, featuring INS in good form & a classic semi-sensible RZA performance. All I can say is that RZA is at his most appealing when operating in this mode & this track will be missed if it doesn't in fact appear on the final product. Perhaps it will be renamed, as it really feels too good to exclude. The production is from RZA & DJ King Tech.

Take It Back & Weak Spot are similar tracks to Thug World--all dark, excellent productions. I've written about Take It Back in other posts. It is definitely one of the best new tracks we've heard. Weak Spot is just as good--RZA truly shines on this track, on both the beat & the microphone. The beat stabs, though perhaps somewhat less than on Thug World. Raekwon has yet another appearance, yet he has enough energy to augment the track. The best part of this song is the slight beat changes throughout the GZA's verse, which can be enjoyed while the beat slightly adds & drops elements. This will undoubtedly be a highlight of the album.

Stick Me For My Riches is a structurally unorthodox track. Meth is the only rapper on the track so far, per the version we have & all descriptions from the media & the RZA. The song is co-produced with Mathematics. Both the drums & the singing are initially strange choices, but it is of high enough quality, & the production is interesting enough to more than retain the attention of the listener. Meth & the singer play off each other well as the track progresses. It sounds like there will be more track, hopefully featuring rapping, beyond what we have heard to this point. Whether more Meth or another member, either way, this track is also a winner, though fans wanting only straightforward music from the Wu (a strange request) might be put off. Thankfully, the RZA is making music for Wu-Tang, & not reverting to formula.

The Heart Gently Weeps is the unexpected winner of the leaks so far. It works in a way that no other Wu track ever has. Along with Life Changes, the Rainy Days, I Can't Go To Sleep, Tearz type track is doubly covered, but The Heart Gently Weeps is unlike any of the aforementioned songs, even the just as fresh Life Changes, the ODB tribute song which will hopefully feature verses from all members in final form. Perhaps it is the production technique that truly separates The Heart Gently Weeps from the rest of the pack--whatever it is, now that we have a greater sense of the album, hearing roughly half of the tracks that will be on the final product, not much can be said beyond the fact that things are shaping up very nicely for this album. If the product is as consistently good as we've been hearing so far, it's going to be the type of album that sequencing can either really augment or really hinder. Since the RZA is in full control & also in top form, I can't really fathom that the album will be structured poorly.

I Was Born On The Same Day As Dr Seuss

Here is a quick update:

Thug World

Weak Spot

Life Changes (which is also streaming here)

Stick Me For My Riches

Loud has just released a mixtape featuring portions of several 8 Diagrams tracks along with other recent Wu activity, including the most recent Meth album, the most recent Masta Killa album & tracks from several of Mathematics projects, along with some Ghost & ODB tracks. The tracklisting for the mixtape is as follows:


01 - Intro (Featuring Method Man)
02 - Watch Your Mouf (Wu-Tang Exclusive)
03 - State of Grace (Raekwon Exclusive)
04 - Break that Break (Unreleased)
05 - Wu Banga 101 Remix (Unreleased)
06 - My Corner (Raekwon Exclusive)
07 - Stick Me 4 My Riches (Wu-Tang Exclusive)
08 - Thug World (Wu-Tang Exclusive)
09 - Maxine Remix (Unreleased)
10 - King Toast Queen (Unreleased)
11 - Strawberries & Cream Remix
12 - Weak Spot (Wu-Tang Exclusive)
13 - Intoxicated (Featuring Macy Gray) (ODB Exclusive)
14 - Crooklyn Dodgers (Ghostface Exclusive)
15 - The W Remix (Unreleased)
16 - Real Nillaz
17 - Ghost Is Back
18 - Don't Go Breaking My Heart (ODB Featuring Macy Gray)
19 - Violent Skit
20 - Life Changes (Wu-Tang Exclusive)
21 - Treez (Unreleased)
22 - The Abduction
23 - John 3:16
24 - Good
25 - Da Destroyer (Raekwon Freestyle)
26 - Iron God Chamber
27 - 4:20
28 - Wise (Unreleased)
29 - Presidential MC

The entire mixtape can be directly downloaded here or here, or streamed here.

Weak Spot is probably the best of the new tracks. Stick Me For My Riches will polarize fans, as the track features a ton of singing & only one verse from Meth. For what it's worth I think it's pretty good, but each song released so far could probably use another verse or two, besides the obvious posse cuts. Wu's strength lies in numbers & they shouldn't forget to use this to their advantage. The thing to remember is that these don't seem like full versions of the songs; pretty much every track that's leaked so far has first been in a rough, incomplete version followed by a much better sounding final take. The mixtape on the whole is pretty great.

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Also, a potential tracklist for 8 Diagrams surfaced on a few days ago:

1. Campfire
2. Take It Back
3. Get Them Out Ya Way Pa
4. Face The Problems
5. The Heart Gently Weeps
6. Wolves
7. Gun Will Go
8. Sunlight
9. Stick Me For My Riches
10. Windmill
11. Starter
12. Weak Spot
13. Life Changes
14. Tar Pit feat George Clinton
15. 16th Chamber (ODB Special)

The interesting thing to note here is that there is no "Watch Your Mouth" as was rumored a while back. Then again, RZA had recently mentioned that a vintage ODB appearance was probably not going to happen, but the last song on the album seems to indicate otherwise. Also, is the just-leaked "Thug World" not included or simply renamed? Where is the other track featuring John Frusciante, "You Can't Stop Me Now"? Time will tell, but in the meantime, enjoy the new tracks.

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And finally, another 8 Diagrams cover has been revealed: