WARNING: Today's post is Wu-Tang in nature. Most of you two already know my deal when it comes to this blog, so you'll probably just keep quiet and move it along. However, if you are vehemently and violently against the Wu-Tang Clan for some ungodly reason and refuse to see anything written in virtual ink about the group as a whole, I advise you to step away from the blog for a few days, and maybe, just maybe, there'll be something else for you to bitch about.
Still here? Seriously? Alright then.
In 2005, Think Differently, an indie label started up by Royal Fam member Dreddy Krueger, released a compilation entitled Wu-Tang Meets The Indie Culture through a distribution deal with Babygrande. Although it didn't sell nearly as well as any project dropped by the actual Clan during their heyday, it was met with critical acclaim, mostly coming from folks who were intrigued by the concept of the project: pairing up Wu-Tang Clan members (well, mostly b-teamers, but anyway) and producers with some of the finest the hip hop underground had to offer. Names such as Casual, Tragedy Khadafi, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, MF DOOM, and, ugh, Roc Marciano were dropped, and backpackers ate that shit up with a side of creamed spinach and a Pepsi. Which doesn't make for a balanced diet, but I digress.
As per the usual with a project of this caliber, not everything that was recorded made it onto the final product. So because Dreddy Krueger loves making money, in 2011 he quietly released Think Differently Music: Wu-Tang Meets The Indie Culture: The Lost Files, a sequel that has the dual purpose of extending the lifespan of the original project by way of outtakes and unused instrumentals while also trying to eradicate the memory of that project's actual sequel, 2009's Wu-Tang Meets The Indie Culture, Vol. 2: Enter The Dubstep, which paired up previously recorded Wu vocals with, yes, dubstep beats. I have no plans on ever reviewing that particular project, so if you're just dying to know what it sounds like, Google is your frenemy. (I'm going to shorten the album title for the rest of this post, since I don't like seeing two colons in a single sentence.)
Wu-Tang Meets The Indie Culture: The Lost Files was met with relative indifference, which makes sense when you realize that most folks are completely unaware of its existence. Hell, I didn't even realize that Think Differently still existed as a label. Even with the guest list the way it is (including, among a few others, Killah Priest, U-God, Raekwon, The RZA, Bronze Nazareth, DJ Muggs, Ras Kass, GZA/Genius, MF DOOM, ugh, Roc Marciano, and indie film godhead Jim Jarmusch, one of the supporters of the original project), it's completely acceptable that this flew under your radar. This “album” is essentially filled with deleted scenes and unused takes, akin to what you may expect as bonus features on a deluxe edition blu-ray of your favorite movie, so you should consider this write-up a consumer alert of sorts. No, seriously, please do that, so that it can count toward my community service hours.
(Note: The tracklisting for Wu-Tang Meets The Indie Culture: The Lost Files comes in two flavors online. Presented below is the way it came to me, which also happens to be the version that makes much more sense, unless you like all of your Jim Jarmusch smashed together at the very end.)
Kicks off with the same sounds of an HBO original program as its predecessor, but then quickly segues into a calm, if indifferent, instrumental that houses the same goddamn vocal sample repeated over and over again. This, obviously, gets old very quickly.
2. SLUGS THRU YA PAPAYA (FEAT. ROC MARCIANO & KILLAH PRIEST)
Oh goody, another Roc Marciano song. As he actually appeared on Wu-Tang Meets The Indie Culture (and did a decent job with a performance that was recorded before his career renaissance), this isn't that surprising, nor is it a shock that Dreddy and Think Differently leaked this particular songs to stir up interest on the blogs. Roc Marcy and Killah Priest actually make for a fairly inspired pairing, as Marcy's quasi-gangsta intrusions mesh well with Priest's quasi-religious missive. Bronze Nazareth's beat is a simple loop that would have sounded much worse had more rappers stretched it out by recording their own verses, but at its restrictive length, this isn't bad. Still not sold on Roc Marcy, but you probably figured that out, too.
3. THIRSTY FISH (FEAT. RAEKWON & BRONZE NAZARETH)
Had the Wu held more cache with hip hop heads than hipsters back in 2011, “Thirsty Fish”, with its cameo from an actual goddamn member of the Clan, would have been pushed harder to promote this collection of deleted scenes. Doesn't mean this is any good, though. The Kevlaar 7 beat is okay but repetitive, and Bronze Nazareth and Chef Raekwon appear to have recorded their verses in different galaxies, as each performance in no way complements the other. Rae makes a reference to House Of Flying Daggers that probably proves this was his original verse for the banging Wu comeback of the same name from Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...Pt. II, but while that songs remains interesting to this day, “Thirsty Fish” was abandoned for a valid reason.
4. WHAT LOVE IS (INSTRUMENTAL)
The first of many Bronze Nazareth leftover instrumental tracks on Wu-Tang Meets The Indie Culture: The Lost Files is okay: mildly soulful, with a hint of Wu-Tang spark that recalls their golden era. However, it is impossible to imagine that Bronzey crafted this beat for anyone but himself to use. Your mileage may vary, depending on how sold you are on Bronzey as an emcee. For what it's worth, I think he may have done alright with this.
5. GOLD MEDALS (FEAT. PRODIGAL SUNN)
Sunz Of Man's Prodigal Sunn unleashes a quick one-verse wonder over a Nazareth beat that sounds okay at first, but then he leaves the booth and you realize that there's still a full motherfucking minute left on the track, and that same Bronzey beat starts to grate on your nerves, Obviously, “Gold Medals” is an incomplete thought included for diehard Wu stans only, but even though Sunn comes across as alright, there's no draw for anyone else to ever want to hear this. Or this entire project, technically.
6. CAME TO LIFE (FEAT. BRONZE NAZARETH)
A Bronze Nazareth song that plays as an interlude to an nonexistent album, as the back half of the track features an unnecessary monologue that rappers love to put on their albums. His beat is okay, not great, and his actual lyrics aren't very memorable, either. Which is what one expects when listening to a project filled with leftovers, but one still hopes to discover a hidden gem. I guess I'll keep searching then.
7. FALL/WINTER (INSTRUMENTAL)
Hey, look, an instrumental from someone not named Bronze Nazareth. Preservation, a dude now probably better known as
Yaasin Bey Mos Def's deejay but who also contributed to the first volume, concocts a beat that is dominated by melodic
soul vocal samples as much of the beat, you know, as people do, and
does a damn good job with it. The track is also really short,
walking away before all momentum is lost. Not bad.
8. LYRICAL SWORDS (DJ MUGGS SOUL ASSASSINS REMIX) (FEAT. GZA/GENIUS & RAS KASS)
A previously-released remix, this one being Cypress Hill's DJ Muggerund's alternate take on the GZA/Ras Kass collaboration “Lyrical Swords”. The Muggs beat sounds nothing like any of his work with Cypress Hill, nor does it come across as an outtake from his joint album with The Genius, Grandmasters. In fact, this remix doesn't really add anything to the original song and doesn't ever force itself to be heard. Oh well.
9. INFOMERCIAL (NARRATED BY JIM JARMUSCH)
Jarmusch apparently also participated in some of the promotional efforts for Wu-Tang Meets The Indie Culture: The Lost Files. It's kind of amusing to hear him read off a list of the artists and producers who worked on the project, but this was clearly included just because Dreddy found it lying around somewhere. The Criterion Collection this certainly is not.
10. THE TIME IS NOW (INSTRUMENTAL)
And we're back to Bronzey, who turns in a quiet storm of a beat that I'm sure someone could have put to good-enough use. This one isn't bad, either: it kind of sounds like a reflective late-night drive from a party to a beach or a tall building's rooftop to watch the sun rise or some other shit people tend to do in movies to signify the dawn of change or something. Which is supposed to be a compliment.
11. JUST SOME THOUGHTS... (FEAT. BRONZE NAZARETH)
An actual song, finally, although an incomplete one, as evidenced by how long Bronzey allows his beat to trail his final bars. I completely get why this track was buried, though: it isn't very good. Nazareth is technically proficient on here, but the apathetic nature of his message (and delivery) is hidden underneath a loud soul sample that the beat is built upon, and basically I just didn't give a shit about this song. So.
12. INTERMISSION GROUPIE LOVE (FEAT. U-GOD)
Not so much an "intermission" as a failed attempt at a song, where U-God filled in ad-libs, but then came to his fucking senses and ceased production on the track, leaving this disjointed mess that is only about groupie love because the title makes it so. Skip!
13. IN MEMORY OF LISA DOCKERY
A pleasant interlude. That's all I have to say.
14. GIVE IT UP (LOST VERSE) (FEAT. HOT ROD HAMPTON)
Hot Rod Hampton (yeah, me neither) delivers a quickie verse that was, apparently, supposed to be included on the R.A. The Rugged Man / J-Live song of the same name from the previous chapter. It wouldn't have added anything to Wu-Tang Meets The Indie Culture, so there's little mystery as to why it was vaulted up until now. Even Dreddy Krueger knows when to fold 'em sometimes.
15. INFOMERCIAL (NARRATED BY JIM JARMUSCH)
More of an interlude from Jarmusch than it is a commercial for the album. Was probably cut from the original project for time. Still kind of dug it, though.
16. BIOCHEMICAL EQUATION (CHOCO G-DUBS REMIX) (FEAT. THE RZA & MF DOOM)
Another previously-released remix, this one an alternate take of what was supposed to be a landmark track, the first-ever collaboration between The RZA and MF DOOM, but what ended up being fairly bland once we all finally got a chance to hear it, sounds pretty much the same as the original version. There are minor differences, yes, but the song itself still bores me to pieces, so I can't be bothered to catalog them. Moving on...
17. NEVER A DAY GOES BY (INSTRUMENTAL)
Not bad, if a bit slight: if Killarmy were still a thing, Bronzey could have sold this to that crew, as it seems like a good fit for the sextet. Alas.
18. STREET DISPUTES (INSTRUMENTAL)
Obviously, Bronzey had a specific vision for this beat, given its title, but, unfortunately, I cannot imagine this as ever being anything but a boring-as-shit Inspectah Deck track. It is what it is. They can't all be winners.
19. CHANGE UP
One final beat from Bronze Nazareth, one that doesn't really go much of anywhere. Sigh.
20. O (FEAT. JIM JARMUSCH)
This was also previously released, albeit on the vinyl version of Wu-Tang Presents The Indie Culture. This GZA-penned ode to the letter “o” remains both slightly interesting and definitely ridiculous, just as it was when I first wrote about it. Doesn't work any better within this context, either, but at least this way you know it was discarded for a reason.
THE LAST WORD: While the original installment was a hit-and-miss but mostly enjoyable experiment in mixing two worlds within our chosen genre together, Wu-Tang Meets The Indie Culture: The Lost Files deserves to go unnoticed. Its cash-in status is confirmed when listeners notice that over half of the songs are incomplete: these tracks were left unfinished for a reason, and the caliber of guest star is not going to disguise the fact that these songs were probably unleashed on an unsuspecting public without the knowledge of its participants, aside from maybe Bronze Nazareth, whose fingerprints are all over this motherfucker. Obviously the route Dreddy Krueger should have gone is with an official re-release of the original project, with a second disc chock full of outtakes, instrumentals, lost verses, remixes, and, strangely, commercials from Jim Jarmusch included as a bonus, but instead, Dreddy decided to use the Wu-Tang family name to trick stans such as myself into thinking that this might be worth the money on its own. Trust me, it's not. Anyone who pays full price for Wu-Tang Meets The Indie Culture: The Lost Files after reading this post deserves to be fleeced. It's not entirely false advertising, as almost all of these tracks will be brand new to you, but to market this as anything but a bonus disc of extras for the low low price of three dollars is a travesty.