May 23, 2010

My Gut Reaction: Inspectah Deck - Manifesto (March 23, 2010)

After listening to The Resident Patient 2, the never-really-released Inspectah Deck album that consisted solely of shitty freestyles that he apparently posted on his MySpace page first, I completely lost faith in Jason Hunter.  When combined with the blunt force trauma that made up his second and third efforts (The Movement and the original The Resident Patient, respectively), Inspectah Deck has essentially squandered all of the goodwill he accumulated during his masterful verses on the Wu-Tang Clan albums, both crew and solo.  But being that I'm a Wu-Tang stan, and that's not something that you can cure overnight with pills, when Deck's fourth actual album, Manifesto, was announced, I planned on picking it up anyway, if only to put off listening to the Ghostface Killah R&B album that much longer.

It helps that I didn't mind his cameos on Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...Part II and the Wu-Debacle Massacre album, too.

Manifesto was originally supposed to be entitled The Rebellion, the name that Jason has reserved for whatever would end up being his final album.  However, seemingly re-energized, Deck switched up the name, thereby threatening hip hop fans with even more material in the future.  Manifesto finds the Rebel INS at a crossroads, trying to win back old fans while staying true to himself and his place in the genre.  No matter how you look at it, Jason Hunter is a rap veteran now, and he does actually deserve an opportunity to get his name back out into the world. 

So here we have Manifesto, which consists of some tracks that were originally earmarked for an earlier version of an album that was supposed to be called The Resident Patient 2, which only confuses matters even more.  So you can understand that I'm not hyper-excited about this shit. 

Maybe I'll be wrong?

The list of artists who should never attempt speed-rapping includes nearly every single rapper in existence. Inspectah Deck is one of them. But hey, at least this rap album intro consists of a verse, right? Right? Yeah, I know, that doesn't really count for anything.

It should be obvious to longtime readers that I, unlike most bloggers, don't automatically suck at the teat of The Alchemist: his production work is very hit and miss, falling into the latter category more often than not. “The Champion”, predictably, is a miss, as Deck finds himself stuck with one of the most boring Al Maman beats in history, but he decides to go for the gusto anyway. While the Rebel's lyrics sound downright dull as a result, at least he seemed to try.

Features an uncredited cameo from Barack Obama. Most will say that MoSS simply sampled from one of the President's many speeches, but I like to think that Barack is a secret Inspectah Deck fan that really wanted to give Jason a fighting chance this time around. Without even waiting around for a few bars, Mega Montana launches into a missive that sounds awkward against the poppy instrumental, while Deck provides the other two verses with no real lyrical gems to speak of. I have a bad feeling about Manifesto.

There was obviously room for a weak-ass chorus on this song, but surprisingly, no such hook is provided. Was this Deck's true intention, or was Manifesto rushed to store shelves? And while we're on the topic, did Jason consciously name this song after the Michael Jackson posthumous documentary-slash-concert film? I may never know the answer to these questions, but I can say with all honesty that “This Is It” wasn't terrible. The lack of a hook was a definite plus, even if it resulted in a lot of dead air between verses.

Inspectah Deck has been trying to perfect the rap love song ever since his debut, Uncontrolled Substance (which, admittedly, had a couple of similar tracks that actually worked). Deck's swooping instrumental provides more atmosphere than any other song on Manifesto thus far can claim, and Deck doesn't sound too shabby with his praise of a woman who stuck by his side through all of the bullshit (I can only assume he's referring to his career highs and lows), even though he believes it would have made complete sense for her to jump ship. The tacked-on final verse from his weed carrier Fes Taylor wasn't necessary, but overall, this could have been a lot worse.

6. P.S.A.
Holy shit: this song is actually good. Deck uses the Shawn Carter blueprint (ha!), delivering two short and sweet verses over a relatively dope Lee Bannon beat. “P.S.A.” doesn't stick around long enough to grow annoying, and as a result, this shit is nice. Maybe everything really is coming up Milhouse.

Deck's recent discovery of acronyms has led to his use of two of them as back-to-back song titles. Ultimately, though, this plea for everyone to “stay true” doesn't get the job done, thanks to a Deck instrumental that gives Jason's lyrics an air of inauthenticity. Moving on...

Theweak-ass hook dominates this track, which was a mistake, as otherwise Deck sounded decent enough. I feel that the hookless concept of “This Is It” may have been a better fit for this particular track. I'm just saying.

Wow, so underground stalwart and blogger favorite AC (whose love and appreciation for the Wu-Tang Clan led to his own “Rae Told Me”) actually landed a guest spot on a Wu-Tang album? From one of the original nine members? That's not a bad look at all. Too bad he's only used for an ineffective hook (which he sings): somebody truly screwed the pooch here. Raekwon's short verse barely registers (I believe he recorded it while still engaged in REM sleep), so this may as well have been a Deck solo. Had that been the case, he may have been better off, since he seems to enjoy running rampant over the Mental Instruments backdrop.

I have to appreciate that Deck is eschewing the typical rapper laziness by actually performing on both the intro and this interlude. He fares much better on here, even though that speed-rapping complaint I filed earlier still applies.

On this sequel to a far superior album track from Uncontrolled Substance, Deck refers to this project as The Resident Patient 3, which dilutes the swagger he's trying to swing around considerably. I've always felt that any Wu track with the word “chamber” in it should automatically be a posse cut (see: the Wu's “7th Chamber”, GZA's “4th Chamber”, Bronze Nazareth's “5th Chamber”, and “Graveyard Chamber” from the Gravediggaz, to name a few examples), but maybe everybody was too busy ignoring Inspectah Deck's calls to make an appearance. For what it's worth, this wasn't that bad, but the Nas vocal sample during the chorus was pushing it.

Because Carlton Fisk first appeared on Method Man's Tical, I keep forgetting that he's actually one of Deck's flunkies, but because I liked Fisk on Tical, I find myself disappointed by his verse on here. Fes Taylor sounds like a cross between Jim Jones and Sheek Louch, which is just a bizarre combination, like peanut butter and meatloaf. To his credit, Inspectah Deck actually fares pretty well over his own beat, which was unfortunately attached to a generic rap song title. Come on, Jason, you can do better.

I have to give credit where credit is due: while Termanology and Planet Asia win the prize of being the least likely artists to ever appear on a Wu-Tang Clan member's solo album, Inspectah Deck seems to be the only guy in the collective that can actually sound like a natural fit with them. (I haven't forgotten about Planet Asia working with The RZA on “Intermission” by DJ Muggs, either; while I love that song, Deck sounds better equipped to handle his issues.) And he does not disappoint: when removed from his boring House Gang and disinterested members of the Clan, Deck can actually sound pretty good, probably because he wanted to make sure he would be taken seriously amongst two of the underground's most popular acts. The guitars on the beat give the track a weight that it never really earns, as nothing on here is remotely deep, but this effort is actually really good. Huh.

To be fair, there weren't many ways that Deck could have successfully followed up “Serious Rappin'”, but at least he could have tried, instead of just throwing this shit at the listeners who don't actually exist at this point.

Everybody in the Wu needs to put the soulful vocal samples down and step away from them immediately: they've long since become a crutch (see: “Crazy”, or even “Our Dreams” from Wu-Massacre). Deck's monologue, describing how crazy life can be when circumstances turn against you, fails to resonate, as it seems that he heard the vocal sample first and then decided to craft an entire song around it, instead of, I don't know, writing lyrics that provide even a little bit of closure to his tale. What the hell?

Given Deck's work alongside Kurupt on Pete Rock's “Tru Master”, this collaboration isn't that farfetched. Shorty 140 tries his hand at a West Coast-ish sound and doesn't do half bad: indeed, the only misstep here is Deck's own verse, as, apparently, performing on a song with artists who have been in the game roughly as long as he has seems to have inspired a sense of entitlement, and as such, Deck isn't even hungry. What a shame. Kurupt and M.O.P.'s Billy Danze at least put some effort into their contributions.

Eventually, rappers will run out of ways to call New York City a dangerous place to be. Oh wait, with this track, that just happened. Deck slows his delivery down to a crawl, trying to get a point across that nobody really needed to be convinced of. It would be kind of funny to insert Alicia Keys singing her chorus from Hova's “Empire State Of Mind” over this song, though. Maybe it's time for all New York-based rappers to move to Connecticut, just so they can have something new to fucking write about.

This is kind of mean but absolutely true: had Deck not lucked into the Wu, he may have still eventually gotten a record deal, but nobody would give a fuck about him. He should rightfully take some credit on here for the Wu breaking through in 1993, but there were eight other guys with him (who, admittedly, he does remember to acknowledge): couldn't he have invited any of those guys to appear on here instead of the boring Fes Taylor and a gypsy cab driver? Sigh.

19. 5 STAR G
Erase the awful hook and you would have a fairly entertaining track. Deck follows the lead of the MoSS beat and hugs it like he's driving too close to the curb. This song features the most playful-sounding Inspectah Deck in recent memory, so it's too bad that he succumbed to such a lame-ass gimmick as a topic.

One of the funniest titles in Wu-Tang history also made me fear that Manifesto would, indeed, never actually end. For his part, Deck spits a serious monologue that could have been lifted straight from The Movement, but Agallah's instrumental is like an undercover officer in plain clothes filing his paperwork at the police station: unconvincing. And just like that, Manifesto was gone.

THE LAST WORD: This isn't saying much, but with Manifesto, Inspectah Deck successfully eradicates the memory of both The Resident Patient and its shitty “sequel”. The problem is that Jason seems to have forgotten what it takes to craft an entertaining album (um, the music has to be good) and what Wu stans actually want to hear (read: collaborations with other Wu-Tang Clan members, some Wu-Elements behind the boards). Thankfully, Deck has mostly stepped away from producing on Manifesto (save for a few tracks, of course – he couldn't run away like that without leaving a note) to focus on his words, but most of the beats present on here are still boring as shit. The multiple cameos from his apprentice Fes Taylor are also unnecessary. However, Manifesto displays a trait that his other recent projects lacked: he's actively trying this time around. So his failure is more due to outside factors and not his own hand. Deck just needs to scrap some money together and get some better, more appealing instrumentals: that way, he might just win back Wu stans. But for now, we should consider Inspectah Deck a work in progress. Manifesto isn't really all that good, but it could have been a lot worse, I guess.


More Wu-Tang Clan-related write-ups to pass the time with. They'll make your work day go by that much faster.


  1. AnonymousMay 23, 2010

    the only wu albums you need are-
    enter the wu tang
    liquid swords
    only built for cuban links
    supreme cliental

    every other wu or wu related album is average or shit

  2. AnonymousMay 23, 2010

    we already know this shit sucks deck can't make a hot album to save his life
    review nas and damian marley's new album "distant relatives"

  3. A.R. MarksMay 23, 2010

    Agreed. Deck still has the potential to put out one really good album; he still sounds great (albeit not as great as he used to) on other Wu-Tang solo/group projects.

    I'm looking forward to The Rebellion mostly because he promised a bunch of RZA production and Wu guests.

  4. Poor Inspectah Deck... his solo career really is a bit of a tragedy.

  5. AnonymousMay 23, 2010

    Good review as always.

    Mr. Marks,

    I agree that Deck has the stuff to make a great album, and my faith in him was renewed when I heard him talk about the beef with Joe Budden on YouTube while it was going on, but somehow he screwed up again.

  6. AnonymousMay 24, 2010

    A terrible album! But I feel triumphant because me and my granny have produced a better album...

  7. AnonymousMay 24, 2010

    Speaking of Budden, you gotta admit he has a point: these Wu-guys should be taking shots at the RZA for leaving them hanging album after album.......Deck is a great example of a talented MC who RZA has done jack shit for and his career has suffered for it.

  8. AnonymousMay 24, 2010

    lyrically, this album is hot, that's just me, and i still think that Uncontrolled Substance is deck's best album

  9. AnonymousMay 25, 2010

    "Later on, I spoke to a class of ninth graders/ I gave them some jewels that could change their life later."

    I think Deck had more to say on "Born Survivor" than you appreciate, Max.

  10. Let's be honest though, RZA did wonders during the 5-year plan. It was the other Wu members that felt the need for independence, screwing up in many different ways. RZA DID produce his album anyways, only through that unfortunate flood did it disappear. A pity, it probably would have been neck to neck with Liquid Swords and OB4CL.

    RZA is not responsible for the other 8 members, he's not their father.

  11. Tile GroutMay 28, 2010

    @ the Anonymous that mentioned jewels and the 9th graders:

    I think that Max heard Deck loud and clear. But how many times do we hear rappers talking about dropping jewels and cyphers? It's commendable, but I have yet to listen to a single one that was original or life-altering. And I'm not a world-weary, jaded individual that has heard it all (yet).

    If it's a "Gods and Earths" dude we hear about the percentages theory. Or about respecting the earths or raising up our gods right by telling them to eat their vegetables. Or how to use simple mathematics to craft a fool-proof life trajectory.

    What else? Uh, "be there for your seeds". And "respect your elders". How about "look both ways before crossing the street"?

    Listen: there are few things better than real advice from an experienced individual. Particularly when that advice comes from someone you have a close bond with - the wisdom is tailored to you and your situation and digs beneath the surface. Couple that with a good education and common sense and you've got it made. I personally roll my eyes when simple advice we've all heard over and over again is wrapped up in the pretentious "jewel" or "cypher" packages.

  12. WuTangMasterMay 28, 2010

    Well, here's the deal with this album: Deck sounds like he's trying again, and his flow is pretty crazy on every track. Especially The Champion, which has a rhyme scheme I've never heard before in rap.

    However, the production is ASS. And what Deck says in every song is generic as hell, and could have been said by any New York City rapper.

    So what are we left with? An average hip hop album from an MC capable of a classic. And with each passing year, the chance of Deck pulling that off seems less likely.

    Because he needs a Cuban Linx 2 caliber production lineup surrounding him to accomplish this. He needs songs that are up the quality of "A Lil Story," not, say, "Born Survivor." There's no quality control on Inspectah Deck albums. Sadly.

    His best album is still Uncontrolled Substance, and even that was just @@@1/2

  13. AnonymousMay 29, 2010

    Simpsons= best quotes
    I enjoyed some of the songs on here. I was shocked by The Big Game where INS brought in an autotune hook.
    I still think Uncontrolled Substance is his best, worth a buy.


  14. AnonamissJune 04, 2010

    @Anonymous 5/29

    Uncontrolled Substance is overrated, and most people rate it as terrible.

  15. It breaks my heart that this wasn't great. Poor INS, he's definitely had the worst solo career of any Wu member (even f***ing U-God's fared better!) which is a huge shame as his is certainly one of the best rappers in Wu-Tang (Triumph, anyone?) and deserves a modern Wu classic (like Masta Killa's solo) but can't make a good album. He reminds me of Nas; technically a great MC but just struggles to make a good album, mainly due to poor beat choices. Sigh. I think he's still got it in him though. After all, Czarface was awesome. he needs a solo album with beats like that to get the recognition he so deserves. (In case you haven't figured out, Inspectah Deck is one of my favourite Wu rappers for sure).