April 9, 2007

Sunz Of Man - The Last Shall Be First (July 21, 1998)

Remember earlier, when I said that my love of all things Wu has led to my spending a ridiculous amount of money on half-assed albums by Wu-Tang affiliates who aren't worthy enough to serve me my fries at Burger King?

I didn't write that earlier?

Huh.

Anyway, Sunz of Man have the distinction of being the first real Wu-affiliate group out of the gates after the original nine members became famous. (A lot of people forget that the Gravediggaz project didn't start life as a Wu-relation, but became one organically after Prince Paul left that group.) Sunz of Man was made up of an ever-changing group of four otherwise-solo emcees: Killah Priest (the "star"), Hell Razah, 60 Second Assassin, and Prodigal Sunn, none of whom could carry an album by themselves (well, except maybe Priest), but work well in a team environment.

The Last Shall Be First is the official debut album, but it doesn't contain any of their teaser singles, songs recorded for Wu-Tang Records with members of the other main Wu-related crew, Killarmy. This is because their first real album, rumored to be called Nothing New Under The Sun, was shelved after the heads of Wu-Tang Records realized that it may not be a good idea to release an album by a group whose de facto leader had a problem with the leader of the Wu-Tang movement (otherwise known as the Rza). The crew regrouped and released The Last Shall be First, an album with a surprisingly dark sound, surprising in that the first single was a Wyclef Jean-produced, Earth, Wind & Fire-sampling, Ol' Dirty Bastard-featuring radio friendly semi-hit.

The rest of the album sounds as close to vintage Wu as an affiliate would get, with production duties handled by 4th Disciple, True Master, their in-house producer Supreme, and the Abbott himself (Rza again). Shortly after the release of this album, Killah Priest became high and mighty and decided he didn't need the Wu to be successful; more recently, he's recanted that statement and rejoined the group, although who knows when they'll release material together again.

1. INTRO
Yeah, another fucking rap album intro. Could have done without this one.

2. COLD
Not bad, not great.

3. NATURAL HIGH (FEAT TREBAG)
Who the fuck is Trebag? Who knows? But this song is fucking good.

4. FLAMING SWORDS
The first track here that features all four group members. Notice how that description doesn't tell you anything.

5. ILLUSIONS
A little bit too slow for my liking.

6. SHINING STAR (FEAT EARTH, WIND & FIRE & OL' DIRTY BASTARD)
The first (and only charting) single. This song actually sounds good, but that's only because ODB is such a fucking jackass, you can't help but like him. (Check out the video here.)

7. ISRAELI NEWS (FEAT TREBAG)
Who the fuck is Trebag? Who knows? What do you mean I already asked that question?

8. TRIBULATIONS
Vintage Wu, but without the dusty drums.

9. THE INTERVIEW
Skit where Sunz of Man pretends they were bigger stars than they really were.

10. THE PLAN
Unless I'm mistaken, this was the second single. I have the CD single somewhere in one of my books. This song doesn't really work as single material.

11. COLLABORATION '98 (FEAT METHOD MAN & TRUE MASTER)
Because you can't really have a Wu-related album without at least one member of the core nine. True Master (better known for producing) sounds a lot like the Gza to me; am I alone in thinking this?

12. INMATES TO THE FIRE
Produced by The Rza. The beat is great, the lyrics are meh. Rza must have read my mind; he would later jack his own instrumental and implement it into the score for Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog.

13. NOT PROMISED TOMORROW
Eh, not great.

14. FOR THE LUST OF MONEY/THE GRANDZ
At this point, I find myself admiring the packaging of the CD, especially the CD booklet. This shit is truly professional; it looks better than the actual Wu-Tang Clan albums. This is a direct contrast to almost every other affiliate album cover, which look as if they were all designed with dime-store Photoshop and copied multiple times at Kinko's (which I'm sure was the case for a lot of them).

15. CAN I SEE YOU? (FEAT BERETTA 9)
Rza produces this weak-ass song. Rza's not a miracle worker, people.

16. THE BATTLE
Crew members freestyle while "Inmates To The Fire" plays in the background, lyrics and all.

17. NEXT UP (FEAT METHOD MAN)
Meth must have been too stoned to leave the studio that day.

18. INTELLECTUALS (FEAT RAEKWON AND U-GOD)
I always considered U-God to be the worst member of the group. Thankfully his appearances here are brief.

19. FIVE ARCH ANGELS
Now this pisses me off. When the Sunz of Man first released a single, they had a full song called "Five Arch Angels" that sounded good (but not as good as the A-side, "Soldiers of Darkness"). So of course this song is really just an outro to the album, not the fucking song. Why artists do this to their fans, I'll never know.

FINAL THOUGHTS: The Last Shall Be First is what you would expect from a Wu affiliate: some good beats laced with a lot of rap boasts and religious thoughts, provided by rappers who, for the most part, wouldn't have gotten a deal otherwise. You have to admit, the Wu treated their weed carriers well.

BUY OR BURN? I would just burn it, since the album is out of print and damn near impossible to find for less than twenty dollars. If you burn it, though, you're missing out on the wonder that is the album booklet (I wasn't joking when I said the presentation was pretty good).

BEST TRACKS: "Inmates To The Fire"; "Shining Star"; "Natural High"

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Wu-Tang Clan - Enter The Wu-Tang Clan (36 Chambers)
Method Man - Tical

8 comments:

  1. Where do I start with this one? This has to be one of the biggest disappointments of my music life. I was absolutely addicted to the music these guys were putting out around '96-98. When I first heard 5 Arch Angels my brain didn't believe what my ears were hearing. I had never heard anyone flow the way these guys did on this song. To be honest, I still haven't heard a song to this day that had a similar flow or true fury that this song conveys. The content they were rapping about was so brutal as well. They also had "Soldiers of Darkness" and "Deep in the Water" which now has a different name, "Writing Rhymes with a Liquid Pen", "Wicked Wayz", and others. All these songs were so raw and got me hyped like crazy. This album came out and I picked it up, and had only one mission; look for 5 arch angels because I had only crappy quality versions copied from the internet. I will never forget the disappointment I felt when I saw that it wasn't on there. To slap me in the face yet again, they turned the song into an outro. It's not a terrible album but I think if they released all the darker, earlier material they really could have set themselves apart. Instead we got these half-assed songs with more widely accessible content. This is my favorite Wu-affiliated group. The better songs were later released on "The Old Testament" but that was just recently in 2006. 10 years later? DAMN!!!!

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  2. i liked this album a lot and i still do .Flaming swords is an incredible True Master track in my opinion.
    I must say i couldn't believe you wrote that killah Priest can "maybe" carry an album on his own, Max.
    You're talking about Killah Priest , Max, one of the best ever as far as I can see.Can't help wondering how you'd review "Heavy Mental" ?
    Trebag used to be in the Sunz of Man in their early days but I can't say his dissapearing in the background was a great loss to SOM.
    Later , Max !

    Have you checked out that youtube link i sent you in the chatbox ?
    Curious what you think of that, cause you're one of the first rapheads i met on the net that also listens to other musicthan hiphop and i find that refreshing !!!

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  3. Tile GroutMarch 23, 2010

    "Who the fuck is Trebag? Who knows?" All I know is that the moniker is a little too close to "Teabag" for my taste. One could imagine kids using "trebag" as a sanitized version when they are trying to avoid trouble in class. Kind of like they say "my ninja" to one another as opposed to "my 'n' word". Or is this just a central California thing?

    "Come on, Mr. Smith! I wasn't being inappropriate in regards to Suzy when I said she went "trebagging" last weekend! I was merely comparing her to a guest MC from an underground rap album from the late nineties. Thanks, Mr. Smith. (to friend) What' up, my ninja?"

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  4. This album is weak. Sunz of Man definitely had potential -- they just never got a chance to shine. Killarmy is therefore the best Wu-offshoot group.

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    Replies
    1. To each his own.
      I find this album has mostly quality beats AND rhymes.

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  5. My favourite Hip-Hop album of all time. I knw all the rhymes to it by heart. I still can't match Illusions to any hip hop song ever made because of how hard it hit me when I first heard it.

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