December 20, 2007

Wu-Tang Clan - The W (November 21, 2000)

After the second round of Wu-Tang solo albums hit the market (Ghostface Killah's Supreme Clientele being the final one), the Clan found themselves in a unique position: the market was flooded with Wu-Tang albums, both from the group members and from their lesser-known (and mostly lesser-talented) affiliates, and they were selling gajillions of records, proving themselves to be the marketing juggernaut that Rza had always postured himself to be. Their Wu-Wear clothing line was flying off of the racks, and their brand of sore throat and flu medications (tag line: "You best protect your neck!") was selling out in cities where people liked to mix their cough syrup with liquor. The Wu were feeling untouchable, so of course, it was time to hit the public over the head with another group effort.

The W, their third album, was (apparently) intended to show the hip hop community that the Wu were cognizant of their peers and sales competitors. This is proven by the fact that The W is, to date, the only Wu-Tang group album that features several hundred guest spots from outside of the camp, an even mix of rappers that the Wu had worked with before and artists brand new to the cause. Ringleader The Rza provides nearly all of the soundscapes for his brethren to destroy, and all of the not-incarcerated members do their best to outshine the others, all except for U-God, whom I apparently will never stop clowning.

Speaking of incarceration, this was the first (but, sadly, not the last) album where Ol' Dirty Bastard's presence isn't really felt. At the time of The W's recording, Big Baby McGirt was locked up in a California prison for violating the terms of his probation, and as such, only appears on one song, "Conditioner", which he recorded over the phone. The fact that Osirus actually escaped from custody prior to The W's release, performed briefly at the record release party (disguised, of course), and was ultimately re-arrested in a McDonald's parking lot is actually a lot more interesting than the recording process of this disc itself. Unfortunately, "Conditioner" would be the final appearance from Russell Jones on a Wu-Tang group album while still among the living.

The W was widely praised, sold millions of copies, and guaranteed the lifespan of my favorite hip hop group ever would continue for at least one more album. However, in the HHID household it was quickly forgotten about, since I don't remember any of the songs being remotely catchy, and I'm not the only one, since their follow up, Iron Flag, came out the following year, both as a response to the 9/11 attacks and to the backlash regarding this disc. Let's find out what all the fuss was about.

The first beat sounds promising, and The Rza even shouts "Yo!" in a manner that leads you to believe his verse is forthcoming. Suddenly, the original beat fades out, and the second, even more intense instrumental laces your eardrums, bringing forth the most effective introductory Wu-Tang song since "Bring Da Ruckus". It certainly took long enough for a group that thrives on its kung-fu imagery to title a song "Chamber Music", am I wrong?

This song was the standout for me back in 2000, and today it still sounds great. The Rza guides you through a track that sounds as if you're trapped with the lyricists in a submarine. (I always wondered why the sound effects, which I assume were added to mask the curses for the radio version, were left on the final track, even though the curses appear mostly intact on the album version.) I remember that the video for this song was supposedly banned due to its violent imagery, which is a euphemism for "the members of the Clan wave their guns at the camera throughout the clip". (I saw the video, first on the Wu's DVD single that featured the three videos for "Protect Ya Neck (The Jump Off)", "Gravel Pit", and this song, all woven together as one overlong crappy short film directed by Joseph Kahn, and again on the Legend Of The Wu-Tang DVD; it was probably not banned, just "not officially released", because it's "not any good".) I also remember Method Man's refusal to appear in the video (he's not on the song, either), since he didn't want to glorify guns. I'm sure his decision had nothing to do with the fact that he was the most Hollywood-friendly rapper from the camp, parlaying his appeal to guest spots on the Space Jam soundtrack and on The Fairly Oddparents (alongside Redman, hilariously enough). No matter, this song still rocks.

This is what I was afraid 8 Diagrams was going to sound like. At least Raekwon still sounds, I don't know, alive on The W.

Even with the imagery of Reggie Noble tooling around your neighborhood in a Mr. Softee truck, his verse is wasted over a beat that was terrible to begin with.

The Rza samples Junior Reed's "One Blood" seven years before The Game had the same idea. This track is really just a Masta Killa solo shot, setting up the solo album that you still wouldn't actually see for several more years. This song is not bad, but not very good, either.

As I mentioned above, this is the only track that Ol' Dirty Jesus appears on, with a guest spot from Wu-Tang newbie Snoop. This song is fucking awful; it's almost as bad as U-God's "Black Shampoo" from Wu-Tang Forever (and I'm sure it's just a coincidence that the titles of both songs are complimentary, right?). Snoop probably should never rhyme over a Rza beat ever again. Gza/Genius's incomplete thought toward the end of this track is much more compelling than "Conditioner" could ever strive to be.

The first single, which was an obvious ploy to capitalize on the success and title of the group's first single, "Protect Ya Neck". Rza's verse sounds terrible compared to everyone else's (yes, even U-God's, and his verse isn't any good either), and the inclusion of Cappadonna was clearly to appease fans that wanted to hear nine rappers on one song for the last time. The beat switch when U-God's verse hits is a welcome addition to the original leak of this song, that features the same, slightly annoying beat throughout the entire song.

Nasty Nasir Jones appears on his second Rza beat, and murders the Wu on their own shit, even Inspectah Deck, which is no easy feat. As to why Nas has never tried to secure a Rza beat for his own solo albums, I'll never know.

I never cared for this song. Long time readers, those that were around when I wrote about the first Wu album, will recall that I don't like "Can It Be All So Simple" either, and as I wasn't a big fan of "The Heart Gently Weeps" from 8 Diagrams, it seems obvious that I'm not a fan of the slower Wu tracks, so this is just keeping consistent.

One of only two tracks that Allah Mathematics produced instead of Bobby Digital. Not really sure why Kay Slay appears during the intro, but the song itself is probably the closest to a "club banger" that you'll hear on The W, and if you see any hot chicks dancing to this song, I would be wary, since they would most likely pull a sword out on you and rob you of your garments. The last minute of the track is occupied by another incomplete Wu-Tang thought, one for a track called "The W" that would resurface later in the Wu-Tang catalog.

What the fuck is with this beat? Awkward doesn't even come close to describing this instrumental, and while some off-putting Rza beats can eventually grow on you (like "Stroke of Death"), "The Monument" just grates on your mind. You should only listen to this if you've ever wanted to hear a song that features both Busta Rhymes and Gza/Genius.

The song is alright, but the radio-friendly hook is terrible. The video for this song is both hilarious and awful (the Flintstones motif was ill-advised, guys, although Tamala Jones is always cute). Come to think of it, the entire video trilogy, tied together by the concept of a time travelling elevator (seriously?) was pretty weak.

A much better song featuring Junior Reed. You can feel Ghostface's pain on his verse.

The final song is presented as a bonus track, immediately following "Jah World":

The second Allah Mathematics track. Sounds about as bad as Mobb Deep's "Clap", an entirely different song.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Critical acclaim and record sales be damned, The W is the worst Wu-Tang group effort in their catalog (I'm not including 8 Diagrams in this synopsis, since it just came out, what, a week ago?). The beats, while mostly produced by The Rza, aren't consistently entertaining, with some serious missteps both in musical and lyrical content. (Snoop Dogg? What, did you guys lose a bet to Master P?) That being said, there are some fantastic songs on here, and it's always good to hear the group rhyming as if everyone actually likes each other, just like they did when they all entered the rap game. The W may be the worst Wu-Tang album, but it's still well above anything released by other rap collectives such as Dip Set, G-Unit, Boyz N The Hood, Disturbing Tha Peace, you name it. (No, don't say Heiro! Dammit! Now I have to revise my comment!)

BUY OR BURN? This may sound hypocritical, considering what I just wrote above, but I would recommend this album as a purchase. Wu fans already have it anyway, but for those who are just getting into the Wu and already bought every other Wu album I reviewed, this is a worthy addition to your collection.

BEST TRACKS: "Chamber Music"; "Careful (Click, Click)"; "Let My N----s Live"; "Do You Really (Thang, Thang)"


Wu-Tang Clan - Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
Wu-Tang Clan - Wu-Tang Forever
Wu-Tang Clan - 8 Diagrams ('My Gut Reaction' post)


  1. The Wu like performing in Europe because it's only people who can't speak English that can tolerate Gravel Pit.

  2. holy crap you have some in-depth reviews. took me the better part of an hour to read them... thanx for the elightenment. stay-up. peace.

  3. "Hollow Bones" was dope and so was "One Blood Under W". No mention of "The Glock"? Did you hear the reworked version of "Clap" on Allah Mathematics 1st solo album? I didn't really like "Do You Really?" all that much.


    1. Hollow Bones wow that maybe the worst song Wu ever did

  4. Dart, I think "The Glock" (or whatever it's called) is actually on Iron Flag. I have Mathematics's first album, but I don't remember that song being on there; I'll have to dig it out and write it up soon.

    jammq, good point. Rza must have been smoking some blunts dipped in furniture polish when he decided to release that as the single. I stand by my statement that the video is ridiculous but Tamala Jones is still cute.

    vinyl4giants, thanks for the comments, and hopefully I won't let you down in the future.

  5. click click sucked balls,
    hollow bones is dope but ghost didn't really shine,
    you should be smacked for what you said about 'one blood'
    and you should be shot for what you said about "MC conditioner"

    but yea i don't like album too much either

  6. "The W" is like The Wu's "Goat Head Soup" - just past the glory era, with enough "genius" left over to make a mediocre album seem pretty cool. "Careful Click Click" is still the standout for here for me too, it's the kind of dope weirdness that we used to expect from RZA. And yeah, they took some risks and included some guests spots on here that don't work but overall I can still dig this album a lot. And Rae's in the caper on shrooms - that's awesome.

  7. hey man, I appreciate your effort to come up with so detailed reviews. still, I don't quite agree on most of that you wrote. this album ain't terrible, it just lacks any obvious shit a listener might have expected - the beats, the samples, the guests - the rza simply slashed everyone with his wu-tang sword style. it's a very coherent, cinematic and 'wu' album.

  8. You brought up a good point in this review. Nas (being my favorite hip hop artist) should drop knowledge over RZA beats more often. THAT would be an album I would get hyped over. I would look more forward to a RZA and Nas collaboration over a DJ Premier and Nas collaboration. And we've all seen what Prem and Nas do together.
    As far as the album goes, Chamber Music is the best Wu-Tang intro song out of ALL Wu-related albums. Yes, better than Bring the Ruckus, and even Liquid Swords. Note that Liquid Swords is my 2nd favorite album in the history of ever.
    Great review.

  9. You're crazy. The Gravel Pit video was pure, distilled awesome, and the time-travelling elevator gimmick was hilarious. Do you just not like seeing the Wu have fun or something?

  10. Yeah. well i think I Can't Go To Sleep is one of the greatest hip hop tracks ever made. In my wu top 5

  11. THE MONUMENT is a cool song, though yeah when it transitions to gza's part it's weird as hell. Dig that though. One of the best thing about rza's production is how sloppy it can be.

  12. Derek ClaptonSeptember 28, 2012

    I like click click, but god damn if RZA's opening verse sets the bar low. Its like he was freestyling on ketamine or something. On the whole I liked this album when I first listened to it, but it got old fast. And yeah, Conditioner is awful, though I think Snoop did the best with what was honestly a pretty subpar beat.

  13. I can't listen to Do You Really (Thang Thang) with a straight face anymore because it sounds like it came straight out of Angry Birds!

  14. I agree that ODB should've been left off the album and Clap is fucking useless. I also think that Ghost should've replaced Rae on Let My N****s Live. Other than these gripes, this album is pretty much AWESOME.

  15. this album was so bad I actually sold it 2nd hand for like a buck