October 3, 2008

Ghostface Killah and Trife Da God (featuring Theodore Unit) - Put It On The Line (November 22, 2005)

The creation of this album is an interesting story. Maybe not so much for folks that don't follow or give a rat's ass about the Wu-Tang Clan, but it is for me. After the (relative) success of Theodore Unit's collective debut 718, Ghostface Killah thought that it would be a good idea to show the world what his primary color Trife Da God was made of, solo album-wise.

Trife responded by recording his solo debut, 718: Stapleton to Somalia, reportedly for the grim reapers over at the Koch graveyard. Interviews were conducted (some of which can be found on the Interweb), and all seemed to be going well. Late in the process, however, somebody had the bright idea of putting Ghostface's name on the album cover (and including a smattering of Ghost songs that didn't even feature Trife), showing off what little faith they had in their own artist. Promotional copies were released for review purposes, and I was even able to somehow get a hold of one, although there's an annoying voice that repeats on a constant loop that the copy of 718: Stapleton to Somalia I was listening to was "for promotional use only", completely cutting in to any enjoyment I might have received by, say, listening to the songs. (You can find the promo-only album online if you look hard enough.)

At some point, this Trife Da God solo album because a Ghostface & Trife joint collaboration, and the project was taken from Koch over to Ghost's own label, Starks Enterprises. The release date was pushed back one month so that the disc could be reconfigured. Songs were either retitled or dropped altogether, the sequencing was shifted a bit, some bonus tracks that were Ghostface Killah leftovers were added (to move units, ostensibly), a live DVD that featured Ghostface Killah live in concert alongside some of his Wu brethren were added on, and the new title Put It On The Line was slapped on. The Trife solo album had become a glorified Theodore Unit sophomore disc, although to be fair, the rest of Theodore pop up only sporadically (including ex-member Solomon Childs, although, curiously, Cappadonna does not make an appearance). You can tell that Put It On The Line was a rush job as there are no song credits at all in the liner notes: it's essentially a complete mystery as to who actually produced the goddamn songs.

Put It On The Line allegedly sold more than one hundred thousand copies, an amazing feat for an album that received almost zero marketing (Starks Enterprises apparently had no advertising budget). Only one single was pressed and released, and to my knowledge, no videos were ever shot. There was once talk of Theodore Unit action figures to be featured in Burger King kids meals, but those plans never came to fruition. Ghost was forced to move on immediately to promoting his next official (read: major label) solo disc, so this Trife solo debut-turned-group effort was abandoned with a quickness not seen since those early Road Runner cartoons.

But I liked 718, you may say. If this is just another Theodore Unit album (albeit with more of a focus on Trife than anybody else), won't I like this disc as well?

Probably not.

1. COCAINE TRAFFICKING (GHOSTFACE KILLAH & TRIFE DA GOD)
From the very first track, it becomes abundantly clear that this won't be another 718. The beat is overproduced, and lyrically both Ghost and Trife sound like store-brand rappers discussing drugs in a most generic, white-box-with-black-letters way. This isn't a good sign.


2. PUT IT ON THE LINE (TRIFE DA GOD)
Although this sounds absolutely nothing like a Wu-Tang song, it's still pretty good. (And before someone mentions it, yes, I am aware that it probably shouldn't sound like a Wu-Tang song, given the fact that Trife isn't an actual member of the Clan.) Trife surpasses expectations on this solo outing, proving that, if anybody was going to overthrow Ghostface and stab him in his back, it would be Trife.


3. STRUGGLE (GHOSTFACE KILLAH)
Okay, seriously, this song is awful. I choose to believe that Ghost's head was incredibly congested and that he couldn't actually hear the beat the day he elected to spit to it.


4. HUSTLE HARD (TRIFE DA GOD)
Whatever the fuck this was, it wasn't memorable enough for me to write about. That much I can say.


5. EVENT (TRIFE DA GOD)
Trife comes off alright on this track, but I was more curious about the fact that a homophobic reference was actually censored. In a rap song! I know, I'm just as scared as you are.


6. GANGSTA SHIT (TRIFE DA GOD & TOMMY WHISPERS)
I was nonplussed with this song. Put It On The Line is starting to leave a bad taste in my mouth.


7. FIRE (GHOSTFACE KILLAH & TRIFE DA GOD)
My fears may be short lived, as this song is, literally, fire. Seriously. Flames shoot out of my iPod every time this track appears on shuffle (although I've been told that may be a sign that I should simply replace my iPod). It's just fucking great. Trife also outraps Ghost for the first (and only?) time on wax. This shit deserves to become a permanent fixture in the Wu-Tang canon. Why, the only thing that might make this a better song is a remix featruing actual members of the Wu-Tang Clan: I can picture Raekwon fitting in nicely over this instrumental.


8. PROJECT SOAP OPERAS (TRIFE DA GOD, KRYME LIFE, & TOMMY WHISPERS)
This shit is pretty good as well. The beat essentially makes this song, as the lyrics would sound corny as fuck without an instrumental that wasn't up to the task. Thankfully, the entire package works out perfectly.


9. WAR (TRIFE DA GOD)
The vocal sample used throughout the chorus is much more memorable than the song itself.


10. OUT DA WAY (GHOSTFACE KILLAH & WIGZ)
At least whoever the hell produced the song was smart enough to reference the source material of the sample, so that it doesn't seem like Ghost and Wigz are simply jacking the beat from The D.O.C.'s "It's Funky Enough". This isn't that bad of a track, but it's not that great, either.


11. DRUGZ (TRIFE DA GOD)
Meh.


12. MILK 'EM (GHOSTFACE KILLAH & TRIFE DA GOD)
Apparently, this was the only single to be released from Put It On The Line, and the vinyl single itself is notable for including five different versions of this song, provided by five different producers. This song (at least, the album version) is actually pretty good, and although the beat has a bit too much going on, at least it's short.


13. LATE NIGHT ARRIVAL (GHOSTFACE KILLAH, TRIFE DA GOD, WIGZ, & SOLOMON CHILDS)
Solomon Childs, who at this point was no longer a part of the Theodore Unit, doesn't receive any credit on the album for appearing on this song, which is interesting, considering how instrumental Ghostface himself was in aiding his career. Anyway, everybody involved sounds awkward over the beat, but, once again, I have to applaud Theodore Unit's efficiency, producing yet another posse cut that's less than three minutes long. How come they can do this, but everybody else takes their sweet time?


14. MAN UP (GHOSTFACE KILLAH, TRIFE DA GOD, SUN GOD, & SOLOMON CHILDS)
Solomon Childs doesn't receive a credit for this track, either. Sorry, but that's all I got.


15. GAME TIME (TRIFE DA GOD & TOMMY WHISPERS)
This isn't that bad, but after an overall lackluster effort, this track is too little, too late, and the generic rap song title certainly doesn't help matters any.


The following are listed as bonus tracks.

16. THE WATCH (GHOSTFACE KILLAH FEAT RAEKWON)
Although for the life of me I can't recall which Ghostface Killah solo album "The Watch" was supposed to appear on, it's easy to hear why it was cut, thanks to the prominent Barry White sample that's more like a co-star than a supporting player. Ever since it leaked to the Interweb many years ago, I've liked this track, and although Raekwon's cameo is of no consequence, Ghost's boasts are oftentimes hilarious.


17. GHOST & GIANCANA (GHOSTFACE KILLAH & KOOL G RAP)
This boring-as-shit song marke the second time that Kool G Rap has collaborated with a member of the Wu-Tang Clan (the first time being "Cakes" with The Rza, from the Ghost Dog soundtrack). Curiously, this seems to be the same song as "Da Connection", a track that Ghost, G Rap, and Cappadonna contributed to Da Beatminerz's Brace 4 Impak (but was left off of the final pressing), except with fellow Theodore Unit member Cappadonna's verse chopped off. Interesting.


18. THE SUN (GHOSTFACE KILLAH FEAT THE RZA, RAEKWON, & SLICK RICK)
This would be the infamous track that was excised from Bulletproof Wallets, even though it appears in the liner notes, and the sticker on the outside of the shrink-wrap prominently advertised it. I realize that I'm going against most Wu heads by saying this, but I never cared for this song, and I still don't. I will admit that Ghost's verse is amusing, especially his use of imagery, but Rae, Rza (who also produced: this tidbit I garnered from the Bulletproof Wallets liner notes), and, surprisingly, Slick Rick all fail to impress.


FINAL THOUGHTS: Put It On The Line is kind of a mess. Although I've always felt that Trife was one of the better Wu-Tang weed carriers, it may have been too soon to give him his own "solo" album, although that certainly hasn't stopped most other major rappers from giving their friends album deals. When he gets it right, the results are fan-fucking-tastic, but when something is a bit off, it shows. The late addition of the Ghostface Killah bonus tracks are also apropos to nothing, serving as padding, although the true reason they appear on here is to entice older Wu-Tang fans that had been salivating at the thought of "The Sun" and "The Watch" finally appearing on a proper CD. The lack of cohesion isn't an issue here, but this project showed a lot of potential and could have been so much more. Oh well.

BUY OR BURN? Chances are, my two readers who are diehard Wu-Tang freaks like myself already have the Ghostface bonus tracks on their hard drive anyway, so you should just pick up the additional songs listed below and be on your merry way. There's no reason to run out and grab a physical copy of this, no matter how awesome "Fire" is.

BEST TRACKS: "Fire"; "Project Soap Operas"; "Put It On The Line", "The Watch"

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Read up on other Wu-Tang projects by clicking here.

6 comments:

  1. I quite liked this one, thought the production was quite awesome. Fire sounds like fire indeed , like an inferno !!! that hot , people

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  2. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessOctober 03, 2008

    The Watch was originally intended for Bulletproof Wallets. If you remember there were initially two versions of Bulletproof Wallets available for sale. One version featured a sticker on the cellophane promising The Watch and The Sun. The more readily available version only had a sticker on the jewel case, this one making no mention of The Watch and promising only "Other hot joints wit' Method Man, Slick Rick, The Rza and more!" I recall this rather vividly because the clerk warned me that not all of the songs were actually on the cd. He told me that some versions had all the songs and some didn't. I no longer believe that to be true but it was a gamble. I chose the one without the sticker on the cellophane assuming that since The Sun was the first song listed on the back cover, I would be assured of getting at least that track. I was pissed to find out that it was nowhere to be found on the disc. Ghostface did what he could to salvage the situation by saying that "N****s gonna fuck around and get they balloon popped!" on the real opening track, but the damage was done.

    Put It On The Line is like everything that passes for a good Wu-Tang album these days. There are a few really good songs, some verses that were wasted amidst lackluster surroundings, and a bunch of filler.

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  3. Ayo, Max! I just concluded my blog series entitled "The Official Handbook To The Bloggerverse" where I did a counterpart/equivalent blog comparing blogs themselves or bloggers to characters in the Marvel Universe. In the end I included almost 90 blogs including some of your favorites (and yours!) in 4 parts. Check it out here:

    http://poisonousparagraphs.blogspot.com/2008/09/dart-adams-presents-livications.html
    http://poisonousparagraphs.blogspot.com/2008/09/dart-adams-presents-official-marvel.html
    http://poisonousparagraphs.blogspot.com/2008/10/dart-adams-presents-official-marvel.html
    http://poisonousparagraphs.blogspot.com/2008/10/dart-adams-presents-official-marvel_02.html

    One.

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  4. This album is good, I don't understand why you are holding yourself of admitting it. Ok, some of the songs leaked in the Internet before the album was born, but it doesn't mean that they were fillers.

    I see this more like Ghost's attempt to put his scattered songs officialy on cd and enrich them with newer tracks... Not a bad move, I think.

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  5. Would you be willing to sell that Stapleton to Somalia PROMO CD?

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  6. I liked the album. And the dvd was a great concert

    ReplyDelete