ARTIST: Wu-Tang Clan
TITLE: 8 Diagrams
WEB DEBUT: Nov. 26, 2007
RELEASE DATE: Dec. 4, 2007
ONE-LISTEN VERDICT: Following a very protracted leak, the (supposedly) full (supposedly) official version of the Wu-Tang Clan’s comeback album 8 Diagrams hit the blogs today, with the Clan’s fan club already arguing its legitimacy. Thanks to most of the 16 tracks trickling out over the last few months and the very vocal kvetching of various Clan members over the finished product, hardcore Wu followers are likely familiar with the bulk of 8 Diagrams. And shocking no one, even casual fans, these are not beats to inspire viral YouTube bedroom dancing or lyrics to be whittled down to monosyllabic ringback snippets. Even the cheesy radio pimp hook of “Starter” is backed by what sounds like Ethiopian jazz filtered through a bubbling bong hit.
The Wu still excel at the terse, dense, criminal versifying of turn of the ’90s New York rap (“Rushing Elephants”), and when they do take their choruses, they’re still in the form of R&B singing blunted into quavering eeriness (“Gun Will Go”). (Needless to say it will take more than our patented one-listen verdict to wade through the science being dropped.) But while 8 Diagrams is rich with familiar Clannish pleasures (mournful boom-bap, ever-unspooling metaphors, filched and faded exploitation flick dialogue), the beats are smudged and layered where once the RZA ground at a single loop until he almost exstinguished it. The production curveballs come at you like paranoid apparitions, the soundtrack to the Clan’s minds playing tricks on them. On “Unpredictable,” a groaning ribbon of metal guitar threads through b-movie strings slashing through the track’s dank alleyway ambiance. The wicked fairy tale “Wolves” features George Clinton playing a Grimm brother over a high noon mariachi band beat. Rare for the word-addled Wu, the backing tracks, with their muddy neo-psychedelic soul details bleeding into each other, disorient as much as the rhymes.
THE BEST TRACK: “Stick Me For My Riches,” which rides a Blaxploitation hook straight out of classic Bobby Womack over Southern rap snares for over a minute before making way for one of the tightest Method Man verses since he tried his hand at