April 20, 2010
Bronze Nazareth - The Great Migration (May 23, 2006)
I wholeheartedly admit that the majority of you two will have no fucking idea who Bronze Nazareth is. If you fall into that category, you have my permission to skip today's post. In fact, I'll help you along: here's an alternate to today's write-up that you can enjoy instead.
Are you still with me? Good.
Justin Cross is a rapper-slash-producer from Detroit, Michigan, a location which automatically lumps him in with every other rapper-slash-producer from Detroit, Michigan (you have to admit, there are a lot of them). The difference between Justin, who performs as Bronze Nazareth, and, say, J Dilla and Marshall Mathers, is who actually discovered him: in this case, it was Cilvaringz, of the overseas Wu-Tang Clan contingent, who first heard and enjoyed the man's work, signing him up to join his production team. Later on, Bronze was invited by The Rza himself to provide beats for actual Wu-Tang Clan projects, but that was a few years on.
It's no surprise that Cilvaringz and Bronze Nazareth became fast friends: in addition to having self-important nicknames that wouldn't work in everyday society, both men longed for the early days of the Wu-Tang Clan, when the crew could do no wrong: seemingly every track released by the group was the perfect blend of grimy beats, gritty rhymes, a rock star aesthetic, and a heavy kung-fu influence evident in both the actual samples from films and the lyrics themselves, each verse tasked with defeating the one previous by any means necessary. Both Cilva and Bronzey specialized in Wu-esque instrumentals, which quickly endeared them with Wu stans the world over who were also wondering why Prince Rakeem felt the need to work with a digital orchestra in the first place, when his dusty drums and basement break beats were doing just fine, thanks.
Anyway, Justin soon found himself stuffed into the Wu-Tang pipe, and he quickly aligned himself with Royal Fam's Dreddy Krueger, who had just started up his own label, Think Differently Records. Bronze ended up contributing the majority of the production for the label's pinnacle, Wu-Tang Meets The Indie Culture, and Dreddy immediately followed up that magnum opus with Bronze Nazareth's solo debut, The Great Migration. (Technically, Bronzey had already released a solo album to the Interweb with the assistance of Cilvaringz, who, curiously, had nothing to do with this project, but The Great Migration was the first Bronze Nazareth album that you could actually purchase in a store, if you were so inclined.)
It went on to sell approximately six copies.
One of the biggest drawbacks of being affiliated with a supergroup as large and influential as the Wu-Tang Clan is that it takes a lot for you to stand out in the crowd. Most of the c-teamers are content with appealing to only those stans who blindly purchase Wu albums and mixtapes, but there are a handful who actually try to reach a wider audience, who know that true career longevity lies in testing your limits and overcoming obstacles.
So does Bronze Nazareth belong in the content category, or does he reach for the stars? How the fuck should I know? I have to listen to the album first.
1. IN THE BEGINNING (INTRO)
Apparently, the intro to Method Man's “Tical” (swiped from the theme music for the World-Northal Corporation, a film distribution company for kung fu flicks, among other things) influenced Bronze Nazareth significantly: this is the second project he's been associated with that tries to achieve a similar feel. Wu-Tang Meets The Indie Culture stole from HBO's intro to their original programming, and this rap album intro liberally borrows from the music you heard back when New Line Cinema (a) presented a film and (b) existed. Neither one of these examples hits as hard as Meth's intro (which was re-used for “Intermission (Drive In Movie) by Gza/Genius), but fuck it, at least it was short.
2. THE PAIN
Starts off so slowly that I was concerned that my CD just up and died on me, but then the high-energy horns kicked in. Bronzey isn't the greatest lyricist, but his one long verse on here (by the way, thanks for avoiding the use of a chorus on what is, basically, your introduction to the world) suggests that he probably could have swung a record deal without the benefit of Wu-Tang affiliation. His concise bars and their brief but violent marriage to the beat start The Great Migration off in a good way.
3. MORE THAN GOLD (FEAT TIMBO KING)
I may have spoken too soon: in “More Than Gold”, Bronzey sounds as amateurish as most of the Wu-Tang c-teamers. But at least his instrumental is okay enough, as it doubles as the getaway car for Royal Fam's Timbo King after he walks away with this shit. Sure, Timbo's Dave Chappelle reference seems to exist only so Bronzey can lay in The Gza's “Konichiwa, bitches!” sound bite, but he at least sounds really good.
4. KILLA BEEZ ATTACK (SKIT)
Lest we forget that Bronze Nazareth is a Wu-Tang Clan affiliate, we are presented with a skit with the phrase “Killa Beez” in the title. As the skit consists of a sound bite from David Spade and the late Chris Farley's Tommy Boy, though, it gets a pass. At least the first time through.
5. THE BRONZEMAN (FEAT KILLA SIN)
The beat plays for quite a while before Bronzey bothers to step into the booth, but that's alright, as he successfully apes the feel of what a Wu song should sound like (in 2006, anyway). Lyrically, he brushes himself off after the failure of “More Than Gold” and crafts a really fucking entertaining song for Wu stans, with goofy couplets that will appeal to Ghostface Killah fanatics. The lack of a hook is also a plus. He could have simply ended the song before Killarmy's Killa Sin started rapping (given the title, I assumed that this was intended to he a solo track all about Bronze Nazareth), but the track as a whole was still pretty good.
6. ONE PLAN (FEAT BYATA)
This was a fairly unique take on the love rap, aided heavily by the dope-as-hell instrumental. Some of the lines were kind of embarrassing, but then again, so is love. The alternating verses between Bronzey and Byata were pretty good, although the ball falls into our host's court more often than not, and using the act of getting a Wu-Tang tattoo as a metaphor for proposing is a bit of a stretch, but I still liked this song. Huh.
7. INSTRUMENTAL: INTERLUDE
Well, that was a very literal track title.
8. STOLEN VAN GOGH
The crawling beat held some promise, but Bronze's one-verse wonder ultimately falters, as his lyrics are all over the fucking map: it feels as though no bar complements the previous one. It's almost as though Nazareth decided to use up all of his random observations on this one track (the reference to “stolen Van Goghs” comes entirely out of left field), but fuck it, it's short, and it leads into a far superior track anyway.
9. 5TH CHAMBER (FEAT 12 O'CLOCK, PRODIGAL SUNN, & SEAN PRICE)
I've written before that the posse cuts on Wu solo albums tend to be the best tracks offered, and Bronze Nazareth simply continues that positive trend. Sure, no actual Wu-Tang Clan members actually appear over this simple but damn fucking effective beat, but everybody brings their A-game, especially the completely unexpected special guest star Sean Price, who swoops in like a long-lost cousin just after you've won the lottery. Fuck Wu-Massacre: where's my Wu-Tang Clan / Boot Camp Clik collaboration album?
10. STUPID FUCKING WHITE MAN (SKIT)
11. GOOD MORNING (A NICE HELL)
Listeners are tricked into thinking that this track will sound exactly like Dr. Dre's “The Next Episode” (or, for non-mainstream readers, Tash's “Fallin' On”), but Bronzey plays more of the David Axelrod “The Edge” sample, turning this into a serious meditation on growing up in his surroundings in Detroit. This was okay, but the music wasn't as inviting to rapped verses as Bronze Nazareth may have believed.
12. RARE BREED (FEAT PHILLIE)
This sounded okay, but none of the lyrics stick out, so you may as well have listened to some dude mumbling over an above-average instrumental. I have to give kudos to the fact that The Great Migration sounds nothing like any other album coming from an artist out of Motown, but that just means that there are a lot of Detroit artists that can now benefit from working with our host, if he were so inclined. (I'm sure he could whip up something winning for Royce da 5'9”.)
13. HEAR WHAT I SAY!
Starts off with a brief kung-fu flick sound bite, which is more than what Wu-Massacre even bothered with. (I'm sorry to keep bringing it up, but that album really pissed me off.) Anyway, Bronze Nazareth kicks a long verse describing how he came into the hip hop game, voicing a lot of the same complaints that other fans of the genre have used (especially when he states that an album with twelve tracks by twelve different producers doesn't gel). He may not be as deserving of praise and attention as he seems to believe he is, but he sounds convincing enough on here. This was pretty nice.
14. BLACK ROYALTY
Bronzey's verse doesn't mesh as well with the looped sample as he would like, especially as it seems to abruptly stop and restart throughout the duration of the track. The horns also drown out a lot of our host's words. All in all, this was a misstep, but I'm still loving the fact that Nazareth doesn't find it necessary to throw a hook into every single track.
15. DETROIT (FEAT KEVLAAR 7 & PHILLIE)
Bronzey shouts out his hometown alongside a couple of his Wisemen brethren (a crew he formed shortly after being discovered), using a beat that, oddly, does sound like something coming out of Detroit (see also: some of Black Milk's work) to his advantage. Of course, the song itself isn't all about Motown: that would be far too easy. But this posse cut was alright, even if all three rappers are so green that they all blend in with each other.
16. $ (A/K/A CASH RULE)
The title draws an unfair comparison to the Wu's “C.R.E.A.M.”, unfair because the Clan easily has the better song. This unnecessarily violent track (on the hook, anyway – yes, there is a chorus on here) never advanced far beyond “meh” for me. Bronzey's beat relies on what I now realize as a crutch (soul samples), and his lyrics veer off topic so often that it's a wonder this song even exists. Oh well.
17. POEM BURIAL GROUND
Bronze holds a lyrical clinic, but nobody thought to attend, mainly because nobody knows who Bronze Nazareth is. Hip hop fans with their heads so far underground that they're breathing in earthworms will find something to like on here, even with the song's overly dramatic title, so that feeling of anonymity should only last so long for our host, in a perfect world. Maybe Bronzey should hedge his bets and also align himself with the Jedi Mind Tricks camp for some additional exposure.
18. THE GREAT MIGRATION
Bronze Nazareth's title track, which he uses to bring the album to a close, sounds like one of those boring Killah Priest songs that I can't bring myself to listen to twice. (Hence, no write-up for Priesthood yet. I will try to force myself to give it another spin soon, though.) It's strange that the title track would feel out of place when compared to the rest of the songs on here, but here we are.
19. BRONZE HALLS (OUTRO)
And with this brief instrumental, the album is over.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Bronze Nazareth's The Great Migration won't appeal to everyone: his very affiliation with the Wu-Tang Clan limits his audience severely, and a lot of my two readers probably haven't even gotten this far in the review, but that's unfair, as the album is actually fairly entertaining in its own right. Bronzey deserves a slightly wider audience than the one he has now, which is currently made up of stans like me who eat up everything Wu-Tang and shit out disappointment more often than not. His production work on The Great Migration is far more polished than one would expect: if he had only ceded more of his mic time to worthy guests, this could have been a home run. As it stands, Bronze Nazareth has hit a double, but he clearly knows how to play the game, so this was a pleasant surprise.
BUY OR BURN? Wu stans will probably be the only ones who heed my advice to pick this one up, but for the rest of you still reading, I feel you should spin the tracks listed below and follow that to its natural conclusion. You won't be sorry.
BEST TRACKS: “5th Chamber”; “Hear What I Say!”; “The Pain”; “One Plan”; “The Bronzeman”
There's much more Wu to read about. You can start by clicking here.