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The musings of a teenage audiophile. Indie, Rock, Hip-Hop, Rap, Dance, Dubstep, Garage, Metal... music crosses all boundaries. The Cold Cut is devoted to giving you a taste of what's going on in music at the moment.

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A 17 year old taking his first tentative steps into the world of blogging. In my first year, its been up and down, from the slow first months to a busy time around the one year anniversary.

Wu Tang Clan: 8 Diagrams Review


After a bit of a wait I've finally got hold of the fifth Wu Tang Clan Album, '8 Diagrams', and on first impression, I'm pleasantly surprised. The most obvious difference lies in the production, and the Clan have won a small victory in refining their sound without ending up like the million other generic rappers flooding the genre (see here for my full rant). It's refreshing that most of their grimy sound remains, a full 6 years since their previous attempt 'Iron Flag', a mediocre album which lost a lot of the Clan's distinctive grit.

Well, the six years since 'Iron Flag' have been interesting ones: most noticeably, Wu Tang Clan return minus one of their members, Ol' Dirty Bastard, who collapsed and passed away in 2004, at the age of 36 (the cause of death: accidental overdose on cocaine and Tramadol). The gap left in his absence is a hard one to fill, but album opener 'Campfire' is textbook Wu Tang Clan, with a great sample, solid rhymes and a sinister air; at this point I was very hopeful, and I wasn't wholly disappointed by the rest of the album in this respect. Somehow, despite numerous stories of these 8 MC's have re-created their chemistry, a difficult feat considering their highly different styles.

Out of the eight remaining MC's, RZA, Method Man and Ghostface Killah pretty much carry this album, from start to finish. RZA is clearly still the creative leader of this group, although it has always been tradition that this isn't spelled out in full. His production skills are still sharp, and '8 Diagrams' is a tribute to his reliable ability with samples. Method Man impresses, spitting the first, and best verse, of the whole album, bringing us right back to the Clan's glory days. For the last few years, Ghostface Killah has been busy becoming the most accomplished MC in the world, and returns triumphant (after creating a successful solo career, including brilliant latest album "Fishscale"); although his contributions towards '8 Diagrams' are limited, each and every one is brilliant. I'm sad to say that other than these three stalwarts, the remaining contributors are unreliable. Whilst in some songs Inspectah Deck spouts brilliant verses, he drops a stinker on 'Unpredictable, an otherwise brilliant song, claiming that "Wu-Tang keep it fresh like tupperware". Inspectah Deck's variations on a theme almost sums up this whole album: its probably one of the most uneven I've ever heard: one of the benefits, and issues, of having 8 MC's is that you never know what you're going to get with each song. There are some truly brilliant moments: take 'Wolves' or Ol' Dirty Bastard' tribute '16th Chamber O.D.B. special', their last recorded song containing his eclectic rapping skills. And whilst these aren't outnumbered by the low points, there are a few songs on "8 Diagrams" which bomb. Check the suitably named 'Weak Point' for proof, where further editing was obviously needed.

If I have one problem with this album it is the presence of guest artists. If possible, some of the songs on '8 Diagrams' hold too much variety, and at times it can be difficult to keep up: when there are 8 MC's on a song and a host of guest artists, things get a bit hectic. Surprisingly, there are moments when this formula works...

Anyone who knows their way around Hype Machine or Elbows will have heard first single "The Heart Gently Weeps" by now. My brother pointed it out to me a long while back, but on first listen it didn't blow me away. Using a Beatles riff isn't hugely ghetto, but don't let the twinkly piano fool you. Whilst most of the gems on this album are dark, brooding songs, this is one of the few lighter songs which works. Featuring Dhani Harrison (yes, late George's son) on acoustic and Red Hot Chilli Pepper's John Frusciante on lead, this is a cool song. Yes, cool... not ghetto- never an adjective one would associate with the Wu. Hardcore fans will immediately question the presence of guitars on a rap record. Yes, they are there, and they work. Nothing is removed or altered by their inclusion, and this song is a testament to WTC's decision to include them on '8 Diagrams'.

If you, like myself, struggle with the majority of "rap" music that is released nowadays, this album is for you. '8 Diagrams' is a steady reminder of what rap (now hip-hop) used to be, and whilst it may not be Wu Tang Clan's best offering, it retains their characteristically grimy sound. Those of you expecting classic Wu Tang Clan will find some of what you are looking for, but as I suggested this album is highly inconsistent, with moments of brilliance and a handful of painful songs. For hardcore fans, this is a must, but you will already have it by now. What do you think? For the uninitiated you would do better starting with their classic album, "Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Diagrams)", and then moving on to this. It's a difficult album, but you might take a shine to it after repeat listenings. Persevere, and you will be rewarded...

Wu Tang Clan- The Heart Gently Weeps (ft. Erkyah Badu, Dhani Harrison & John Frusciante
Wu Tang Clan- Wolves (ft. George Clinton)
Wu Tang Clan- Campfire
Wu Tang Clan- Unpredictable (ft. Dexter Wiggle)
Wu Tang Clan- 16th Chamber O.D.B. Special

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