October 14, 2010

9th Prince - Granddaddy Flow (May 28, 2003)

Terrance Hamlin, perhaps best known as 9th Prince from the Wu-Tang Clan offshoot Killarmy, wasn't the most obvious choice for a solo artist.  He certainly wasn't the first, anyway: his coworker Dom Pachino had released underground solo efforts ever since Killarmy effectively disbanded following the release of their third album, Fear, Love & War, on September 11, 2001.  (The group's never-official "breakup" was the result of both poor sales and the fact that a military-themed rap crew wasn't the best outfit to market after the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the resulting war afterward that we're still fucking in.)

9th Prince, however, had a leg up on the rest of his groupmates: The RZA is his brother.  

I'm putting that out there just so we can get it out of the way.  9th Prince's solo debut, Granddaddy Flow, wasn't released due to any sort of nepotism on anybody's part (not intentionally, anyway); it was distributed by Armyourself Entertainment, an independent outfit that technically has nothing to do with the Wu, exclusively online, and only two thousand copies were pressed.  However, 9th was so worried about his potential as a solo artist that Granddaddy Flow was originally marketed as a fourth Killarmy album "starring" 9th Prince, as you can tell by looking at the album cover above.  

Granddaddy Flow is all 9th Prince, though, and he stacked the odds in his favor by calling in some ringers: The RZA, as expected, makes a couple of appearances in a show of family solidarity, but he brings with him both True Master and 4th Disciple to handle some of the board work.  Killarmy members are also called in for assistance, although only two members were able to make it (more on that in a bit), and a couple of lesser-known Wu affiliates, including one surprise, make cameos.

All two thousand copies of the original pressing sold out rather quickly, which led 9th Prince into his solo career, which is now two or three albums strong.  Recently, Granddaddy Flow was re-released, which helps explain why the album cover you see below the write-up looks completely different and generic when compared to the generic one above: the artist also known as Madman (which is actually a pretty cool rap name, now that I think about it) now feels confident enough to not pretend that this is a Killarmy project.  

That doesn't explain the inaccurate features within the liner notes, though.

It's a rap album intro from the member of Killarmy who was voted least likely to release a solo album. You were expecting greatness?

Rebel Danja's beat came across as bare-bones at the beginning, but when the sound bites were scratched in, the instrumental found its heart. Although the song's own title seems to imply that 9th Prince will stick with the militant code that his Killarmy brethren lives by, his three verses betray that philosophy. While his performance is all style and no real substance, I have to say that he isn't terrible, which is a better critique than I've ever given of his earlier work, and he finds time within the three-minute song to give a shout-out to 2Pac (for loving the Wu-Tang Clan) and to start a fight with some folks in the Marcy Projects. This actually wasn't bad.

Rebel Danja's instrumental is a complete tonal shift from anything Wu related since...well, ever. It's really fucking good. The singing I could have done without, but 9th's mandatory love rap (it's a requirement when you record a solo album, you see) somehow works: I think his awkwardness behind the mic actually personifies being in love, adding an extra layer of depth to the track. Also, he talks about how he and his lady first made love while listening to “old school Kay Slay mixtapes”, which is just a funny image to me. Well played, Mr. Prince.

This song boasts appearances from two separate rap groups, but there isn't nearly enough instrumental to fit every single member of each crew: instead, we get Killarmy's Islord, Trife da God and Tommy Whispers from T.M.F. (the precursor to Ghostface Killah's Theodore Unit), and a completely uncredited verse from Infra-Red, of the low-grade Wu affiliate Ruthless Bastards. 4th Disciple's beat grew on me as the sand fell through the hourglass, and I found myself enjoying all five verses (even though Trife da God, a surprise guest that I completely forgot was on here in the first place, doesn't sound as polished as I would have liked). Throw the word “chamber” into the title and you would have another addition to the collection of entertaining Wu-Tang posse cuts. 9th's strength may lie in collaborations: on this song, he sounds quite fucking good. Whatever happened to the Ruthless Bastards, anyway?

Prince Rakeem thinks he's doing his younger brother a solid by lending him a cameo for his solo debut, but his opening guest verse was obviously conjured up on the spot, and freestyling isn't RZA's forte: it actually sounds like he ran out of rhymes and decided to start cursing in order to fill up the negative space. 9th really has no chance to salvage this track (as RZA hogs most of the song), so this fails by default. Well, that was a shame, especially since 4th Disciple's minimalist beat wasn't that bad.

9th Prince and his invited guest Rubbabandz (from GP Wu, who may or may not be Wu-affiliated depending on what time of day you ask them) actually worked together before, on Shyheim's RZA-produced “Young Gods” (9th was going by his alter ego Madman at the time). While that doesn't automatically mean that they will have any chemistry on this song, they fake it well enough. 9th's slice of life tale is fueled by ridiculous boasts (such as “We just finished fucking for two and a half hours!!!”, a proclamation which opens the second verse), but it sounds like he had fun writing these lyrics, and that party mood is contagious. The Rubbabandz hook is alright, but producer Storm's use of a soundbite within the beat itself was miscalculated.

Wait, 9th Prince reserved an entire track for eleven seconds of driving away? What is this, Manos: Hands Of Fate?

For more than just the obvious reason, “Kill Or Be Killed” sounds like a lost Killarmy track from the Fear, Love, & War sessions. Freedom's instrumental is simple, but 9th and P.R. Terrorist (the persona Dom Pachino goes by on days ending with the letter “y”) use it as effectively as they always have on their many collaborative efforts. For some reason, the fact that 9th says toward the end that “this song is called 'Kill Or Be Killed'” turned this track into an overly meta experience, but I'm probably writing that just to fill space.

9th Prince swings for the fences, attracting Wu-Tang Clan stans with the inclusion of kung-fu flick sound bites over the dark melody. He still hasn't realized that he has a tendency to cram more syllables than humanly possible into a single bar, but I'd be doing you a disservice if I didn't point out that 9th has actually gotten better behind the mic. T.M.F. makes an encore appearance on Granddaddy Flow, although Trife Diesel is tagged out in favor of Kryme Life. This wasn't bad at all, but it could have been a tad more engaging.

10. 100 DEGREES
9th Prince's shout-out to the then-incarcerated Ol' Dirty Bastard kind of shocked me until I reviewed the family tree: if The RZA is ODB's cousin, and 9th Prince is The RZA's brother, then 9th Prince is ODB's cousin. (Cue Max slapping his forehead...now.) It also reminded me that Big Baby Jesus never got the opportunity to do his cousin a favor and contribute a hook or something to the cause, whether for his solo career or for Killarmy. That's okay, though, since 9th, adopting his Madman persona over this Falling Down production, promises that Killarmy will help bust Osirus out of the clink anyway, him being family and all. Much to my surprise, this was pretty good, although our host doesn't say anything of importance.

True Master's instrumental is built around much harder drums than what we've heard previously on Granddaddy Flow. It was very dusty Wu Mansion basement before the flood-esque. This would have been a pretty good foundation for the six men in Killarmy to build a youth activities center over. Unfortunately, P.R. Terrorist and Islord are the only guys who RSVP'd. The chorus grates on the ears a bit, but I still found myself enjoying this shit.

9th Prince's song for the ladies (which isn't the same as a love rap, as you all know), which might have been released as a single at one point, unless the endorphins released by my brain caused by the fact that Granddaddy Flow is actually pretty fucking good for a Wu-Tang b-team project are affecting my memory. 9th isn't exactly the most convincing ladies man of the crew, but truth be told, most of the members of the actual Clan couldn't pull this type of song off, either. Bonus points for the smooth Storm beat and the title's connection to the Wu-Tang Killa Beez concept: that was pretty fucking clever, 9th. So clever that I'm surprised nobody had ever come up with it before.

Prince Rakeem returns to try again, this time giving his brother a free instrumental in addition to a guest verse, although this one sounds much more focused than the Bobby Digital-esque ad-libbing of “Burn Bridges”. The beat sounds fucking demented, thanks to RZA's layering of sound bites that don't really match the beat's calm exterior, but this is a good thing: hearing The RZA (and 9th Prince, obviously) over kung-fu samples on a beat that was probably once earmarked for Big Baby Osirus before his incarceration gives “Tribute To The 5th Brother” an old school Wu-Tang aesthetic, which is a roundabout way of saying that I actually enjoyed this low-key affair a lot.

Granddaddy Flow ends with a song lifted directly from Killarmy's Fear, Love, & War, albeit one that was a 9th Prince solo effort in the first place. I'll admit, when I first heard this song, the thought that 9th could maybe possibly handle a solo album had briefly crossed my mind (although, like everyone else, I was more impressed by Killa Sin, who still hasn't been able to give fans what we want). 9th's shout-out to the folks who picked up Killarmy's albums still sounds sincere. This was a good way to end the evening.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Proving that he isn't the U-God of Killarmy, 9th prince's Granddaddy Flow is a surprisingly entertaining entry into the Wu-Tang Clan's extended catalog. Although I've had my reservations about him in the past, 9th Prince manages to pull off the risky stunt of releasing a solo album, mostly by aligning himself with some first class ringers: The RZA, 4th Disciple, Tru Master, and others behind the boards, and some skilled guest rappers filling in the blanks. By keeping Granddaddy Flow short and sweet (fourteen tracks, two of which are skits), 9th gets the opportunity to show off without becoming overbearing, and he is aware of his own limitations, hooking up with guest artists whenever appropriate. While it is a shame that more of his home team couldn't make it to the studio, and while it would have been nice for more than just The RZA to show up waving the Wu-Tang flag, 9th Prince succeeds on his own accord. Who would have thunk it?

BUY OR BURN? If you're a Wu stan, you should buy this one immediately. If you could care less about the Wu, you might still find parts of Granddaddy Flow to be entertaining, but you stopped reading this entry after you skimmed the title, so blippitty bloo blah doo your mother's a whore.

BEST TRACKS: “Tribute To The 5th Brother”; “Foolish Ways”; “Slang Killaz”; “Generation Next”; “Originators”; “100 Degrees”


More Wu-Tang stuff can be found here, but if you want it narrowed down to Killarmy material, click here instead.


  1. Great album. This is one of my favorites off the Wu-Affiliate roster. Production turned me on a lot. This was an extremely pleasant surprise. I always though to myself that Deck deserved an album with at least these kind of beats. Speaking of Deck, he spit over the exact same instrumental as "Slang Killaz" to fantastic in "The Night Shift". Which further proves my point.

    P.S. "Tribute to the Fifth Brother" is my fucking shit.

    - Keeshawn

  2. Couple things;

    -You mean to tell me Islord was more likely to release a solo over 9th Prince?
    -Never knew only 2000 original copies were pressed up, I recall 9th sayin' in some interview that this sold somethin' like 50,000 copies.

    Other than that, solid album. Both joints with RZA are ill, and Tommy Whispers MURDERED Cold Wind.

  3. Rza, 4th Disciple & Tru Master really produced on this album??
    Gotta get it!


  4. Why, in an album with the word "flow" in the title, would 9th Prince paste a photograph of him bending over/squatting on the cover? It's just not right. Of course the newer version, with him and the two ladies, looks worse. Much, much worse. Who gets paid to design these things?

  5. Never knew such a great album only got 4 comments. Shit, this is one of my favorite Wu releases PERIOD. I actually love every song on here except the two love raps. I just couldn't get into those. I thought Burn Bridges was fantastic, but whatever. Wonderful album!