September 11, 2007

Inspectah Deck - Uncontrolled Substance (October 5, 1999)

I appreciate you taking the time out from your busy day of tracking the sale-off between Curtis Jackson and Kenny Chesney to partake of another write-up. 1999 was a good year to be a fan of the Wu. Between September and November, there were no less than five solo shots by the core Clan members, of which the remaining two after Uncontrolled Substance I am not looking forward to. (Wu fans will understand when I get to them.) Jason Hunter, he of the continuously-misspelled-inside-Wu-album-booklets rap moniker Inspectah Deck, was the seventh member to burst from the gate, and he had to be pissed that no-name Wu affiliates Wu-Syndicate had their debut blessed by The Rza before his own, and he was a card-carrying member of the Wu! He was on Enter The Wu-Tang, dammit! He deserves respect!

Anyway, before his debut Uncontrolled Substance, Mr. Deck was my second favorite in the group, right behind Gza/Genius on my list. I always looked forward to his guest spots on the other members's solo albums: "Assassination Day", off of Ghost's Ironman, and "Guillotine (Swordz)" from Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... (which is also probably Dart Adams's inspiration for the title of his blog) are a couple of favorites I can rattle from my brain. He could always be counted on for a memorable verse, so why wouldn't an entire album by Inspectah Deck, with appearances by some of his Wu brethren, be a good idea?

On paper, it sounds fantastic, but obviously the rest of the Clan had better weed to smoke. The Rza obviously thought his time would be better spent trying to carefully pick his nose using those claw finger things he wore on the second Gravediggaz album cover, than to, I don't know, actually produce more than two songs. U-God (shudder) and Masta Killa show love, but it seems more out of an obligation, in a "maybe if I appear on your album, Rza will let my own solo album come out!" kind of manner (this ploy worked for U-God, anyway); everyone else in the group seems to have stayed the hell away from the studio. I choose to believe that Deck did this on purpose, to ensure that he wouldn't be upstaged by the likes of a Method Man or a Ghostface Killah, because the alternative depresses me.

Loud Records released Uncontrolled Substance with the aid of an ad campaign that featured the other artists on its roster, in a takeoff-slash-ripoff of Apple's "Think Different" print ads. Jason Hunter's ad read "Scan Different". Since that didn't make any sense, especially when compared to everyone else's ads, the buying public didn't flock to the stores (although Wikipedia claims this album went gold, but I don't believe that for a second). As with all Wu albums released in the '90s and early 2000's, I snatched this up on its release date, but as is an alarmingly consistent standard with Wu albums (especially now), disappointment soon set in. Let's see if this album sounds better eight years on.

1. INTRO
There's only one word to describe this: LAME!!! Now here are some more words: this horrifying rap album intro almost made me want to toss this disc into my garbage disposal. However, it wouldn't fit, so I would have to break it up into shards, and I don't have that kind of patience, so I guess I'll continue the write up instead.

2. MOVAS & SHAKERS
Why misspell one word and not the other? Craziness. The Rza hands over one of only two contributions on this track, which acts as a much better introduction to listeners who haven't heard of Deck before. Although if you had never heard of the Wu-Tang Clan, would this album even be on your radar?

3. 9TH CHAMBER (FEAT LA THE DARKMAN, BERETTA 9, KILLA SIN, & STREET LIFE)
The prerequisite Wu-Tang posse cut, but it's telling that everyone except for Deck is a Wu-Tang weed carrier. It doesn't sound bad, but you're left to imagine what this would have sounded like with Rae and maybe Ghost, instead of members of Killarmy, Method Man's official food taster, and La The Overrated Wu Affiliate That Gets A Lot Of Press But Can't Be Bothered To Release A Second Goddamn Album. (Did that sound bitter? Because I am.)

4. UNCONTROLLED SUBSTANCE (FEAT SHADII)
This song is very representative of the type of song that proliferates on Uncontrolled Substance: slow-paced, soulful samples that sound boring as hell underneath Deck's above-average lyrics.

5. FEMME FATALE
It has been brought to my attention numerous times that I tend to trash any Wu track that is produced by Inspectah Deck. Well folks, that's because most of them suck. I am honest enough, though, to admit that it seems Deck saved his best beats for his damn self, although the "Femme Fatale" beat sounds unfinished to me, in a bad way.

6. THE GRAND PRIX (FEAT U-GOD & STREET LIFE)
My thought process leads me to believe that Deck, obsessed with his guest appearance in Pete Rock's video for "Tru Masta" where the artists race around the track, decided to steal the video's idea and make a song out of it. Better than "9th Chamber" in the Wu-Tang posse cut contest. But that U-God guest appearance...(sucks teeth)...

7. FORGET ME NOT
Meh.

8. LONGEVITY (FEAT U-GOD)
Jason, did you accidentally run over U-God's foot one morning, and as part of the settlement he received two slots on your solo debut? That's the only logical explanation. Another would be that Baby U was the only guy in the studio showing any kind of support, which is sad considering the chorus of this song talks about the power of the Wu-Tang Clan as a whole. Sigh...

9. WORD ON THE STREET
A lot of Wu fans didn't really like this song when it was released as a single, but I took to it immediately. Hands down, the best production work Deck has ever done, for himself or otherwise. The video leaves a lot to be desired, but Deck's rundown of a crime in progress is effective as usual.

10. ELEVATION
I love how the song seems to end around the forty-second mark, and then Deck's voice returns loud and clear. This song itself isn't bad, but nothing here really sets itself apart from your average crappy rap album.

11. LOVIN YOU (FEAT LA THE DARKMAN)
Right before this track starts, your average random rap skit is played, and Lauryn Hill's "Lost Ones", my favorite track off of The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill, is heard underneath the chattering. I just thought that was interesting, that's all! Anyway, this song is decent; I like the beat, but how La became the Wu's go-to for the guest spot around this time in their history (he also appeared on Dirt McGirt's N---a Please) is beyond me.

12. TROUBLE MAN
As a thank-you for appearing on his solo debut, the almighty Pete Rock hands over one of his treats for Deck to rip. Not even close to being as catchy as "Tru Masta", but it's a sound you wouldn't expect to hear on a Wu-Tang album, and as a nice change of pace, it sounds pretty good.

13. R.E.C. ROOM
I remember there being some sort of controversy as to who actually produced this song. I believe The Rza took credit for a period of time, but True Master has his name in the album booklet. This song is the closest to a "Wu" sounding track you'll hear on the entire album. As much as it saddens me, since I loved this song back in the day, it doesn't sound very good today. Go ahead; the comments section is there for a reason.

14. FRICTION (FEAT MASTA KILLA)
Once you get to this point, and you're listening to the second Rza song, you'll realize that Robert Diggs actually gave more instrumentals to Cappadonna than to his own teammate, and you'll cry salty tears into your keyboard. Masta Killa wouldn't get his opportunity to follow up on his solo album promise until friggin' 2004, so for my two readers who look for the Wu reviews, it's going to be a looooong time before I get to that one. Just hang in there.

15. HYPERDERMIX
I guess I somehow misread the liner notes eight years ago, because I just discovered that Large Professor actually didn't produce this song; he only mixed it. Deck sounds like he's been behind the boards his entire life; it's that good. But I'm sure Extra P had something to do with that.

16. SHOW N PROVE
My favorite song on the album also happens to be the second to last song. I guess it's good that he buried it close to the end; otherwise I would have been prone to skipping it. I always liked how Mr. Deck rhymes about religion versus faith, and how they are not mutually exclusive. I remember there being some controversy about this track as well, but whenever religion is involved, I am surprised when the religious sect doesn't care. Also, the beat sounds great; I believe this was released as a single at one point, since I have the 12-inch somewhere, but I have no clue how this was received on radio, if they played it at all.

17. THE CAUSE (FEAT STREET LIFE)
A pretty weak way to end your debut album. Jason, thank you for playing; we have some lovely parting gifts for you down the hall. No, down the hall. Yes. Yeah, right there outside of that door. That one. No, that one. The one that says 'exit'. Yes, you got it.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Uncontrolled Substance is not a good Wu-Tang solo album. There, I said it. As a solo debut from Joe Rapper from the street, it's not awful. Deck's lyricism has always been top notch, and unlike Ras Kass or Canibus, his ear for beats isn't infected (and no, I did not just compare Inspectah Deck to Ras Kass or Canibus). The majority of the disc is "white noise hip hop"; it's comparable to listening to ocean waves as an aid to falling asleep.

BUY OR BURN? It's a burn. There's no way it could be anything else; it sounds that boring for the most part. However, the "best tracks" I list below are worth your eartime, so if you seek out those songs only, you'll be alright.

BEST TRACKS: "Show N Prove"; "Word On The Street"; "Hyperdermix"; "Trouble Man"

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Wu-Tang Clan - Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
Wu-Tang Clan - Wu-Tang Forever
Pete Rock - Soul Survivor

20 comments:

  1. Im one of the regular readers here. Much appreciating your efforts. Great work.

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  2. Love your reviews. Keep up the good work!

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  3. ay sup max, im an avid reader of ur blog, i just wanted to know if you could get the moderator of Ultimate Wu (if ur not the moderator) to invite me to join, thank you very much

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  4. Gizzo - thanks for your comments! I appreciate the readers that continue to come back for more; hopefully I won't disappoint.

    Martin - thank you for commenting! Hopefully you'll like what I have up my sleeve (which I say as if I have something diabolical cooking...)

    rafdawuassassin - I defer all requests to get hooked onto Ultimate Wu to my boy Perfecta, whom you can visit at one of his other blogs at The 900 Number (see sidebar). While there are a LOT of contributors over at the Wu site, it's ultimately Perfecta's baby.

    Thanks for reading!

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  5. Aw, I dug this album.
    But, I can understand how it can drag at some parts.
    Well done review nonetheless.

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  6. Im sorry guy but I gotta disagree with you on this on. I am a big hip hop fan and a long-time Wu lover, and even tho the album drug-out and most of the skits tagged on at the end of the songs sucked, i thought the sharp lyrics and witty rhymes by the inspectah were top-noch. I wouldnt compare it to the early Wu projects, but compared to any MC thats out today... this album would dwarf em. But thanks for listening

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  7. johnnyhiphopluvaSeptember 04, 2009

    i enjoyed this album, pretty weird u hat this one

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  8. all original beats for this album were destroyed by a flood in RZA's basement in 95 so give the album a break and shut your ignorant ass up before you criticize a real rapper

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  9. One thing I've noticed after writing about all of Deck's albums to date is that his fans seem to get upset that his musical output isn't up to par. If this many people actually went out and bought his fucking albums, meybe we'd be having a different discussion.

    And it shouldn't matter that all of the original beats were lost in a flood: Deck could have found replacement beats that were on the same wavelength as what The Rza originally came up with. Or Rza could have, I don't know, replaced them himself. It's not like he suddenly forgot how to craft an instrumental.

    Thanks for reading!

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  10. great review, exactly how i feel about this album. i have it because of a few songs i liked, but the whole album is boring and kinda just give me a headache... i like inspectah deck usually though

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  11. Im listening to this album for the "first" time right now...seems ive heard all these songs before at some (earlier) point in my life, but its my first time listening through as a whole album. Actually liked the album, but it doesnt really stand out for me in comparison to other earlier Wu efforts. Not really why sure there is so much U-God hate on the internet, but thats another story...

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  12. "Jason, thank you for playing; we have some lovely parting gifts for you down the hall. No, down the hall. Yes. Yeah, right there outside of that door. That one. No, that one. The one that says 'exit'. Yes, you got it."

    LOL.

    I remember listening to this all the way through awhile back and thought it was a decent listen. But now I'm looking back at the album and find it to be a bit dull, save for a song or two.

    I still feel that if Cappadonna's beats from 'The Pillage' (amazing production on there, I constantly go back to that album) were used for Deck's debut instead, this would've been a great album.

    Also, I thought U-God sounded great on Longevity... Just throwing that out there.

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  13. The problem with U-God is that the best compliment he can get, ever, is "sounds good... FOR U-GOD" ... that, or "not bad -- for u-god" and etc. He doesn't have the charisma, lyrics, flow, etc to carry a song, let alone an album, and can barely carry a verse even though RZA seems to jokingly call him "4 bar killer".

    I think it helps to think of all 10 (? yes, 10) members of wu in 3 groups. You got Cap/Rae/Ghost... yeah, Ghost is a bit more surreal and lyrical, but all 3 have similiar crime tales and flows and shit. U-God/Meth/ODB are the 3 goofy not-traditional rap lyrics/voices/flow types. GZA/Master/Inspectah all mostly are quiet, introspective, etc. Finally, RZA kinda combines EVERY member with his lyrics and throughout his phases (from his head-is-going-to-explode violent-rhyme phase to his Bobby Digital shit to ... I mean, he's got like 100 styles. That's why he's the best member in the clan, imo, besides just the beats and shit)

    as for deck, he blows. sorry. he's amazing on guest verses but this album is horrid. I prefer the pillage.

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  14. The reviewer seems to be right on point. The album isnt good.

    Of course Im old and dont have wutang so far up my ass its clogging my ears. i remember waiting for this to come out....drooling. i heard the sampler. it wasnt great but i tried to convince myself it was. of course i got the day it came out.

    my reaction was the same as everyone elses...after all the INS hype, the album was barely good and FAR from great. Wu lovers always praise this damn album - listen to it. its boring.... alot of Decks beats sound rectangular and square (dont know if you know what i mean). Its a shame he never got his chance to shine but oh well. its too late now.

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  15. It's a shame about inspectah deck's career. He had some fire verses on cream and triumph. Even with the flood in the basement (u-god must've left some doors open grr) he's had a good number of guest appearances around 98, along with the wu-tang buzz (get it... killa beez) after wu-tang forever everyone must have wanted this album to be up there with Tical, Ironman etc, I'm guessing he gave the RZA a long ass lecture about 'independence'

    Btw Max, what were you implying when you said you weren't compare inspectah deck to ras kass? Are you saying that rebel ins is significantly better than the latter?

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    Replies
    1. Other way around. Although I enjoy listening to Deck more (especially his early work and his late period, Czarface and Twelve Reasons To Die stuff), Ras Kass is the superior lyricist. Doesn't mean Rassy is a better ARTIST, though...

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  16. This album, by no means a must-buy, HAD to have more than 4 decent songs, Max.

    For the record, I could never listen through "Show N Prove" without skipping. I believe it to be THAT inaccessible.

    For the umpteenth time, Inspectah Deck has quite a bunch of BANGING productions up his sleeve, just not so much on this album. He most definitely is NOT the shit producer you're making him out to be. I realize that it's your opinion, but I would like to debate you on his beats, if you'll accept.


    Also, I am of the opinion that Ras Kass is inferior to Inspectah Deck. But by an extremely small margin.

    The debate offer to discuss Deck's production stilll stands.

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  17. This album is a definite must buy. Sure the skits are fucking barf, and cohesion is out the fucking window, but the vast majority of the songs on here are addictively good. ESPECIALLY Deck's production. They're the type that keep playing in my head for days. Too bad he didn't do as good a job behind the boards on other albums, except "Beneath the Surface", "Visionz" & MAYBE "Elements"

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  18. just LOL @ your choices for 'top tracks' the 3 best songs on the album Friction, Grand Prix and 9th Chamber (which is cert wu classic, with many of those 'wu-affiliates' out rhyming anything Rae or Ghost would have brung - which I suspect is precisely why Deck chose them for the track) are not mentioned.

    I enjoy reading your reviews Max but sometimes you spout utter crap.

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  19. I remember stealing this album out of a flea market. Good memories

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