Review Summary: An older more experienced set from Shaolin's finest.
Over the years since the classic "Enter the Wu-Tang (The 36th Chamber)" it is safe to say that a unanimous feeling of disappointment has been felt with the release of every album billed as a full Wu-Tang Clan joint. While "Wu-Tang Forever" was successful in reimagining the Wu-Tang sound, following releases especially "Iron Flag" were panned for their poor production, excess tracks, and random Wu-Tang "affiliates". But, for some reason all of us Wu-faithful heard about "8 Diagrams" and expected something amazing. Maybe it was because of the recent enjoyment of Wu-Tang solo albums with "Fishscale" being one of the most successful rap albums of '06 as well as Cilvaringz's "I" and RZA's soundtrack work on Kill Bill and Afro Samurai debuting the Wu into a completely different environment. These three records gave some kind of illusion that maybe the Wu-Tang Clan as a whole would learn from their past mistakes and finally make that sequel to "Enter the Wu-Tang" everyone hoped they had inside them. As hype began to build, RZA leaked the information that the album entitled "8 Diagrams" would possess a cover of George Harrison's classic "As My Guitar Gently Weeps" as well as guest appearances from George Clinton and John Frusciante. Finally, the death of ODB had yet to be covered by a full clan appearance and so "8 Diagrams" also created some press in regards to see if the Wu-Tang Clan could survive without their most entertaining and original member. I guess it comes down to the question does "8 Diagrams" satisfy those wishes? Simply put the answer is no.
Many of the complaints that I've seen regarding "8 Diagrams", I don't agree with. Lots of issues surround the production as well as the "slowness" of the aged rappers. Maybe it is because my main genre isn't rap and hip-hop, but I like evolution and "8 Diagrams" is certainly an evolution of the Wu-Tang sound, especially when compared to the early masterpieces members of the groups released. Still, RZA is obviously sticking to a tired and true method and while some of the bouts into experimentation come off beautiful ("The Heart Gently Weeps") some of them come off as excuses to bite the new southern prominence in hip-hop ("Stick Me for My Riches"). RZA, basically produced the entire album and while every track is brilliant some of the beats just seem ill-fitted for a Wu-Tang Clan record. A key example is "Starter" which basically sounds like a sequel to the Neyo, Ghostface Killah record "Back Like That". Basing a beats purpose on a largely R&B hook is something that RZA has always been known to do, but usually his samples and choruses are much less mainstream. Else where a new take on vintage RZA works ridiculously well, especially on the ODB tribute, "Life Changes".
Wu-Tang has always had the presence of some of the most original and interesting rappers to have ever touched the mic. While some of these artists like Inspectah Deck and U-God have certainly fallen off in recent years, The Wu's premier lyricists like GZA and Ghostface Killah have been switching their styles from the aggressive style of early Wu to a more introspective slower style. This slower style is obviously not as energetic or loud as the older Wu but it is still just as intense. Perhaps the most surprising element of "8 Diagrams" is the resurgence of Method Man. On the lead off "Campfire" Method Man and Ghostface's one two punch is perhaps second in Wu history to only “Bring Da Ruckus”. In other cases Masta Killa drops a fantastic verse on the track "Get Them Out Ya Way, Pa" which is also accented by some beautiful background guitar and a great chorus provided by Rae and Ghostface. Another important fact is that Wu-Tang although dated has brought in some excellent tracks that echo those of their past like "Unpredictable" and "Rushing Elephants", the latter marked by its superb GZA verse.
Maybe RZA has tried to enact too much control on his creation with "8 Diagrams". Maybe the Wu are just tired. But, something is lacking on the new Wu-Tang Clan and the easiest thing to blame it on is that lack of unity that was prevalent on the early Wu-Tang joints. This is easily seen to be true with the recent backlash from Ghostface and Raekwon towards this record. Still, while Ghostface and Raekwon's qualms are somewhat true in no way is "8 Diagrams" a weak album. I guess once you define hip-hop you can't really go anywhere but down, but unlike of any of the other Wu-Tang Clan albums "8 Diagrams" is able to stretch itself out of the shadow of "Enter the Wu-Tang" which in itself makes this an impressive record.
2. Take it Back
3. Get Them Out Ya Way Pa
4. Rushing Elephants
6. The Heart Gently Weeps
8. Gun Will Go
10. Stick Me for My Riches
13. Weak Spot
14. Life Changes
and uh.. Tar Pit and 16th Chambers are bonus tracks on the Euro version.This Message Edited On 12.07.07
Nice review, I basically agree with the rating, but my reasons are pretty different. I think GZA is one of members who's starting to fall off, though he has some good stuff on here, he just sounds like he's on horse tranquilizers on a bunch of his verses, and U-God is one of the most consistent on 8 Diagrams. RZA's production is very hit-or-miss here, I think he forgot that he has to cater to rappers, and the whole dynamics are often out of wack. Releases like Liquid Swords and Wu-Tang Forever had the best mixture of RZA's unique atmosphere and bite, he doesn't seem as self-absorbed.
I mean that tical was one of the first rap albums i really liked and that I liked RZA from the soundtracks he was doing for a while.
forever was hyperbole but obviously you wouldn't knwo what that means as you never use it.
It's not that I want his traditional style, because I do enjoy his soundtrack work which is obviously very different from his Wu stuff, I just think he should have tried to mesh with the rappers more rather than create something separate from them.
Records realy good, quite suprised. I think Inspectah Deck's verses on the record are actually pretty top notch though. The Heart Gently Weeps was a bit of a letdown though. RZAs production sounds like it's totally expanding but sometimes it sounds like he's just adhering to R&B trends, so I agree with you there. Overall the albums quite good though.