November 10, 2007

Raekwon - Immobilarity (November 16, 1999)




Releasing a sophomore disc in today's music industry means one of two things. Either (a): your first disc was successful enough for your label to take another chance on you (read: try to earn more money off of you), or (b): you record for an indie label (usually your own) and you're pretentious enough to believe that the world needs to hear more of your crappy ideas in musical form, regardless of how many units your last disc moved.

Releasing a sophomore disc when your debut is a bona-fide fucking classic record, though, is a lot more stressful. How much so? Well, frequent readers of this site may remember that the Gza/Genius bombed with his own second Wu-Tang disc, Beneath The Surface (and yes, I realize that was actually his third offering, but nobody cares about Words From The Genius anyway), and Liquid Swords was one of the best albums in recorded musical history (yes, it truly is), so how in the hell would Raekwon follow up on his fantastic Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...?

Questionably, that's how.

Raekwon dropped his second disc, Immobilarity, in 1999, as the last of several Wu-Tang solo album to reach customers in the second half. It was released a few weeks after U-God's masterpiece, Golden Arms Redemption, and rightfully took all of his spotlight away. Immobilarity, which is not a real word, but an acronym that I don't care to include due to its randomness, resulted in another gold-selling record for the Chef, as it was snatched up quickly by fans who wanted to hear more tales of criminal acts that Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... set the precedent for. However, it seems that Raekwon had no interest in doing a straight-up sequel to Cuban Linx (yet), and dropped two of the biggest components from the first album: Ghostface Killah, who handled nearly half of the rhymes the first time around, and The Rza, who produced the first CD in its entirety. Instead, he decided to promote his band of weed carriers, who called themselves American Cream Team (a couple of whom made their debuts as Wu-fam on "Cream Team Line Up", a track off of Funkmaster Flex's 60 Minutes Of Funk Vol. III, alongside Rae, Inspectah Deck, and a couple of others I can't recall at the moment); in fact, one of its members, Triflyn, produces a good bulk of Immobilarity. And that's the other thing: Rae decided to go with a sound that (I assume) would recall the soundtracks of films like Scarface, Goodfellas, and other random crime sagas, so he hired a bunch of no-names (and, oddly, Pete Rock, on "Sneakers") to provide the instrumental backdrops; this means that there is basically no Wu-Tang involvement whatsoever, save for a couple of guest spots (because even Raekwon isn't naive enough to believe people would pick up this disc without a guest spot or two). As a result, Immobilarity doesn't even sound like a Wu-Tang album. Hell, even Killah Priest occasionally includes kung-fu samples on his albums.

While it sold tons of copies, the collective criticism was one of disappointment, as somehow Raekwon had failed to live up to the expectations that we as fans had set for him in our minds. (I know, the nerve of that guy, right?) After taking four years off to polish his rhymes, the Chef found himself in the same position that a lot of his bandmates were in: they were trying to expand their sound and grow as artists, but the Wu-Tang built-in fanbase demanded more kung-fu samples, more quasi-religious Five-Percenter beliefs, more Wu-Tang posse cuts (I think Immobilarity is the first Wu disc that doesn't have more than two Wu members on a track), and, worst of all, more Rza production. This is probably why it took Rae four more years to follow up the sophomore disc.

Let's give it a spin, shall we?

1. INTRO (SKIT)
Oooh, a rap album intro! You have no idea how long I've been jonesing for one of these.

2. YAE YO
Yes! A song about cocaine! The beat, provided by Carlos "Six July" Brody, who would go on to produce for La The Darkman and Royce Da 5'9", provides a backdrop that is neither good nor bad, but merely is.

3. CASABLANCA
The beat here is just dull. It hardly even matters that Raekwon hasn't sounded this hungry since Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). For everyone that is complaining about Rae's narcoleptic delivery in 2007, listen to the lyricism presented on this disc. But, once again, this beat is dull.

4. 100 ROUNDS
A list of producers Rae could have reached out to, if he truly wanted to recall memories of Reasonable Doubt (which seems to be the subconscious intention): DJ Premier. Ski. Clark Kent. Ski. Big Jaz. Ski. Rza. Actually, this disc probably would have sounded better if Rza had done at least one track on here.

5. REAL LIFE
Around this track, you'll find yourself appreciating Rae's skill, but wishing he would branch out more often, subject-matter wise. You know, make a song for the kids, or a club banger (just kidding), or another crime story. Can't get enough of those.

6. POWER (FEAT AMERICAN CREAM TEAM)
I'm not impressed.

7. SKIT NO. 1
Among the most unimaginative, yet straightforward, titles I have ever seen.

8. ALL I GOT IS YOU PT. II (FEAT BIG BUB)
The inclusion of this track is puzzling, since Ghostface Killah actually released Part One, not Raekwon, but it's not unprecedented. Don't get me wrong, this song sucks as a complete package, and Big Bub's hook is terrible, but the fact that Raekwon is telling us about his mother instead of telling another crime story will make you take notice, as his rhymes are good here.

9. JURY (FEAT KIM STEPHENSON)
I just heard this track, and I don't remember a single thing about it. I also don't recall who Kim Stephenson is, but you won't either, so I don't feel as bad.

10. FUCK THEM (FEAT METHOD MAN)
Hearing another Wu-Tang family member is a welcome change of pace. Method Man has appeared on every single Raekwon album (and hopefully every one in the future), and the two work well together, when given a proper beat. However, this ridiculous piano-driven trifle, coupled with Method Man's awful hook, makes this yet another track you'll want to skip.

11. SKIT NO. 2
See my critique of track number seven.

12. LIVE FROM NEW YORK
The first and only single I ever recall hearing from Immobilarity. This was the only song I remember liking back in the day, and it's still the best song here, by far.

13. MY FAVORITE DRED (FEAT POLITE)
Triflyn provides the most Cuban Linx-sounding beat on this short track. Polite is one of the members of American Cream Team, formerly known as the Harlem Hoodz, which was a better rap group name in my opinion. You'll notice that I've only named two members of the Cream Team line-up: this is because I don't care much about them, although I feel the need to mention that when Chip Banks, one of the de facto leaders, was killed in a shooting, the group basically split up, so the rap group's life was short-lived anyway, and Polite here was the only one who ultimately ended up in Raekwon's other weed carrier team, Ice Water. Fascinating story, right? Yeah, I got bored by it, too.

14. FRIDAY
Meh.

15. THE TABLE (FEAT MASTA KILLA)
I really don't like what they did with Masta Killa's vocals on here, but the song itself is (a) okay, if you're comparing it to other Wu-Tang work, or (b) great, when you put it up against the rest of Immobilarity.

16. SNEAKERS
Raekwon gets his Gza/Genius on, rapping about a plethora of shoes, over a Pete Rock treat that bored me to death. I know it's not a good thing when the only name-brand producer fucks up like this, but sadly, it's true.

17. RAW (FEAT AMERICAN CREAM TEAM)
Still not impressed. So far, the gold standard of Wu-Tang weed carriers is only being met by Street Life and Trife Da God, although I also liked 12 O'Clock (Ol' Dirty Bastard's brother) on "Nasty Immigrants", the track he did with Raekwon off of the otherwise forgettable The Nutty Professor soundtrack. Now, that song should have been included here; it probably would have shut all of the Wu-Tang naysayers up, myself included.

18. POP SHIT
No, thank you.

19. HEART TO HEART
A sweet sentiment, but dull in its execution.

20. FORECAST
The type of song that should be pumped into hotel rooms as a sleeping aid.

21. OUTRO
And Immobilarity is finally over.

FINAL THOUGHTS: True story: when I picked this disc up back in 1999, I spiraled into a deep Wu-related depression, which was directly caused with how fucking disappointing this disc was. (This depression led me to believe that the Wu completely fell off, and I found myself reluctant to pick up the next Wu-Tang disc, Ghost's Supreme Clientele. We'll discuss that album when I get to it.) I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting, since Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... is a bold-and-italicized classic disc and even I thought that Rae would have a hard time coming close to it, but instead, he decided to not even try. It's as if he was trying to reintroduce himself as your run-of-the-mill New York street rapper with no Wu ties whatsoever. Nearly nine years later, when I finally got the nerve to listen to this in its entirety again, I have to say this: as a total package, it still sucks. However, Raekwon's lyrical ability has stepped up tremendously on this disc, and that is probably more than partially due to Rae having to prove that he can rap without Ghostface as a tag-team partner, so on that end, his improvement has succeeded. So the failure of this disc comes down to beats (as most of my reviews about great lyricists do). Rae's still-puzzling decision to not include a single Wu-Element producer on Immobilarity completely aborts this project from the very first note. There are a couple of decent beats on here, no question, but overall Immobilarity is a travesty. However, it is still better than U-God's album. (When will I let that go?)

BUY OR BURN? Immobilarity was one of those discs that you waited so long for, and you had such high expectations that you forced yourself to like at least some of the songs, regardless of their inferior quality, because you refused to believe that something you put so much of your faith in would disappoint you so badly. As a consumer advocate, I cannot in good conscience recommend a purchase of this disc. However, as time has passed I found that there are some decent songs on here that are worth your time, so get your burners ready.

BEST TRACKS: "Live From New York"; "The Table"; "Yae Yo"

-Max

16 comments:

  1. you love italics, huh?

    This album wasnt as bad as you make it out to be... you neglected to mention this album was released on the same day as Kurupt's Stretz is a Mutha as well as Dre's 2001... which is notable because as good as those other two albums were, this one still went gold (and, in my humble opinion, Immobilarity held its own against them content-wise, too).

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  2. man,
    I couldn't have expressed my feelings about this disc back then and now any better then you just did ...
    i've got 3 words for you and your other reader :
    " my thoughts exactly !!!"

    lyrics more then ok
    music=meh²

    another good review , Max,

    get ready for some raging comments from other wu junkies lol

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  3. This is what I'm saying! The lyrics are very good; it's clear that Raekwon felt he had something to prove. He just focused too much on his writing, and opted to purchase the first twenty-odd tracks that he found in the studio, instead of holding out for quality. I don't know if I would compare this album, content-wise, to either Kurupt or Dre, though...Kurupt is a bit of a stretch, and the Dre album, although lyrical-content-wise is pretty poor, the music itself is on a whole other plane from Immobilarity. But thatk you for your comments!

    Tcha, I'm waiting for the Wu junkies, although this review wasn't as vicious as the U-God write-up. I'm actually waiting for someone to write in claiming this disc to be better than Cuban Linx. You just know that SOMEONE ha sto believe that.

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  4. Uh...Max.

    "Sneakers" was a fuckin' monster. This album had no RZA in it for exactly the same reasons that Rae's beefin' with him about today.

    The recording of the "Wu Tang Forever" LP strained many relationships in the Wu...especially between U God, Rae, Ghost and Method Man. The stories I've heard about those session arguments are legendary.

    One.

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    1. you mind tellin us a few of those stories?

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  5. Dart, I'll grant you the whole "Rza seems to be jerking people around" theory, and I'll admit that I repeatedly wrote that a Rza production would have helped. I probably should have emphasized this point more than once, but even if Rae had beef with the Rza like that, that doesn't mean that True Master or Mathematics couldn't have gotten some shine. I will admit that now I'm looking forward to The 8 Diagrams less and less ever since Rae's outburst, though.

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  6. MAAAAAAAX!!!!!

    Sneakers was CRAZY....one of my favorite Pete Rock beats ever....as far as the rest of the album is concerned...I couldn't name another track on the album. Great work as usual, sorry I don't stop by more often..Take Care

    Eric

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  7. As a big fan of the Wu myself, I have to agree with the review.
    As a metter of fact, in 1999 I spiralled into a deep Wu-related depression too...

    The beats on Immobilarity are so crap it's unbelievable!

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  8. Anonio, I think a lot of folks were depressed about the Wu in late 1999...I'm convinced that this is the reason they will never reach their prior glory, since Raekwon disappointed them SO MUCH, and since U-God pissed away any new fans they may have acquired due to him sucking so damn much. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for the next chapter in the Wu solo discography: Supreme Clientele.

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  9. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessNovember 30, 2007

    "Sneakers" is certified dope and "Live From New York" is also an enjoyable experience but otherwise, this CD is a clinic on how to make a terrible album featuring an extremely talented artist showing his considerable talents. I personally prefer the Gza, so Beneath The Surface was a crushing disappointment for me but objectively speaking this has to be the biggest letdown in the history of Wu.
    On a sidenote, I'm curious about your opinion of Kurupt. I'd place him in my top 25 (not that I actually have a top 25) despite his proclivity for producing uninspired albums.

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    Replies
    1. Kurupt is a complete asshole. His personality alone means I will never buy one of his albums ever again.

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  10. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessMay 23, 2008

    What's with the font size on this review? Is it supposed to be a reflection of Immobilarity, good material poorly presented? Trust me, Max. Real dudes in the streets are not feeling small font sizes.

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  11. Okay I actually think think this album was good does it match the intensity of the purple tape? Fuck nooo!!!! Lol American cream team sucked so bad I though that songs like Yae Yo, Casablanca, Friday and pop shit were hot but I guess that is street Thang lol Jury was okay but he tried to complicate his rhyme's in that song when all that was needed was his straight forward make it plain style instead of word wizard.peace

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  12. Been holding out my comments on this one long enough.

    The beats were fucking torturous. With the exception of The Infinite Arkatechz's work, which still receives decent rotation in my boom box (iPod). And just for the pleasure of my fellow reader back home, here's what Immobilarity stands for: I Move More Officially by Implementing Loyalty and Respect in the Youth.

    Brush your teeth.

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    Replies
    1. AnonymousJuly 19, 2015

      First off, I completely agree that Tha Infinite Arkatechz did an awesome job on their beats. Matter of fact, they should've produced the entire album. As for the rest, the beats were pretty boring, but only some were torturous.

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  13. u trippin` sneakers` beat is awesome. the only good song on this

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