One could argue that Method Man, Ghostface Killah, and Raekwon have been Wu-Tang’s most consistent performers since the quality of the Clan’s collective output began to wane, having delivered a string of spellbinding solo efforts amid the patchy 8 Diagrams and nondescript releases from their fellow clansmen (barring the duly excused GZA). It should also be noted that Ghostface and Raekwon were the group’s most vocal detractors regarding the backlash to 8 Diagrams‘s production, the former only appearing on the album intermittently and the latter dubbing RZA a “hip-hop hippie” before pledging his commitment to resurrecting the classic Wu sound. So it comes as no surprise that these three emcees have come together for Wu-Massacre, a side project that celebrates the same stylistic elements that put Staten Island on the musical map in the ‘90s.
Given that Meth, Ghost, and Rae are among the most charismatic names in their stable, this mouth-watering formula bears fruit immediately and incessantly. They deliver their street parlance with boundless energy throughout, capitalizing on their 15-year familiarity to bounce off one another exceptionally. “Criminology 2.5” is laced with conversation between the three emcees, disturbing their flow for bouts of nonchalant dialogue: As the first of Ghostface’s two verses draws to a close, he pleads with Raekwon to “let me back in there man…one more time, for old time’s sake” before going ballistic with another frenzied stanza.
Wu-Massacre is clearly powered by the chemistry of its players, reprising the one-on-one microphone duel from 1994’s Tical on “Meth vs. Chef Part 2” for the two emcees to trade slick eight-bar verses. Raekwon delivers a volley of intricate threats and self-appraisals while Method Man swaggers through a mishmash of shout-outs, cereal references, and queries of the contemporary hip-hop industry: “Rap ain’t done shit for me lately/It’s ass backwards, the game’s tryin’ to play me/I bet this never happens to Jay-Z.” And atop the soulful piano hook of “Miranda,” the trio swaps tales of a sultry Latina with whom they’ve all had some memorable run-ins. Method Man emerges as the most charming of Miranda’s three potential suitors, toning down his explicitness while his rivals weave compelling stories saturated with graphic sex scenes and outrageous similes, especially Raekwon’s wonderfully absurd “Call me 8 Ball/This pussy like China, climb the great wall.”
A number of producers were summoned to contribute to Wu-Massacre, with RZA protégé and long-serving Wu-Tang affiliate Allah Mathematics providing the lion’s share of the beats. His penchant for brass, strings, and soul samples go some way to emulating the traditional Wu flavor, and his contributions here (“Meth vs. Chef Part 2” and “Miranda,” in particular) are undoubtedly among the pick of the lot sonically. The BT-produced “Criminology 2.5” reworks its namesake from Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, recycling the original’s throbbing horn section and borrowing more of Al Pacino’s Scarface dialogue to lay the scene for the group to wax feverishly lyrical on, well, crime and criminals. Though it serves as possibly the most overt attempt at capturing authenticity and aping the highly sought-after RZA sound, there’s no denying that it works and gets the album off to a pulsating start.
It goes without saying that Wu-Massacre is reliant on the superb chemistry between Meth, Ghost, and Rae though. The beats are decent, the guest spots are passable, but it’s those three names on the cover that steal the show. Raekwon continues to craft vivid stories with entrenched street slang, Ghostface revels in his debauched hyperactivity, and the silver-tongued Method Man balances the scales with his witty jesting. Essentially, it’s a petite package that provides another little reminder as to why these veteran Staten Island emcees are so highly revered. Perhaps Wu-Tang is forever after all?