June 30, 2007

The Rza - Rza as Bobby Digital In Stereo (November 24, 1998)


The Rza, best known as being the leader of the Wu-Tang Clan, a snazzy dresser, and a genius producer, released his first solo album one week after Method Man dropped the disappointing Tical 2000: Judgement Day. (Don't you kinda wish the Wu would start dropping albums closer to each other again?) During his time on the group CDs, and his multiple guest verses, Rza had become known for his pointed observations and more conscious lyrics,so of course he capitalized on this by adopting, a la Kool Keith (who was clearly an influence here), the alias of Bobby Digital, the superhero. Rza used the Bobby Digital moniker to contradict his earlier work, comparing the aesthetics of the stereotypical black male experience with that of a masked avenger on a power trip, with all of the violence, drugs, and women that would belong with either.

In true hip hop fashion, Rza as Bobby Digital In Stereo is the soundtrack to a film of the same name, one of those I'm Bout It-type straight to video jobs, although it has never been released. (The trailer can be found online pretty easily.) The cover art exemplifies the superhero idea with some badass artwork (and a huge fucking gun), and the production (for the most part) sounds like, sans lyrics, it could be a somewhat effective score for a blaxploitation action flick from the late seventies/early eighties.

Robert Q. Digital had teased that his first solo would be called The Cure, ostensibly a "cure" for the ridiculously material-obsessed, misogynistic, and violent rap that had taken over our music culture like a bacteria, or like that white glop from The Stuff. (See, I could have mentioned The Blob, but The Stuff is a funnier movie.) My belief is that Rza, realizing that he just promised a conscious rap album to the fans, opted for the name switch so that he could justify rhyming as ignorantly as he wanted. The Cure would just come out later. Right. To this day, it still hasn't been released, and probably never will. But that's just as well. The mythology of The Cure would just lead any actual album with that title to just disappoint.

Many Wu stans were thrilled to have anything with The Rza's name on it, so they snatched this up immediately. (These same fans probably don't realize that The Rza, as Prince Rakeem, released an solo EP waaaay back in the early nineties, Ooh I Love You Rakeem, which is on the same level of suckage as Words From The Genius.) I, too, was one of those stans who snatched it up on that Tuesday. For the majority of the CD, Robert Q. Digital implemented his 'digital orchestration' sound, which is a manipulative way to say that he didn't sample as much. As such, Bobby Digital In Stereo is a Wu solo in name and guest spots only.

1. INTRO
By the way, as of this point in Wu history, this was the most pretentious album that any of the nine core members had released. This isn't always a bad thing, but the inclusion of the 'rap album intro' earns some demerits.

2. B.O.B.B.Y.
The chorus is mind-numbingly inane. Without it, this song would be okay. I wish The Rza's delivery was more like it was on the Gravediggaz and first Wu albums, though. (Wu stans know what I'm talking out.)

3. UNSPOKEN WORD
The high-pitched vocal sample weaving its way throughout the instrumental? If it were pitched just a little bit lower, it wouldn't hurt my ears so goddamn much.

4. SLOW GRIND AFRICAN
The pretentious theme? Consistent throughout the entire album. I know, right? These interludes were supposed to show that the Wu have influence all over the world, but it just tells me that The Rza used his frequent flier miles to get folks from other countries to appear on his record.

5. AIRWAVES
Produced by King Tech, of Sway and Tech's old radio show. (Is Sway still on MTV?) It's a good song, but as a side note: King Tech remixed it for the Sway and Tech This or That album, keeping the beat and Robert's first verse (but ditching the chants of 'Wu-Tang!"), and adding guest vocals from (takes a deep breath) Tech N9ne, Eminem, Pharoahe Monch, Xzibit, Kool G Rap, Jayo Felony, Chino XL, and KRS-One. Whew! Except for the Jayo Felony bit, that's some good company to be considered in.

6. LOVE JONES (FEAT ANGEL CAKE)
Ever since Meth snatched up the Grammy, every Wu solo album features the mandatory love song. The first lines, "Girl, you shining like a brand new spankin' black glock/Or a thousand hundred dollar bills inside a shoebox", are among the funniest, yet sweetest, WU lyrics to date. The beat utilizes the same sample that DJ Muggs used as an interlude on the Soul Assassins album (I think it was the one right before the Mobb Deep song, but I'm not 100%).

7. NYC EVERYTHING (FEAT METHOD MAN)
The first single. I have a CD single of this track that I got from some DJ magazine, and it also includes a 12 minute Rza freestyle, "Do You Hear The Bells?", which is admirable in its audacity. This song still sounds pretty good, but Rza outshines Johnny Blaze, which is probably good, since it's his solo album and all.

8. MANTIS (FEAT MASTA KILLA & TEKITHA)
The only true "Wu" song, if only because of the kung-fu samples involved. (Sadly, after this album, the samples would slowly fade into the distance on the Wu solos.) The first time I heard this song, I thought: Tekitha raps? Perhaps she should stop.

9. SLOW GRIND FRENCH
...

10. HOLOCAUST (SILKWORM) (FEAT HOLOCAUST, DOC DOOM, GHOSTFACE KILLAH, & MS. ROXY)
Probably the best song on here, thanks to Holocaust's scene-stealing opening verse. Everyone else, especially Robert Q. Digital, act as if in awe of Holocaust (or Warcloud, or Miriam Jenkins, or whatever name he goes by these days), and try to emulate his style. Probably the best introduction of a Wu-affiliate since, well, Enter The Wu-Tang. (Off topic but equally important: R.I.P. Doc Doom, who was murdered earlier this year.)

11. TERRORIST (FEAT DOM PACHINO, DOC DOOM, & KILLA SIN)
The U.S. version has Holocaust at the end, who is about to start rhyming, and then the instrumental kicks in. In Japan, you get to hear Holocaust's verse, which ends prematurely (I guess he lost his nerve), and Dom Pachino, of all people, picks up his pieces. While the Japanese version is a curious listen, the American release builds on Holocaust's legend by not letting us hear him fuck up.

12. BOBBY DID IT (SPANISH FLY) (FEAT ISLORD, TIMBO KING, JAMIE SOMMERS, NDIRA, & GHOSTFACE KILLAH)
Bobby Digital In Stereo was seemingly produced to prove Rza's love to Wu-affiliate groups Killarmy and Black Knights of the North Star (who later would be broken up into two separate groups, Black Knights and Shaolin Leprechauns). And yes, Ghostface appears twice on the CD, but his legacy had already been established.

13. HANDWRITING ON THE WALL (FEAT RAS KASS & MS. ROXY)
Ras Kass is one of the few rappers outside of the camp that works well with the Wu. (Ever hear that song that Rza did with AZ, "Whatever Happened (The Birth)"? I rest my case.) That's probably why Rassy is now a part of Wu-affiliates The Horsemen. (Can I use the term Wu-affiliate any more in this review?) I like this track, even though it abruptly ends at the 1:38 mark, and leads into...

14. KISS OF THE BLACK WIDOW (FEAT OL' DIRTY BASTARD)
The liner notes inexplicably say 'Featuring Wu-Tang Clan', which may have been an easy way for Dirt McGirt's record label to not get pissed about his guest vocal here. (For "Bobby Did It", Timbo King is actually credited as 'Royal Fam', the name of his group, although he's probably the only one from the group that still raps anyway.) ODB starts to re-use his verse from Big Daddy Kane's "Show & Prove", catches himself, and finishes anyway. Inspectah Deck produces here, ripping off a loop from a Portishead song, and I will admit, sampling Portishead? Inspired. The final product? Well, the rhymes are great.

15. SLOW GRIND ITALIAN
...

16. MY LOVIN' IS DIGI (FEAT THE FORCE M.D.'S & MS. ROXY)
Kinda out of place. But it's the type of song that could be played while driving around your hood during the opening credits of the movie based on your life story. So I guess it works.

17. DOMESTIC VIOLENCE (FEAT U-GOD, MS. ROXY, JAMIE SOMMERS, & TIFFANY)
Ah, yes, the infamous "Domestic Violence". This song is fucking vicious, even nine years later. "Talking about you wanna be a nurse/Bitch, to be a nurse, you gotta go to school first!" Darkly humorous, emphasis on darkly. Luckily, U-God's contribution is extremely minimal, or else you'd read some more complaints in this space.

18. PROJECT TALK (FEAT BERETTA 9)
The final four tracks presented here are credited to The Rza, not Bobby Digital. This does not mean these songs are less ignorant, however.

19. LAB DRUNK
My choice for second best song, but I can only imagine what the rest of the Clan would sound like on this one.

20. FUCK WHAT YOU THINK (FEAT ISLORD & 9TH PRINCE)
It's clear my opinion doesn't matter, based on the title alone. But for my two readers: this song is weak.

21. DAILY ROUTINE (FEAT BERETTA 9)
A very boring way to end the album.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Rza as Bobby Digital In Stereo is the new worst Wu solo album thus far. There are some really fucking great songs here, but the package as a whole is severely lacking. When you release a solo album, you're entitled to put whatever the fuck you want on it, but Rza must have been blown out of his mind on honey-dipped blunts to include the dopey interludes and the seemingly infinite number of guest artists. The beats are mostly weak, and that's not a criticism of the 'digital orchestration' technique; they just sound bad. Bobby Digital In Stereo seems like an incomplete thought released to the masses.

BUY OR BURN? Wu stans already own this album, but for those new to the Wu, this is the least accessible solo album they've released, so I can't recommend a purchase. Burn it first and give it a listen, as it's an acquired taste.

BEST TRACKS: "Holocaust (Silkworm); "Lab Drunk"; "Handwriting On The Wall"; "Domestic Violence"

(Disagree with the above review? Leave some comments! Make your opinions known!)

-Max

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16 comments:

  1. ok.......ok.......listen to me right now. i can tell that your probably a well educated person. your writing style is very dense, makes you think. when you say something disrespectful and just strait up ingnorant it ruins the rest of your information. i am not kidding. ive read nuff of your "reviews" and you always fuck it up with some stupid shit. Prince Rakeem & The Genius were excellent mcs. there rhymes were deep. it was the seed of the wu. dont feed me this sort of bullshit. respect the classics. start listning to lyric son! i am not feeling you. i have no idea where your coming from. absolutely no respect, untill you learn. asshole

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  2. In a word: bwa-ha-ha! I'm probably a bigger Wu fan than you could ever dream to be, but I'm not blind, and I don't just assume that everything Wu related is automatically fantastic. The point of the blog, which you clearly didn't read because you admitted it yourself, is that, if you are A Wu stan, you already own it, but if you are brand new to the Clan, this is NOT THE ALBUM TO START WITH. It is NOT accessible to the casual hip hop fan, which is why I said you should listen to it BEFORE you buy. Notice I didn't say that it should be avoided at all costs, like I have with SOME albums.
    Oh, and I never said that Rza and Gza (or Prince Rakeem and The Genius, since you seem so sure of your so-called hip hop taste that you try to show me up by using their original rap names) were bad MCs. At ALL. Their original albums DID suck, but they showed talent, and I said as much in the Words From The Genius review. And I didn't hear anyone complain when I said that Tical, Return To The 36 Chambers, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Liquid Swords, Wu-Tang Forever, and Enter The Wu-Tang were must-owns (and, for that matter, that Sunz of Man album that I wrote about as well). All of the hate comes when I take your favorite album and say it's not that good, and that spurs the vitroil. Hello, that's the point! if you disagree with the comments, tell me why! Nobody is disrespecting the classics here, and even you would be hard pressed to say that Words from The Genius and Bobby Digital are classic albums that will stand the test of time.
    As for the asshole comment, well, you got me, yes, I AM an asshole. But isn't that also the fucking point?
    Thanks for taking the time to comment, and thanks for reading!

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  3. I pretty much agree with you on this, Max . However I found that the second Bobby Digital album was much better. But the best of them all is the Birth of A Price album, in my opinion one of the best rap albums in recent years. I hope you review them sometime. Keep up the good work!

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  4. AnonymousJune 30, 2007

    I have to disagree with you about this album, there are some albums worse, "Mr. Xcitement" is one of them, "Bobby Digital in Stereo" isn't as bad as you wrote in your review, like supamushroom420 stated: "i am not feeling you", me too, man, btw "Words From The Genius" and "Ooh I Love You Rakeem" were kinda old school, they had some potential but both sounded like every other album in those years, for me they were just a sample of a revolution which begun in 1993...

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  5. I agree with Max on several points:
    1. if you want to start exploring the wu-vaults then this isn't the album to pick up first. It had to grow on me for years before i could fully appreciate it and i had been a wu fan for years when it was released !!! This just isn't an easy, accessable listen.
    2. The old school joints from Prince rakeem and the genius are for historical reasons interesting but to a wu head they just don't work. Wu sound is dark, and gritty and this playfull light old school stuff just doesn't work for them and as someone wrote here there's better old school stuff to be found that does work better than this. I'm a big fan of the GZA but when i listen to words from ... it sounds like an bad mash up.
    3. And asto Max being an asshole lol, we all are assholes in a way so why remind us Supa ? lol, relax m8, it's only max's opinion and he puts it together in a good and well constructed manner so let him , ok ? Peace
    The Tcha ( officially on summer vacation now !!! )

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  7. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessJuly 02, 2007

    Nice review. I agree with most of it but would add NYC Everything to the list of best tracks. Good call on the Ras Kass thing. I'm probably not the most objective person concerning Ras Kass but after hearing Handwriting on the Wall and The End off of Rasassination, I was campaigning for more collaborations. Killah Priest doesn't really count for me and I had pretty much given up hope by the time the Think Differently album came out with two songs featuring Ras Kass and GZA. Then Ras Kass showed up on the Destruction of a Guard remix from the GZA & DJ Muggs Grandmasters record. This link needs to be strengthened. On my next birthday, I'm wishing for Ras Kass to be awarded any mic time that would otherwise be squandered on U-God and Cappadonna. I miss the Kung-Fu samples intensely.

    As for the commenter who said that he ain't feeling Max for not showing respect to Prince Rakeem and The Genius, you should look around the blog a little bit. You can tell by the length of the review, including the album review intro, that Max likes (or at least likes writing about) the RZA. You also might notice the link to "The Ultimate Wu-Site" on the sidebar.

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  8. AlmightyKDJuly 10, 2007

    Another album I didn't check for when it came out because I didn't like the "new" direction the Wu sound took after the release of "Forever". I think this review is bang on, you can't bash this album because it not without it's good points however there are many short comings to this album. The change in The RZA's production is very apparent at this point and it leaves you wanting more of tracks like Holocaust, Lab Drunk and Love Jones (which would have been a perfect fit on a Ghostface album) but they are few and far between. This album to me marks the Wu transition into obscurity. As a fan of the early Wu Albums this album was a major dissapointment with glimpses of what should have been and the bad taste of what was to come.

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  9. i almost cried when i first heard this, its tat poor.....lets leave it at that...lol

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  10. i duno, lots of my homies all say this is rza's best album, and i gotta say i agree...

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  11. I fucking hate you dude... you have no appreciation for rza's style of production or anyone else for that matter, I assume. Oh well, keep on bumping that TPain that you would probably rate 10/10 overall. There isn't 1 album where you don't show your appreciation for every track it's always "This song sucked and if he would have kept this out" Blah, blah, blah! The fact of the matter is, he didn't take it out and therefore this only goes to show that RZA is RZA and you are some well-spoken asshole trying to tell one of the best producers what to do. That's laughable. Keep writing your reviews and criticizing other people's talent, because you aren't good at anything else. I hate you, and I'm not reading anymore of this shit.

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  12. this amlbum is revolutionary...dang haters. mofo's dont know talent now a days..

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  13. Lol at the comments.

    I thought this album would be the greatest thing ever, especially since RZA produced albums like Liquid Sword, Cuban Linx, Tical, etc., and all the first Wu projects were amazing. But of course, that wasn't really the case.

    Still, some songs were nice, and "Lab Drunk" had an amazing beat.

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  14. Method manJune 30, 2012

    I actually think this album is really good. It's very consistent with great beats and rhymes, i cant understand how it got so many bad reviews

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  15. Derek ClaptonAugust 27, 2012

    I feel this review. Much like Wolfie, I expected this album to knock hard when I first listened, but the digital orchestra sound totally through me off. Also a lot of the guest spots sounded poor (Fuck What You Think embarrassingly so). Listening to it today I like it ok, but it's definitely flawed.

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  16. In my opinion I think you've taken one of the best albums and said it was terrible. RZA is a great rapper and he is a rapper who you have to listen to his lyrics. But that's my opinion..

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