Review Summary: The worst member of the Wu-Tang releases what is easily his best album.
The Wu-Tang Clan has a particular mold for their members: fast piercing flows, with stories of crime (Raekwon) , food, or whatever comes to mind (Ghostface); we've also got guys who look at crime in a more philosophical way (big brother GZA and little brother Masta Killa), sometimes in a rushing, highly aggressive and somewhat pretentious way (RZA), and then there are guys in the Wu who say they're talking about crime, but are just making bull*** up off the top of their head in the studio at 4 AM while on crack (ODB, probably Cappadonna), and back in the early days of the Wu and during his first solo album, U-God tried to cram all of this into a singular unit for himself. However his baritone voice that swiftly changes from aggressive to soothing didn't really fit with this, and most of the tracks of that album come off more as him putting in as many syllables into a verse as possible. Throughout his album, the use of the thesaurus was obvious, and would've gotten a C- if it were a 7th grade English paper. Mr. Xcitement wasn't really much better, and although it sounded much more natural than its predecessor, most of it really really sucked due to awful beat choice and legitimately bad lyricism. Dopium, however, is the start of something new for U-God, as he has seemed to have found a style that can be considered his own.
Unknown producers like Teddy Ted & J. Serbe provide the soundtrack to U-God's grooving flow and stories of crack with delightfully fresh punchlines and word play. "Train Trussle" features horns straight from mafia flick, with Ghostface starts things off with his somehow magical touch, and already gives listeners. Surprisingly though, most of the production offered here is actually better
than a lot of what RZA produces nowadays. Most of it takes RZA's soundtrack work, adds a little bit of mainstream and accessible edge to it, and gives it to U-God to just eat up.
As much as I like this album, I will be the first to admit this has a lot of flaws. "God Is Love" has one of the most awful hooks to ever appear on a rap album, with Cappadonna sounding like a downs syndrome kid just shouting his religious belief that, God is, in fact, love. "Hips" and "Rims Pokin" are both rather embarrassing 'bounce' crossover events that should just be look over and ignored just like most of U-God crossover attempts (that solo track on Wu Forever, all of Mr. Xcitement). "Lipton" and "Magnum Force" are both at fault not because of U-God, but because all of the guests fault here, from the Sheek Louch and Jim Jones once again embarassing themselves behind the mic, and Mike Ladd's school house rock like singing.
And then there is, of course, the european dance remixes at the end, which are so bad that you just pretend the militant Large Professor produced "Classic" is the last track of the album. But despite all that, U-God still gets some good in here, everything from the oddly comfortable collaboration with lyrical leader of the clan GZA on "Stomp The Roach", the trade-off between Golden Arms and Rae on his favorite subject "Cocaine", and the ode to his fans in the form of the soulful "Dopium", this album is chock-full of good songs. U-God shows his true colors, as an above average MC with a pitch deep voice, a natch for making sense out of what seems like nonsense, and some potential for a truly great record. Hopefully this is the sign of new things to come from Wu-Tangs worst member.