Dive Verdict: 2.5 of 5 Stars
The Wu-Tang Clan and its kung fu-themed debauchery expands past lyrical prowess into a marketing machine that includes a clothing line and a ’90s video game.
At the group’s core is still the music, but the Wu name is what keeps loyalists coming back.
And while the Shaolin institution still deserves the guffawing that precedes each release, Wu-Tang doesn’t mean what it once did.
Enter DJ Mathematics’ new project. The longtime group DJ and sometime producer has assembled his second collection of remixes and unreleased tracks featuring all nine original members.
The album assembles tracks spanning between the start of recording for The W in 2000 through 2008 — not the group’s most creative span.
So Mathematics putting together a bunch of unheard tracks from an already sparse era begs the question of quality control. I mean, if they are worth hearing now, why weren’t they released? It’s simple. Once Wu, forever Wu. This compilation is undeniably Wu-Tang. From the grimy soul samples to abrasive lyrics, little differs from official efforts.
But that familiarity also makes the release lose a lot of luster. Unreleased tracks usually delve into the psyche of artists and get behind the process at the time. For a group like Wu-Tang that has for better or worse thrived on consistency throughout the years, the effect is not the same.
None of the songs included do anything to tarnish the sanctified image of the group, but they aren’t adding anything to its legacy either. With the exception of “All Flowers,” an up-tempo track led by a distorted guitar, and “Strawberries & Cream,” featuring a slow beat that lends itself to the articulation of the MCs, the album is middle of the road by the group’s standards.
Cuts such as “Rush” show their age, as hyperactive electric mandolin strings easily date the track to the Fred Durst-collaborating-era Method Man, a time that shouldn’t be revived. Even the superimposed karate sound effects feel forced.
The whole project seems to be coasting off the recent success of Raekwon; they’re trying to cash in while the getting’s good. It may just be Mathematics purging his stash of Wu material. Whatever the motive behind The Return, it wasn’t worth the effort of packaging a CD.
Contact the Diversions Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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