I’ve read a few reviews of Wu-Block (released at the end of November 2012) which have frankly irritated me. XXL said that “the formula isn’t new, and in some ways the project sounds unavoidably dated […] while the tides of hip-hop may be in flux, and the release might not break any new ground, the collaborative LP is a genuine and welcomed addition to the modern hip-hop landscape”. The album was given the album an “L” rating, which this translates as ‘average’ on the site. The same site also gave Wiz Khalifa’s new album the SAME rating. To put this into perspective, XXL are denoting that Wu-Block is on the same level of the album released by an overrated hip-popper recoiling on an office chair wearing skin tight red and white leggings and an unzipped fluffy leopard print jacket baring his heavily tatted torso.
Most reviews of Wu-Block have tried to make a big deal out of the fact that it isn’t ‘ground-breaking’ or ‘original’ enough for an album, but people are refusing to realise that Ghostface Killah and Sheek Louch – two of the most legendary rappers alive – don’t NEED to be ground-breaking or original – they’ve already done that. That is why they have gotten to where they are today. That is why they are permitted to release an album which may not break the boundaries of hip-hop. That is why they can release an album which simply celebrates rap music.
Reverting back to the XXL review, the journalist writes that “the project sounds unavoidably dated”. Firstly, calling this album a ‘project’ denotes some kind of trial or experimental mixtape type release; Wu-Block is not. Ghost and Sheek knew exactly what they were doing when they dropped this record and it is a pure triumph; nothing less. As for sounding ‘unavoidably dated’, this is a statement coming from someone who is clearly oblivious to thepurpose of this album, which was to celebrate classic, concrete, authentic hip-hop. Using the term ‘unavoidable’ suggests that the listener was expecting the album to sound dated anyway – and approaching any album with such an attitude is just setting up for failure on a first-time listen. It unfortunately emphasises how hip-hop critics are becoming more and more obsessed with the commercial capability of any release.
Stand out tracks are Crack Spot Stories, the album opener, which sets the standard sky-high, production wise. Pour Tha Martini, featuring the ever animated Cappadonna, is almost certainly the ‘party track’, although it is by no means lower in standard than the rest. In fact, it’s one of my top three favourites from the album. Guns For Life features some attention-grabbing metaphors from Ghostface resonant of 2Pac’s Me And My Girlfriend, combined with a hypnotic hook which provides an attractive and attention-grabbing contrast with the content of the track. Drivin’ Round offers a conscious, insightful view into the world Ghostface and Sheek grew up in, with a genius verse from GZA and an equal level of intellect from Masta Killa. Stick Up Kids is high-energy and perfectly wired, leading onto the lyrically destructive All In Together. Penultimate track Been Robbed is 70s-retro and offers one of the best examples of Sheek and Ghost’s astute dry wit.
The production is outstanding throughout the record, which is only made better by the fact that the majority of the producers are actually relatively unknown. The content itself is pretty much typical for any collaboration of this level; Wu Tang and D Block don’t need to try and change their subject matters and substance of the tracks. Anyone who knows hip-hop knows that these guysdo talk about shotting, girls, violence and clubbing. I don’t think there is one hip-hop artist who hasn’t mentioned one of these things in a track before. However, they do it better than most. The technicalities behind the content (i.e. the lyricism, the flow, the wordplay, the storytelling techniques, the use of humour, etc) are at an exceptionally high level; higher than most rappers will reach in their whole career, and this is why Wu-Block has obviously flown over the heads of most listeners and, unfortunately, critics.