October 19, 2007

U-God - Golden Arms Redemption (October 5, 1999)


Sometimes, in life, you get to a point where there you come across a task that you really don't want to do, but you must, because you promised the two readers of your blog that you would get around to it eventually. As I am a man of my word, I'm going to get this over with.

You may believe that you already know how my write-up of U-God's Golden Arms Redemption is going to end, and let's be honest here, you're probably right. But I think you should read the post anyway, just so you can feel complete.

Lamont Hawkins, whose mother had to legally change his name to U-God after losing the name Lamont in a cock fight, became a member of the Wu-Tang Clan almost immediately after it was formed. (Masta Killa was actually the last member to be offered membership, but this happened much later.) He appeared sparingly on the debut, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), for what I suppose is a good enough reason: he was in jail for most of the recording process. This is also why he didn't appear on the Method Man and Ol' Dirty Bastard solo albums, but has popped up on every one since.

U-God has taken a lot of shit from me on my blog, but that's mainly because his rhyme skills aren't up to par, at least when compared to the other eight members of the group. He is also the member most outspoken about his treatment within the group itself (or at least he was, until this recent Ghostface stuff was made public); he claimed that he was jerked around for money (which, sadly, seems to be the norm for the Wu), and always talked about favoritism within the Clan. Naturally, I take the side of the Clan, it being my favorite rap group of all time and all, but even I admit that he probably has a point here; however, he's only complaining because he was never anybody's favorite; in fact, during the time that these statements were being made (which were being made solely to promote an album, it turns out, made up of his weed carrier's own weed carriers, who called themselves the Hillside Scramblers), The Rza completely downplayed U-God's role in the group, and even referred to him as "expendable". (The quotes are mine, but that's essentially what Rza said, and if I understand correctly, this came out during an argument the two men had over the radio airwaves.)

Another reason U-God sucks is because his character in the Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style Playstation game was the worst one to control, with the worst fighting style, lamest finishing moves, and all around suckiness.

I admit, that last point probably wasn't the fault of U-God.

Overall, though, I did actually find U-God to be the most expendable member of the group, which is why I was very surprised in 1999 to find a CD single for "Bizarre" in my local Sam Goody. This was airtight proof that, sometime within a year (or nine hundred Wu years) of my purchase, U-God would release the eighth solo album from the Clan, and Masta Killa would be left out in the cold, again. Because of my collector's nature, there wasn't any way that I could leave the store without picking this single up, so I planned on being disappointed once I got home, which, of course, I was.

The album Golden Arms Redemption (which is a horrible album title, but not as bad as Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em) was released during a windfall of Wu-Tang projects late 1999; within two moths prior, we saw the release of Big Baby Jesus's N---a Please, Method Man (and Redman)'s Blackout!, and the Inspectah Deck Sleep Aid, so Wu fans were ecstatic. At least, I was; I loved buying CDs back then; I just found it exciting to peel the plastic wrap off and fumble with that damned sticker at the top of the jewel case, and listen to an album for the first time. U-God was the first (and only) of the original Wu-Tang members to sign to the Wu-Tang Records vanity label, which was distributed by Priority Records, a relationship that wouldn't last very long, since Wu-Tang albums trend downward sales-wise.

Now, Inspectah Deck's album had hardly any Wu involvement at all; it was almost as if he was trying to consciously make a non-Wu album just to prove his worth and talent. (Yes, I know that's the point of all of these solo releases; get off of my back!) U-God, just like the previous seven rappers, tried to go the same route, but for reasons I'm still trying to figure out in my mind, the Wu lent more support to Lucky Hands than to Deck's solo. (Perhaps they wanted to show their support of the lyrically handicapped, to earn some good PR). The Rza actually produces three tracks on Golden Arms Redemption, and instead of the benchwarmers Deck had as guests on his solo, U-God somehow blackmailed Method Man and Raekwon into appearing at the studio, perhaps using a picnic basket with an entrancing aroma emanating from within as bait. He also uses his debut to feature his loyal weed carrier Leatha Face, who, admittedly, isn't bad at all.

I'm getting to the point where I'm just rambling, so I will end with this: Golden Arms Redemption turned out to be one of the worst-selling Wu-Tang projects in history, but it still probably sold more copies than Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor. Since I've been putting this off long enough, let's get started.

1. ENTER U-GOD
There is no actual instrumental here; U-God just raps his acapella verse to the tune of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive". I imagine that there is no instrumental because of sample clearance issues. Whatever the case may be, a Rza track without an actual Rza track is always a bad way to start your listening experience.

2. TURBULENCE
True Master produces a backdrop that actually sounds like it would have been better utilized as an introductory song for U-God. However, his monotone delivery sounds lazy and unfocused, and his lyrics seem pieced together from random words and phrases he pulled from a dictionary laying nearby.

3. GLIDE (FEAT LEATHA FACE & DREY WIT DA Y)
Inspectah Deck apparently doesn't hold any grudges; he provides yet another boring-as-shit instrumental for U-God and friend to rhyme over. (Like I said before, it's obvious he kept his best material for himself.) Leatha Face, as mentioned before, isn't bad; he's not a Trife or a Streetlife, but he's better than he should be.

4. DAT'S GANGSTA
No, it's not.

5. SOUL DAZZLE
Produced by Homicide (whose publishing company is named, according to the horrifically spellchecked liner notes, 'Suppa' N---a Productions). Ridiculous misprints aside, this beat isn't that bad, but U-God should have given the beat to someone else, or at least, invited some other folks to join him. Ol' Dirty McGirty would probably have sounded good over this.

6. BIZARRE
The first single, although I don't recall seeing a video. This song still sounds fucking awful today. Whoever suggested "Bizarre" as the first single should be delegated to picking up The Rza's blunt ashes with his ass cheeks.

7. RUMBLE (FEAL LEATHA FACE, INSPECTAH DECK, & METHOD MAN)
True story: when I first bought Golden Arms Redemption back in 1999, I ran through the album once and promptly forgot about it. (To be fair, immediately following this CD was Raekwon's second album, so my focus was rightfully shifted.) That year, I received the Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style video game for the Playstation (which I still think isn't terrible, for what it is), and I read that you could put the CD in a regular CD player and you could listen to the game's soundtrack. Included on that disc were The Rza and La The Darkman's "Wu World Order", a Masta Killa freestyle, and the clean version of "Rumble", which, when you listen to it in the context of playing the game, fucking rocks. This is clearly the best song on the entire album, and today, it still sounds great, but U-God is the weak link. Inspectah Deck returns the guest spot favor presented to him on Uncontrolled Substance, and Method Man...well, who cares why he's on this song, but he has the best verse of them all.

8. PLEASURE OR PAIN (FEAT HELL RAZAH)
And here I thought Sunz Of Man had more of a working relationship with Gza/Genius, due to his affiliation with Killah Priest, but nope, Hell Razah actually appears twice on this CD. This song sounds like U-God's attempt to make a serious track, but he fails miserably, due to his limited skills. The Rza has gone on record to say that U-God is the most impressive of the collective on The 8 Diagrams; I just don't see how that's possible.

9. STAY IN YOUR LANE
The hook sucks. The song itself sucks just one pinch less. U-God rides the Rza beat like a drunken toddler in a walker; why was he chosen to be in the Clan again? And anyone who uses the phrase "the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain" in a rap song deserves to have his record deal revoked.

10. SHELL SHOCK (FEAT LEATHA FACE, RAEKWON, & HELL RAZAH)
I would feel bad that Raekwon stooped to this level, but the truth is, he sounds more energetic on this song than I'm sure he will on the entirety of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2; if that album ever gets released, that is.

11. LAY DOWN
The beat isn't bad, probably the most Wu-sounding instrumental here, but this song is just a fucking joke.

12. HUNGRY
Meh. Although I could really use the one-word review for multiple tracks presented on Golden Arms Redemption.

13. TURBO CHARGE
I would say that U-God has waster yet another Rza beat, but the beat actually sounds worse than the lyrics; U-God actually sounds like he was actively listening to criticism on this track. That's not to say he's suddenly The Gza with his lyrical content, of course.

14. KNOCKIN' AT YOUR DOOR (FEAT LEATHA FACE)
This album is just chock full or creative misfires. U-God needs "no-men" (as opposed to "yes-men") more than most rappers need oxygen.

15. NIGHT THE CITY CRIED
...zzz...oh, wait, is the album over? The last thing I remember is this track starting, and...hey, who took my pants?

FINAL THOUGHTS: Golden Arms Redemption is, by far, the. Worst. First. Solo. Album. By a Wu-Tang Clan member. The beats are uniformly awful, save for a couple of interesting choices. The lyrics, though, are what kill this album; U-God's lyrical prowess is nowhere near the rest of his Wu brethren; had he not been a member of the Wu, he would probably have trouble securing a job at the local Burger King, let alone signing a record deal on his own. As for his cohort Leatha Face, all I can say is that his rhymes, while not perfect, show promise, and during the fallout between the Wu and U-God, Leatha Face stood by U-God's side, which is more than you can say about some people's respective entourages. (T.I. and Michael Vick, looking in your general directions.) And the funny thing is, I know that I'll probably get complaints, because there are actually people on the Wu-Tang Corp. message boards that boast about how much they love U-God and how underrated he is. Sorry, but you can't be underrated if you were included on several albums that sold more than one million copies; that's not how it works!

BUY OR BURN? Neither. Don't even bother; nothing on here is that good anyway. Thank God the Wu felt compelled to include "Rumble" on their Wu Chronicles, Chapter 2 compilation, thus rendering the existence of Golden Arms Redemption obsolete. You should run from this CD as if the Infected were chasing after you through the mean streets of Shaolin. And while you're out, if you could pick up my dry cleaning and spread the word about Hip Hop Isn't Dead, I'd appreciate it. Thanks. You're good people.

BEST TRACKS: "Rumble"

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Wu-Tang Clan - Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
Wu-Tang Clan - Wu-Tang Forever
Inspectah Deck - Uncontrolled Substance
Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...

Method Man - Tical
Method Man - Tical 2000: Judgement Day
Sunz Of Man - The Last Shall Be First

24 comments:

  1. I know you love Rza and all but I can't stand him. Which is typically what happens when I find out more about the artists I like. I appreciated the fact that he had an ASR-10 cause I had one but I just never really felt him. And it could be because of Prince Rakeem but I let Genius bounce back from "Come Do Me" I did hear him on fresh air once and he started going into his discussion of mathematics and "zigging" where you might "zag" otherwise and wanted to beat him with a large fish. Of course I mean to do this while he’s tied up, blind folded and in the absence of the rest of his crew. But this stuff doesn't surprise me. He’s a douche.
    Ok. I'm done.

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  2. The funny thing is, I agree with you. While I may believe he's a musical genius, I'm sure that he's a douchebag in person. I've read the interviews; half of the shit he says sounds like worse gibberish than you can find on any random Kool Keith song. It would be hard to resist the urge to knock some sense into him. (Unless I were trying to get him to score my films, of course.) I try my best to disassociate the music from the person; obviously, that tactic didn't work very well with the U-God review. But you know how it goes.

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  3. 'Whoever suggested "Bizarre" as the first single should be delegated to picking up The Rza's blunt ashes with his ass cheeks'.

    HA! I suppose it was better than releasing a U-God "I know what Girls Like" freestyle with 2 interludes and an intro...

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  4. Max mate, are you sitting down ? Yes ? ok, read the following carefully:
    His .third.album.Mr. Excitement.is.even.worse !
    This might sound unimaginable but believe me, it is true ...

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  5. Tcha, I'm not looking forward to that post. At least I have numerous other Wu solo efforts (and the other group albums) before I reach that fateful post, where I will inevitably be raked over the coals (again).

    And supamushroom, if you're reading this, thanks for reading. And you're right: at least I didn't continuously write "he sucks, he sucks". TOLD you I would explain when I got to Golden Arms Redemption!

    -Max

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  6. Hey - this is a great site, very funny shit. I just don't like what the first guy wrote about the RZA - part of what makes him cool is that he's arrogant as hell. I remember back around the time when the first Bobby Digital album came instead of The Cure album that we were all waiting for, he said in an interview that he was thinking about quitting music because it was too easy and he wanted to become a scientist to find the cure for cancer. That's what's cool about Wu Tang, they have this swagger that goes way beyond the norms of hip hop - "it's that W, it's the wisdom of the universe."

    And about poor U-God, have you ever met anyone who was actually a fan of U-God? Who says, "yeah GZA is okay, but U-GOD - that's my boy right there!" But I bought this tape too and I thought I remember Bizarre being decent but the rest was just garbage. And as long as you're scraping the bottom of the Wu barrel, how about some Cappadonna "Yin and Yang" or the Poppa Wu album?

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  7. If you would seriously spend 14 dollars just to listen to one wack song on a U-God record, then clearly you have money to burn, and it should be better utilized as a donation to charity or to a prostitute. The album is fucking weak, people! I only call it as I see it.

    oldmajor - that's some funny shit right there. For an example of someone who actually WOULD say that, please refer to the comment directly above yours. I'm trying to go in order of release, and since Cappa isn't technically part of the core group, it may be a bit, but I'll consider it. Thanks for reading and commenting, though, and keep them coming!

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  8. U-God has a good verse on Diesel, but it's stil the worst verse on the track. But still, it's one the Wu's best songs, and probably their most vivid so he gets some props for that, really.

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  9. I was only joking about the Cappadonna record - I wouldn't wish "The Yin and The Yang" on my worst enemy. But the all-time worst Cappa moment on record is on Ghost's "Buck 50" when he sabotages a great song by coming on the wrong beat and then spitting that "didn't know Betty Crocker had the two nines" bullshit until Redman has to snatch the mic from his untalented cab driving ass. I don't want to sound like a hater, but man I hate Cappadonna.
    But two great Wu-related albums you haven't gotten to yet: RZA's Birth of A Prince and Bronze Nazerth's The Great Migration. Good shit right there.

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  10. Dear U God,
    chin up mang, never mind the collective hate, me and geese think you was the shit on "Black Jesus".
    Yerz truly,
    Anony Mouse

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    Replies
    1. First time reading this comment. Currently laughing my eyes out.
      I like Uey, but yeah, this album was mostly horrible.

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  11. Don't usually drop comments but your U-God post was hella funny. Had me rolling on the floor fo real. Wu (and the fans) would've been better off minus him in the group. Keep it going though man, great post and interesting blog in general. Peace, Ice

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  12. U-God is good on the group albums and other solo albums, but this shit is just gibberish.

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  13. Passable to good U-God verses: "Severe Punishment", "Winter Warz", "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'", most of his appearances on 8 Diagrams. Aside from those, he's weak. Sometimes he brings some interesting rhythmic stuff to the table, but his lyrics rarely make much sense.

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  14. I um...I actually kinda liked the first couple tracks. He's not that great for sure, but I think if he put his voice to some decent lyrics he'd blow you all away. It's a very distinct voice, it's what DMX would sound like if he wasn't annoying as shit. Just my $0.02.

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  15. AnonymousJune 18, 2009

    As bad as U-God is, he is much better than a lot of Wu-Affilates, most of whom are fucking horrific. Other than that, U-God is meh.

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  16. GZA is okay, but U-GOD - that's my boy right there!

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  17. man...so much U-God hate on the internet. im kinda surprised that the post before mine is from two days ago. anyways, just like the original poster, i bought this album when it came out. i listened to it a few times and kinda forgot about it. i had actually been looking forward to it because U-God IS actually one of my favorite rappers in the Wu, though i wont go as far as to say that he is one of the most talented in the Clan. then again, when you have Meth, Ghost, Gza, Rza, etc. ahead of you, its probably normal to appear mediocre. his vocal tone is very distinct and it just doesnt seem like he lived up to his potential. in any case, i just started listening to his album again this week...ten years later. i came to the realization that i dont dislike it as much as i had remembered. before relistening to this, i actually listened to The Pillage 3 times through a couple weeks ago. surprisingly, i didnt hate that album as much as i remembered either and i cant really stand Cappadonna. still, in comparison to the current hip hop being put out, these albums are not that bad, but theyll never be classics like Liquid Swords or OBCL...

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  18. Wu-Tang 4 LifeSeptember 04, 2010

    LMAO I love the U-God hate, the guy sucks and I always get a good laugh reading what you have to say about him. XD

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  19. ahh that Cappadonna verse on Buck 50 is the worst, but I kinda like it for how completely incompetent it is compared to the other verses, it's like a breather, and I like that it sounds like he just jumped into the song without preparing or writing down any lyrics - I think it's the kind of thing you can appreciate nowadays in the era of Lil B. I hope Cappadonna releases 1,000 tracks in the span of a year where he just doesn't write any lyrics down and every song features the same adlibbing. Oh and as for U-God, I think he's aight, I like his voice, yes homo

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  20. "Dat's Gangsta"
    "No, it's not."
    Hahaha! I love the humour in your posts.
    It was enjoyable to see you finally review your favourite rapper.

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  21. Derek ClaptonAugust 08, 2013

    Don't cut U-God too much slack. According to his recent Q&A session on reddit, U-God was actually the only member of the Clan that did designed his character in Shaolin Style. Seriously.

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  22. AnonymousMay 17, 2014

    I absolutely LOATHE this album.

    But he DID at least try on the last two songs. And while Rumble ROCKS, its inclusion here was fucking lazy.

    Good thing Lamont pulled his head outta his ass for Dopium onward, eh?

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  23. I didn't think this album THAT bad. Though Soul Dazzle was fucking headache inducing awful. Mr. Xcitement was major ass but the absolute worst Wu solo in my opinion has to be Tical 0: The Prequel which saddens me because I love Meth. After Xcitement U-God really redeemed himself with his verses on 8 Diagrams, Dopium, and The Keynote Speaker.

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