October 22, 2012

Mathematics - Love Hell Or Right (Da Come Up) (August 26, 2003)




Ronald Bean, best known as Allah Mathematics, one of the go-to producers in the Wu-Elements team, is a dude who seemed to have appeared out of thin air when the Wu-Tang Clan became popular, but in reality, he had actually been down with the group since before they were even a group.  That's right, kids: our host for this post actually predates the Clan by several years, and yet he remains best known for his association with his more famous friends than anything else.


Ronald grew up in Jamaica, Queens, a borough in New York that has found more than a little bit of success in our chosen genre.  He began his musical career as a deejay, eventually hooking up and touring with the GZA back when he was known as just The Genius.  After the album Words From The Genius failed to move any units and resulted in Cold Chillin' Records dropping his friend from their label, Mathematics remained loyal to The Genius, making friends with his two cousins, Prince Rakeem and Ason Unique, who then formed the trio All In Together Now.  However, that group also folded fairly quickly, but the artists weren't deterred: after some quick name changes (instead of using their original monikers, the three elected to go by GZA/Genius, The RZA, and Ol' Dirty Bastard, respectively), they enlisted the help of other Staten Island-based rappers to form the Wu-Tang Clan, which begins the story that you've already heard me tell approximately eleventy billion times.

Quick bit of trivia: Allah Mathematics is more than just the group's touring deejay.  He also designed the Clan's logo.  No, seriously.  That pervasive "W" that appears on the album cover of every Clan member (and some of the affiliates) is based on his own design.

Anyway. Ronald didn't start off producing beats: that came much later, after he learned some tricks from The RZA himself.  This resulted in our host landing some beats on the albums of several Clan members and B-teamers, and as he built up his confidence, he eventually decided to record his own project, which turned into the subject of today's post.  

Love Hell Or Right (Da Come Up) was designed as a showcase for not just the man's musical work, but also for his rapping friends, and not just the ones he made in the Wu.  To fill the guest spots on the project, Math went back home and pulled some of his old boys out of the projects, allowing them the opportunity of a lifetime to rhyme alongside platinum artists on an album that hardly anybody would actually seek out, as Allah Mathematics still wasn't all that well known back in 2003, when this dropped.  

Love Hell Or Right (Da Come Up) was released on High Times Records, which is hilarious all by itself; I don't even need to come up with a joke.  It's packed full of songs, as it is made up of twenty-one tracks, which is a daunting number for any artist, especially one who doesn't really rap himself (well, save for one song, which we'll get to later).  So let's just jump into it already.
1. LOVE HELL OR RIGHT...DA INTRO (FEAT. HILTON “MOUTH OF DA SOUTH” THOMPSON)
Given that Mathematics isn't really a rapper, it makes sense that he would feel the need to introduce his compilation album to listeners. But that doesn't mean that I need to give a fuck.

2. PIMPOLOGY 101 (FEAT. BUDDAH BLESS)
Curiously, given his connections, Math elects to not include any members of the Clan on Love Hell Or Right (Da Come Up)'s first actual song. Instead, he goes with his boy Buddah Bless, who sounds like a less obtuse Cappadonna with a slight Southern drawl over a Willie Hutch “I Choose You”-sampled beat that will instantly remind you of UGK and OutKast's “Int'l Players Anthem (I Choose You)”, an infinitely better track. It's not that Buddah sounds bad or anything: in fact, he's actually alright on here. (The smooth instrumental certainly helps in this regard.) But it goes without saying that people such as myself pick up Wu-related projects to, oh, I don't know, actually hear the Wu, maybe? So there's that. Also, “Pimpology 101” leads into an extended sound bite that practically begs to be skipped over.

3. THANK U (DA DJ'S VERSION) (FEAT. WU-TANG CLAN & ANGELA NEAL)
An alternate-universe version of “Clap”, the hidden track from the Wu-Tang Clan's The W, that utilizes a different beat, eliminates Raekwon's verse entirely (but subs in some introductory ad-libs from the Chef, which is supposed to make it okay somehow?), and adds an overbearing vocalist by the name of Angela Neal to sing a hook and to generally interrupt the proceedings, even going so far as to sing bars that both Ghostface Killah and Method Man had just recited. This was annoying as shit and should only be sought out by masochistic Wu stans, but I will admit that I found it funny when Angela sang about the involvement of Ghost and Meth on the track during her outro, as she completely ignores U-God's contribution to the hook. That motherfucker never catches a break, huh?

4. MESSAGE TO A BLACKMAN (SKIT) (FEAT. QUEEN SHATIYAH)
Allah Math missed a huge opportunity to use the Whatnauts “Message From A Black Man” sample that The RZA later utilized for Bobby Digital's “You Can't Stop Me Now”. I'm just saying.

5. JUSCANT LUV (FEAT. EYES LOW)
Have you ever experienced the phenomenon where a song evaporates from your consciousness not shortly after it ends and not while it's playing, but before the first note even hits your eardrums? Because that just happened to me with this boring-as-shit track from Math's bestie Eyes Low. This song wasn't worth the vinyl it was pressed on to.

6. RETURN OF THE COBRA (SKIT) (FEAT. BUDDAH BLESS)
Buddah spits a quick verse over the beat to Ghostface Killah's “Cobra Clutch”, a beat that Mathematics had originally produced to begin with. He sounds alright, I suppose, but whenever you do something like this, you risk being compared to the original artist, and why would anyone even want to do that to themselves?

7. HAV MERCY (FEAT. KILLA SIN & LA THE DARKMAN)
This collaboration between Killarmy's Killa Sin and sometime Wu-affiliate La The Darkman is a far cry from their previous banger “Heist Of The Century” (from La's debut album of the same name); instead, “Hav Mercy” is a Sin solo with a hook performed by the Darkman. Killa Sin holds up his end of the bargain very well, infusing his three verses with the clever wordplay and general entertainment value that is expected from the Clan, and although the hook is almost entirely useless, I'm glad to know that La was still booking regular guest spots back in 2003. Math's beat fucks everything up for me, though, as its faux-soul leanings come across as something the Wu-Tang Clan would shun and never wish to acknowledge. A shame.

8. RESPECT MINE (FEAT. WU-TANG CLAN & CAPPADONNA)
Although this Raekwon-dominated Wu track is ultimately a throwaway, there's still enough to recommend on here so the stans in the audience will want to give it a spin. Math's beat, built around a piano sound bite and a drum machine, is absurdly simple but will get stuck in your head, and Method Man's performance finds him pulling a GZA/Genius and incorporating the titles of his Wu brethren's solo projects into coherent (to a point) bars, which is something you just don't expect from someone who appeared in The Sitter. Of course, you still have to sit through a subpar Capppadonna verse and an uninspired Chef Raekwon contribution (and overly-wordy hook), but compared to everything else on Love Hell Or Right (Da Come Up) to this point, I'd say it was worth it for Cliffy's contribution alone.

9. DA HEIST (SKIT) (FEAT. STARKING, LEO, KARIM, & MILTON “MOUTH”)
Kind of pointless.

10. GANGSTA (FEAT. LOGIC, NEMY, MAD MAN, & EYES LOW)
Okay, Math, you got me: I had forgotten that you actually held the Whatnauts sample back for “Gangsta” instead of shooting your load earlier on that skit. I should have known that you wouldn't have let a gift-wrapped-and-dipped-in-chocolate opportunity such as that slip past you. So it's too bad that this shit is so goddamn lame. Math's weed carriers (including some dude named Mad Man, who apparently was unaware that Killarmy's 9th Prince also sometimes goes by that name) fail to impress lyrically over a lazy beat that uses the aforementioned sample as an afterthought. Also, probably a bad idea to end the track with a lengthy monologue from a no-name rapper that can;t back up his claims.

11. DA GREAT SIEGE (FEAT. WU-TANG CLAN)
Math's repetitive loop isn't all that bad: it's certainly in the vein of what you've all heard the Wu rap over in the past. What gets to me about “Da Great Siege”, aside from the fact that it's credited to the crew when only one goddamn member of the Clan appears, is simply how goddamn apathetic it is: The RZA's Bobby Digital-esque contribution (which was also released, with the same beat, as a Masta Killa / Prince Rakeem collaboration entitled “Shaolin Rooftop Talk”) is clearly an acapella, overly-wordy hook and all, that Allah Math just laid over his beat and labeled it a “song” without any of the flourishes and tricks that actual songwriters and producers tend to utilize. Prince Rakeem flows from verse to hook at the drop of a hat, without any cues for the audience to follow, and that makes this shit exhausting.

12. MESSAGE FROM A BLACKMAN (SKIT)

13. REAL TALK (POP'S SONG) (FEAT. POPPA DON)
This may as well have been another interlude, as guest crooner Poppa Don's vocals lead the listener in a circle and ultimately leave you stranded by the side of the highway without your wallet or your phone. I'd go so far as to call the song entirely useless, save for the fact that the Mathematics beat uses the same sample that The RZA played during the introduction to Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)'s “Clan In Da Front”, which I apparently feel was worth mentioning. But seriously, this shit was garbage. Real talk.

14. HIP HOP 101 (FEAT. PRODIGAL SUNN, H. SPEED, BORN JUSTICE, SHACRONZ, & ALLAH REAL))
This Wu-Tang D-list posse cut wasn't bad, but it does fail where it is most important: the listener is left unable to identify who was who and, even worse, has no reason to ever want to follow up on any of them. (Prodigal Sunn gets a pass, of sorts, because of his Sunz Of Man connection, but without that, I find it impossible to believe that anyone would care about him being on here, either.) This is the indie label equivalent to discovering ten years later that your little brother recorded a rap song with a bunch of his friends that you never even think of anymore because they don't even hang out like that all that much today. The beat was alright, though.

15. QUEENS DAY '88 (FEAT. POPPA DON & EYES LOW)
Meh.

16. ALWAYS NY (FEAT. WU-TANG CLAN, BUDDAH BLESS, & ICARUS DA DON)
Beat-wise, “Always NY” shares DNA with “Respect Mine”, although Math's work on here is a bit grimier. This actually isn't all that bad: our host convinced Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa, and a surprisingly game U-God to share screen time with Buddah Bless and Icarus Da Don (who is actualy better known as one of Redman's weed carriers, also going by the name Icadon), and everyone walks away from the track smelling like...well, like something that smells good, because have you ever actually taken a whiff of a rose? The Rebel INS closing verse left me wishing that his solo career was much better than it really is, and it's a cold day in hell when I don't complain about a U-God cameo, so you had best grab your parka.

17. GUN TALK (FEAT. STREETLIFE & BUDDAH BLESS)
Those cupcakes Buddah Bless brought to the studio must have been fortified with extra love, because Mathematics saw to it that he was paired up with some of the Wu-Tang Clan's heaviest hitters on Love Hell Or Right (Da Come Up). Okay, so Streetlife is really more of an affiliate than a full-fledged Clan member, but he's been around since Method Man's Tical and has been impressing me since then, and his verse on here is no exception. What was surprising was how seamlessly Buddah Bless integrated himself onto the track: if Love Hell Or Right (Da Come Up) was a covert audition set up to find and fund new Wu affiliates, that motherfucker would be walking away with the golden ticket.

18. ...ON DA RADIO (SKIT) (FEAT. GHOSTFACE KILLAH)
On this skit, Mathematics pulls back the curtain, allowing listeners a glimpse into an alternate reality, one in which an uncredited Ghostface Killah kicks a verse over the GZA/Genius classic “Shadowboxin'”. (As Math had fuck-all to do with the production on “Shadowboxin'”, The RZA is given a co-producer credit in the liner notes.) It's interesting enough to make you long for a legitimate remix, although the original is admittedly hard to top.

19. PIMP PARTY (FEAT. ALMIGHTY INFINITE, EYES LOW, BOY BIG, & BUDDAH BLESS)
Love Hell Or Right (Da Come Up)'s first song was about pimping, so Math apparently felt it appropriate to end the project with another track about the profession, possibly as a way to differentiate his project from every other Wu-Tang release at the time. The song isn't anything to crow about: everyone involved (including Buddah Bless, who I may have praised a bit prematurely a couple of tracks ago) manages to not embarrass themselves, but at times they come pretty fucking close. Nothing to see here, folks.

20. OUTRO
A brief instrumental outro, albeit one where our host informs listeners of the existence of a bonus track. So it isn't much of a surprise, you see.

The final song on Love Hell Or Right (Da Come Up) is listed as a bonus track.

21. DA WAY WE WERE
Interestingly enough, Love Hell Or Right (Da Come Up) ends its broadcast day with a song performed by Mathematics himself. Our host delivers two verses (and a really long chorus) praising old-school soul and R&B, among other topics, dropping so many dated references that the kids reading this blog would roll their eyes and tell Grandpa to shut up and take his medication if they ever found themselves actually listening to “Da Way We Were”. Not a terrible way to end the project (although it is abruptly cut off at the end), but it really works more as a curiosity piece than as an actual song. There's a reason Math saved it for the end.

FINAL THOUGHTS:  As you probably expected me to say when I mentioned above that this project contained twenty-one tracks, Love Hell Or Right (Da Come Up) is far too fucking long to ever have any sort of lasting impact, mainly because even diehard Wu stans will tune out long before Mathematics ever steps to the microphone himself.  The music doesn't really help much: there aren't many beats on Love Hell Or Right (Da Come Up) that would help Mathematics stand out from the pack of Wu-Elements he represents, and the flood of guests, most of whom can't hold a candle to their more popular counterparts on this project), will cause the listener to essentially give up before anything ever really begins.  Mathematics's loyalty to his old friends is admirable, and perhaps had he focused all of his energies into producing an album solely for them, it might have worked, but by combining their tracks with those from the Wu-Tang Clan (save for Ol' Dirty Bastard, who was in prison at the time, and the GZA, which is a curious exclusion giving the pair's history), the listener forces a comparison that does no favors for anyone involved.  Although a couple of the songs on here were decent enough, they still don't mark any significant chapter in the Clan's history.

BUY OR BURN? A burn would be sufficient here. Even Wu stans who pride themselves in collecting everything have to draw the line somewhere.

BEST TRACKS: “Always NY”; “Gun Talk”

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
You know the drill. 

6 comments:

  1. "The Problem" is much better imo.

    I only liked "Alwayz N.Y." from this album.

    ReplyDelete
  2. "Quick bit of trivia: Allah Mathematics is more than just the group's touring deejay. He also designed the Clan's logo. No, seriously. That pervasive "W" that appears on the album cover of every Clan member (and some of the affiliates) is based on his own design."

    Wu-Tang Manual, isn't it?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Also, are you going to review "The Problem", or ditch Mathematics already altogether (he kinda overstayed his welcome in this week). I remember it was very meh, except for "Real Nillaz" or "John 3:16".

    ReplyDelete
  4. I will always respect Mathematics for producing "Mighty Healthy," "Cobra Clutch," and several other quality Wu songs, but as far as his solo work goes, I could care less.

    Love the Wu-Elements as a whole, though.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'd love to see a review of The Problem as well. I enjoyed it, although i haven't heard this one, so I don't know if Math improved over time or if your standards are just higher than mine.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm surprised you didn't say nothing about how the chorus to 'Respect Mine' was snatched from 'Flowers' from Ghostface's Bulletproof Wallets. C'mon Max!

    ReplyDelete