In 2010, the Wu Music Group, yet another offshoot label inspired by the success of the Wu-Tang Clan (success that wasn't anywhere near its peak in 2010) decided to stir up some interest in their fledgling label by releasing a label sampler comprised of artists from within their stable ("Wu-affiliates", or "Killa Beez", as it were).
Curiously, they titled this effort Pollen: The Swarm Part Three, regardless of the fact that (1) there was never a The Swarm Part Two (although technically The Sting fills that role, it was never officially called that), and (2) The first compilation was called The Swarm Volume 1, not The Swarm Part One.
That last argument is more of a semantics and grammar issue, but neither of those topics ever seemed to cross the minds of the executive producers of this project, Oli "Power" Granyt and Ray Acosta, two veterans of the Wu-Tang business world. Pollen: The Swarm Part Three is the only installment of this makeshift series that barely features The RZA's involvement: he appears on one track, and that's it, making this the rare Wu project that doesn't feature him in an executive-producing capacity. Perhaps this is because he realized early on what kind of a half-assed affair this project was turning out to be.
The biggest sin Pollen: The Swarm Part Three commits is its complete lack of liner notes. We have no fucking clue who produced any of the songs on the album, nor do we know who all of the specific participants are, as most of the credits provided list group names and not individuals, and in at least one case the group name is complete and utter bullshit (see below). The individual artist names that did make the credits are frequently misspelled or flat-out incorrect, and there are a handful of artists who receive no credit for their contribution whatsoever. A few of the actual Clan members who bothered to give a fuck are listed under aliases, as well; it's almost as though they don't want Pollen: The Swarm Part Three to appear on their respective resumes or something.
(Note: I'm listing the song credits as they appear on the back cover, warts and all, in an effort to prove a point, which is that the powers that be behind the Wu-Tang Clan are pretty goddamn lazy.)
1. ROLL WITH KILLER BEES (YELLOW JACKETS)
The Yellow Jackets are a newer Wu-Tang offshoot group made up of eighty-seven different rappers that not even the executive producers of this project seem to care about, since they couldn't be bothered to help explain who's actually performing on this, the very first song of the evening. For the record, there seems to be six separate emcees on here, the first of which also supplies a wordy hook. Everyone sounds competent enough over the simplistic beat, but on a song that probably doubles as the Yellow Jackets's introduction to our chosen genre, none of these guys have the charisma, the intrigue, or the flat-out skills required to sustain longevity in the very competitive and lucrative field known as holding Max's interest. Next!
2. HEADLINE (ARMEL, 12 O'CLOCK, P. SUNN, & REV BURKS)
At least all of the players on “Headline” are listed individually, even though some of their names are printed incorrectly (“P. Sunn”? “Rev. Burks”? Seriously? Apparently the Wu-Tang Clan conglomerate has never heard of proofreading their work). Armel heads things off in a similar fashion as he did when he opened “Roll With Killer Bees”, which is to say he sounded okay, but not great. The duo 2 On Da Road, made up of Ol' Dirty Bastard's younger brother 12 O'Clock and Sunz Of Man's Prodigal Sunn, come across as alright, and The RZA's baggage handler Reverend William Burke supplies a crappy hook over a repetitive loop. None of the verses are connected in any way, and I still don't understand why the song is called “Headline”, but at least the artists on here were easier to tell apart than they were on the first track.
3. ASSED OUT (WU-TANG CLAN)
On which the listener makes the horrifying discovery that the Wu-Tang Clan has been reduced to just Method Man and GZA/Genius before snapping out of that dream and realizing that most of the group just didn't care at all for this song. The GZA barely registers on here, with a storytelling rap that somehow seems to end before it even begins. Cliffy handles the first two verses with ease, though, still sounding happy and grateful to have carved out a niche for himself in the entertainment industry as opposed to, you know, finding a real job. The beat was alright, not exactly what one wants to hear the Clan perform over, but hell, we'll take what we can get these days. I do wish that more of the Clan had bothered to contribute, though. Not horrible.
4. DIRTS THE BOOGIE (O.D.B. & Y.D.B. BOY JONES)
We must be within the block of the only five tracks on Pollen: The Swarm Part Three where original founding members of the Wu-Tang Clan met their contractual obligations to make a cameo. On here, the corpse of the late Ol' Dirty Bastard is reanimated to rhyme over a generically bouncy beat that, let's be honest, he probably would have spit over anyway, and it probably would have sounded as disjointed and incomplete as “Dirts The Boogie” actually does. This horseshit is positioned as a collaboration between father and son, but Boy Jones, who sounds fucking godawful behind the mic, doesn't really appear long enough to warrant me hating the shit out of him so much. Still, this was a waste of time. If you're not going to trot him out for worthier efforts, can you let Big Baby Jesus rest in peace?
5. YOU MUST BE DREAMING (BOBBY DIGITAL & KINETIC)
The RZA contributes this throwaway, previously-released-but-never-available-on-an-actual-album-before-now Bobby Digital track to the cause. It hardly should even count as a song, since Killarmy's Kinetic (better known as Beretta 9) spits the first verse in a huff, and then an obviously under-the-weather Prince Rakeem takes the reins. I suppose Wu stans were happy to finally be able to own “You Must Be Dreaming”, but one of the supposed benefits to this series of compilations is to hear all-new or never-before-heard material. Groan.
6. M.E.F. (JOHNNY BLAZE)
Method Man is almost certainly credited as “Johnny Blaze” on this solo effort in order to bypass legal issues stemming from Def Jam. Either that, or that nickname is his version of “Alan Smithee”. The thing is, there was no need to be secretive of “M.E.F.”, although he should be ashamed of it, since it sounds fucking awful. Over a middling instrumental, the man who once referred to himself as “The Method MZA” before realizing how stupid that sounded takes the lazy route, spitting uninspired bullshit and uneven boasts in such an apathetic manner that, if you listen closely enough, you can sort-of hear the sounds of Method Man cashing a paycheck in the background. This shit sucked.
7. SMOOTH SAILING (GHOSTFACE, TRIFE, & SOLOMON CHILDS)
Wu stans who purchased and were subsequently disappointed with the Method Man/Ghostface Killah/Raekwon joint effort Wu-Massacre will recognize this song, which appears in its original incarnation on Pollen: The Swarm Part Three. (The remix on Wu-Massacre shoehorned a Method Man verse in between Solomon Childs and Trife, thereby eliminating most of Killa Bamz's contribution, but otherwise kept the Ty Fyffe production intact. By the way, the only reason I know Ty Fyffe produced this track is merely because of Wu-Massacre, in case you were wondering.) “Smooth Sailing” isn't awful, since Ghost and his boy Trife Diesel sound as good as ever and fellow Theodore Unit member Solomon Childs manages a decent contribution, but it's still underwhelming, and the fact that it later appeared on a bigger-budgeted effort retroactively makes this sound lazy by comparison.
8. GET IT STARTED (KING JUST, NATE, & Y.C.)
Wow, that guest list is wrong. For one, there are actually four people on this song (the final verse is provided by U-God's (former?) weed carrier Leathaface). “Y.C.” is actually someone named D.C., and who the fuck knows what “Nate” is supposed to be; the first verse was actually provided by Mathematics's running buddy Eyes Low, who apparently has graduated to the big leagues. (The lyrics I looked up to verify this could also be completely wrong, of course: this is what happens when the label doesn't care about the little details.) Anyway, save for King Just's hook, which is stupid, this was just an average Wu-affiliate posse cut, albeit one that could have been much worse.
9. FACED DOWN (STREETLIFE)
Continuing the trend of terribly fact-checked song listings that make no sense, this Streetlife “solo” showcase actually features a sizable contribution from Killarmy's Killa Sin, who not only performs the hook, but also lends the song two fucking verses. And yet somehow that wasn't enough to get some to write his name in the liner notes. Whatever. Anyway, the beat is garbage, and Method Man's go-to weed carrier, because his jacket and pants have all sorts of pockets ans stuff, doesn't sound all that confident, but Sin goes in, taking the entire song with him when he leaves the office for the day. So that happened.
10. THE TESTIMONY (REMEDY & KILLAH PRIEST)
The hook feels tacked-on and forced, as though Killah Priest, Remedy, and whoever actually produced “The Testimony” (if it wasn't Remedy himself) didn't trust the lyrics enough to have the respective verses of the artists involved anchor the track. However, the rest of the track was surprisingly decent, a darker late-game change-up that has no place on a glorified label sampler such as Pollen: The Swarm Part Three. Priest, especially, is on his A-game, a sentiment that means more coming from me, a guy who feels that the man has been coasting on his quasi-religious psychobabble for at least a decade now. Remedy isn't bad, but “The Testimony” could have benefited from replacing him with another rapper who could have successfully complemented Priest's work, someone like Nas. No, seriously. The beat is already better than most of the shit Esco chooses for himself (aside from most of Life Is Good).
11. ACTION (SOLOMON CHILDS)
The artist formerly known as Killa Bamz gets a solo showcase, and a real one too, not that fake one Streetlife had earlier that almost got him fired. Solomon Childs unleashes two verses (and a blah hook), pushing each syllable through the gaps in his teeth with the force of a thousand suns, or at least of a dude who feels the need to literally spit each goddamn bar. The beat wasn't anything special, and in truth, “Action” could have sounded better had a second guest been invited. But it was interesting that the Wu were still trying to push Killa Bamz as a potential solo artist as recently as two years ago.
12. NO GAME AROUND HERE (KILLER BEES)
I don't know why the fuck “No Game Around Here” is credited to some fake Wu spinoff called the Killer Bees, since it clearly features Suga Bang Bang, Hell Razah and Killah Priest from Sunz Of Man, and female rapper Tash Mahogany. For yet another disjointed posse cut, this wasn't terrible, though, since all of the actual rappers put real effort into their verses, and the vocals from Suga Bang Bang at the beginning were also moderate-to-decent. Not a good enough song to recommend to anyone, but otherwise not objectionable or anything.
13. INTO YOU (REV. BURKE (yes, they spell his rap name two separate ways on the back cover) & RUGGED MONK)
The off-key singing during the hook actually derails the train before it ever leaves the station. Well, that, and the simplistic beat, and the fact that it seems to abruptly end. But the first verse, from Reverend William Burke, wasn't bad, even though it features him throwing game at some chick and actually succeeding (oddly, fried foods are involved) (not like that, you pervs). Rugged Monk, the only member of the Black Knights to make an appearance on this project (have they fallen out of favor with the Wu or something?), doesn't sound good at all, but to be fair, he probably had heard that chorus (from an uncredited Tash Mahogany) and then decided to not even try.
14. TRANSPORTING (REMEDY & JOJO PELLEGRINO)
Remedy returns, this time trading semi-inspirational religions rhymes for cocaine-transporting tales, as he shares screen time with Staten Island native Jojo Pellegrino. The back-and-forth throughout the track gets out of hand very quickly (both rappers alternate their bars), and Ross sounds a bit out of place, considering his past work, but Jojo holds up his end of the bargain fairly well. I doubt he will ever gain the presence needed to hold down a proper solo album of his own (and by “proper” I mean “an album someone can purchase, with money”), but he could become a good go-to person for the likes of Raekwon and Ghostface Killah, should they feel the need to tell another crime tale (which they will, let's be honest).
15. FLIGHT OF THE KILLER BEES (PRODIGAL SON & REV BURKS)
Features a moody, sparse instrumental that seems decent at first, but you don't catch just how bland it is until it plays alone, unencumbered by a chorus or lyrics of any sort, in between the two verses on “Flight Of The Killer Bees”. Looks like someone forgot to finish the goddamn song, am I right? Anyway, Prodigal Sunn handles the first half, while Reverend William Burke brings up the rear, but while neither man outright sucks behind the mic, neither performance is worthy of ending any album, let alone one as schizophrenic as this one was. Hell, at least this shit is finally over.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Pollen: The Swarm Part Three is bullshit. Easily the worst Wu-Tang compilation of recent memory, it fails in nearly every category: the beats are uniformly bland (and I don't even know who to blame for them, thanks to the whole "lack of liner notes" thing), the artists involved seem uninterested in participating (for the most part; there are a handful of bright spots), and the overall feeling the listener gets while hearing this shit is one of sheer apathy. I hated this project so much that I'm actually going to end this paragraph right here, I'm that done with it.
BUY OR BURN? Neither. In fact, you should aggressively skip this one. I would push it down several flights of stairs if that were somehow possible. Buyer beware.
BEST TRACKS: "Assed Out"; "The Testimony"