June 25, 2009

My Gut Reaction: U-God - Dopium (June 23, 2009)

U-God's last solo album, Mr. Xcitement, was fucking awful.

That's all I feel that needs to be said about it.

However, this post is about Lamont Hawkins and his third attempt to earn some respect in the hip hop game, in the form of Dopium. When the project was announced, U-God promised collaborations with fellow members of the Wu-Tang Clan (on the mic only, not behind the boards - methinks Babygrande, his new label, didn't front enough of an advance for the man to afford a Tru Master, 4th Disciple, or Bronze Nazareth beat, let alone one from Prince Rakeem) and with other big names in hip hop. I'm not sure that Jim Jones is technically a "big name", but the man has sold more records than U-God himself, so I guess he met that particular qualification.

When this project leaked last week, I received more than a few notes from readers recommending that I check Dopium out, because it actually wasn't that bad. Cool cover art notwithstanding, I'm not convinced that Dopium will be that good. However, I'm the guy who still loves 8 Diagrams today, so I may be wrong.

And yes, 8 Diagrams is a good album. You two just need to listen to it again with an open mind.

Kind of weird that the first voice you hear on a U-God album is that of Ghostface Killah, isn't it? My guess is that Golden Arms wanted to immediately cleanse the listener's mind of the Mr. Xcitement residue, so he elected to pass the baton in an effort to show that his hatchet with the Clan was buried. (Well, with most of the crew, anyway: The Rza still doesn't make an appearance.) The beat (by Teddy Ted and J. Serbe, names which just don't roll off of the tongue) sounds decent, if a bit repetitive, and Ghost sounds as good as he usually does. U-God even makes an appearance, as well. The most interesting component of this track is Scotty Wotty's verse, as the man manages to somehow sound both talented and annoying as shit, oftentimes within the span of three words in a sentence. This isn't bad otherwise, and it is definitely a better intro than anybody could have expected.

Cappadonna says the word "atonement" before kicking his opening verse, validating my theory that the gypsy cab driver is still on his The Yin & The Yang Apology Tour. This is not how Wu-Tang music should sound, though: I've always preferred the aggressive, violent drums over the more soulful tracks the group's put out. Cappa's hook is fucking awful, but his verse isn't bad, and U-God doesn't fuck anything up (that's thinly veiled praise right there). Killah Priest sounds out of his element, but I'm more surprised that he's appearing on a Wu member's solo album in the first place, as this barely ever happens, so that counts for something.

Scotty Wotty's presence is most definitely not required on here. What is U-God doing with his cereal that he has to constantly clear roaches out of his Fruit Loops box? Maybe he needs one of those containers Kristen Bell gave to Jason Segal in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. As far as I'm concerned, The Gza steals this song outright, but (and it's very hard for me to write this, mind you) U-God's verse is actually really good. Not "Supa Ninjaz" good, but nevertheless.

Credit where credit is due: the production on Dopium is light years ahead of Mr. Xcitement. The fuck is this shit, though? Baby Uey sounded alright, but once the hook kicked in, my eyes glazed over and my mind started pulling memories of much better rap songs from its hard drive. (Did I just imply that I was a robot?) Also, I'm not the biggest fan of Lipton tea. Next!

Rae's narcoleptic flow is making me not look forward to Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2. Sure, I'm going to buy it anyway (damn my collector's gene!), but the man clearly is in need of one of those Mountain Dews specially formulated for online gamers and/or nerds to stay awake for months at a time. When U-God outshines you on a song, you've fucked up. That doesn't actually happen on here, but Uey sounds alright. Slaine knocks this shit completely out of the park, although considering he's from a crew called La Coka Nostra, that shouldn't be altogether surprising.

I've always felt that Sheek (from The Lox) sounded good because, after constantly being overshadowed by teammates Jadakiss and Styles P. lyrically, he's had to work that much harder. That line of thinking ends here. Sheek sounds pretty bad, Jim Jones (why the fuck is he on here?) is an awful as always, and U-God is dragged into hell alongside them. You read that right: Lucky Hands is the best thing about this song.

I knew it couldn't last. This song is really fucking stupid, so much so that it may encourage girls with fat asses (and who doesn't love girls with fat asses?) to work out and diet more just so they won't be lusted over by U-God the sexual predator. I'll be honest: this type of song was exactly what I was expecting when Dopium was announced.

I appreciate that the title is as unambiguous as possible. More proof that U-God has embraced his past as a member of the hip hop Beatles. The hook is asinine, going for a Southern-style dialect when the beat is clearly aiming for vintage Wu-Tang b-team supply. This probably should have included more members of the Clan, but even though (or especially because) Meth has the upper hand here, this sounds really fucking good.

With that title, I was expecting a more upbeat track (unless producers Teddy Ted and J. Serbe were deliberately shooting for music one would hear in a dopium den during the reign of Jack the Rapper). Instead, what you get is U-God justifying your purchase of his album and thanking his followers in an indirect manner. While he probably could have listed his fan individually, the sentiment is still there, and the man isn't bad lyrically.

I was hoping for an actual verse from Leathafase (who apparently changed his name from Leathaface, unless the label was too cheap to hire a proofreader), who is by far the only one of Uey's weed carriers that can hold his own on the mic, but instead we get a hook that could have been performed by any random ninth grader plucked from English Lit class. Pass.

Featuring Large Professor? Can it be true? Fuck no it can't: his voice shouts the word "Classic!" a bunch of times over his beat, but I highly doubt he was anywhere near the studio while this was recorded. (It reminds me of that track on Extra P's 1st Class where he shouts the phrases "No question!" and "Word!" a bunch of times as part of the instrumental.) U-God finally gets some name-brand production, and he manages to not fuck it up royally. Color me impressed. The beat is much better than the rhymes, though.

The final three tracks on Dopium are bonus tracks which are fucking European dance remixes of "Stomp Da Roach", "Dopium", and "Hips". No, seriously, that's what they are. All three of them sound awful. I'm not sure what audience the record label was shooting for: nobody dances to the Wu at the club. As far as I'm concerned, "New Classic" is the final track on Dopium, and I guarantee that you'll feel the same way. The mixes are so bad that I won't even bother naming the remixers responsible for these individual travesties.

THE LAST WORD: The good thing about hip hop (and most entertainment mediums, now that I think about it) is that all it takes is a new project to change public perception. Dopium is easily U-God's best solo album ever. That said, Lamont is still the worst rapper in a nine-member group where one of the guys is dead and is still a better artist than he'll ever be; he's just gotten smarter about surrounding himself with talent, both on the mic and behind the boards. A lot of the songs on Dopium aren't very good; in fact, the ecstasy-fueld road trip into raveland at the end of the album is poor enough to warrant that nobody actually purchase this album ever. (I choose to believe that even U-God is puzzled as to why three of his songs were remixed.) But I would be lying if I said that this wasn't very entertaining in spots. So congratulations, U-God, you proved me wrong: maybe there is a valid reason that you're a part of the Wu-Tang Clan, and not just because The Rza lost a bet. But you're only as good as your next album, so it's time to get to work, motherfucker.


More Wu-Tang Clan posts to peruse during your downtime at work.


  1. AnonymousJune 25, 2009

    lol u finally like u god

  2. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessJune 25, 2009

    I laughed a lot during this review. Good work, Max. Never thought I'd see the day when you'd say, "U-God doesn't fuck anything up." I'm gonna have to check this one out. I'm still convinced "finger roll the rhythm, ride the horse one hand" was a Tony Starks creation so I have a good chance of hearing my favorite U-God line ever on this puppy. I guess I didn't hate him on "Knuckleheadz" either, so he's on M.e.m.p.h.i.s. Bleek's level at least. I'm going into Dopium with an open mind though.

  3. Anonymous, "like" is a strong word. I still go out of my way to recommend that nobody ever purchase this disc, albeit for reasons that U-God probably had nothing to do with. But I admit that this is more entertaining than some of his other output.

    Thanks for reading!

  4. AnonymousJune 26, 2009

    i think this album deserves a purchase, it is a solid wu album by U-god nonetheless, and he proven himself to finally come out with a decent album unlike his other 2 failures. i actually enjoyed most of the songs on this except 2[lipton and hips, hips] and the wack remixes[they did not need to be on the album....]. props to u-god, can finally rock my u-god fitted with a solo album to recommend if anyone asks of him >_>

  5. AnonymousJune 26, 2009

    lol @ the begrudging praise. Max HATES that 75% of the songs are good! Take off Hips, Rims and the bonus tracks, and what is there to complain about?

  6. Yeah, Baby Huey came with decent offering. One thing I love about this album is that he brought Scotty Wotty, the guy Ghostface mentioned on 'Nutmeg' for real featuring, unlike Ghostface(again) did on 'Wildflower' with Scotty shouting 'no smokin alarms'. By the way, both songs are #2 on Toney's first two albums, and they both appear on 'Train Trussle'. Coincidence? Too bad Ghost reuses verse from his album with Trife Da God, 'Man Up', I think.

    Overall good, but very inconsistent album.

  7. AnonymousJune 27, 2009

    Cover Art=Quality ?

    Concerning ">_>"


  8. AnonymousJune 27, 2009

    Max stop frontin', Dopium was hot for a U-God album.
    By the way, you need to review Slum Village albums....now. I love that group, but judging from your reviews Slum Village isn't your style. I wanna see what kind of jokes you can milk out their "Fantastik Vol.1" album.

  9. seconded for Slum village. Duty.

  10. DrWillyNickleJune 27, 2009

    Great review man. I really enjoy reading your blog.

  11. AnonymousJune 28, 2009

    im burning this.

  12. What up, Max? Just picked up Chamber Music and was not a bit disappointed. Looking forward to your Gut Reaction on it.

  13. ay max if you haven't already heard, raekwon released a "street single" from cuban linx 2 called "new wu"

  14. AnonymousJuly 02, 2009

    You just hate on U-God. This album is his best work and all you can seem to talk about is his old shit and how surpised you are. First of all Turbocharged had some bangers, and do really think that because an album doesn't sell big that an artist desires "atonement?" You think U-God is in the studio going "Oh shit, my boy Max ain't feeling the last album I better work hard on this one." Give me a break, any musicians work is more important than you're critisizm designating it so. The fact that anyone will continue to read your opinon is sad really.

  15. I love the fact that your comments pretty much imply that you didn't actually read the article to completion. Or any of the other U-God reviews. Thanks for playing, though.

  16. One of my surprises of the year as far as hip-hop is concerned! The techno remixes were atrocious but other than that, solid effort from U-God IMO... I even liked the joint with Jones and Sheek.

    Oh yeah, make sure you review "Chamber Music" as well! Another good album from the Wu (those spoken bits from RZA were out of place though)! =)

  17. For those of you who are interested, one of the producers on Dopium sent me some feedback.

    Yo Max,

    This is J.Serbe pka WOOD. I along with TEDDY BECKS produced Trussle, Stomp,
    Dopium, and GOD is Love........

    .......U-Gods Stupid manager Domingo Neris from Frank 151 fucked our name's
    up like some brain-dead asshole. TEDDY TED had nothing to do with these

    This is BS that comes with the business, and if anyone reading this wants to
    get into the rap game or the music business in general be ready for a
    serious headache! Not to deter anyone!

    Regardless, I'm glad everyone is responding well to the album and our
    Tracks. It is Greatly Appreciated!

    Be on the look out for a lot more work from Teddy and I (HEADBANGBOOGIE LLC)

    Please post this as is........ If you feel like it!



  18. actually scotty wotty was supposed to be one of the original members of the wu but couldn't get over his drug habit, sad, he would've sounded better than some others i can think of out of the nine generals

  19. AnonymousJuly 24, 2009

    max can u explain to me why u hated u god?? why his flow??? hes boring?? cant rap??? because to me he dope

  20. U-God isn’t bad, he just can’t hold down a song on his like his fellow Clansmen. I see him as a transitional emcee:

    - If he spits a whole track and it’ll be average at best
    - If he drops a verse on a track, he’ll usually have some memorable lines but he won’t stand out (It’s Yourz)
    - If he drops a few lines between some deeper emcees he’ll improve the whole product. He’s like a hypeman with mic handling abilities who doesn’t work the crowd.

    I don’t mean any disrespect to him; I definitely think he’s got talent. He’s just a different type of emcee then the rest of the Wu.

  21. Good review, can we get a review for some Madlib or El-P stuff though? *hopeful*

  22. So he finally released something good after all those years. Great Baby U, you're officially better than Cappadonna.

  23. No one else liked that Dopium remix?


    Just me then?

  24. U-God is horrible. I'm sure I'm not the first to notice this (though, then again, I doubt many people listen to U-God's verses at all, let alone remember them), but I was listening to some Wu this week and noticed how U-God often uses other Wu members' lines in his songs. For someone who is supposedly "the 4 bar killer", he sure does cram his bars with other members' lines. For example, "DAVID BANNER GAMMA RAY SHIT!" ... wasn't that a line by RZA? Even way back to Protect Ya Neck, he yells "SUUUUUUUUUEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!" right after Method Man already yelled it. I remember thinking of a few more the other day but forgot them by now, since U-God is forgettable EVEN WHEN spitting memorable darts from other members.

  25. "Scotty Wotty copped it to me, big microphone hippie"