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Artist: Wu Tang Clan
Album: The W
Label: Loud
Production: Rza, Mathematics
Guests: Junior Reid, Snoop Dogg, Redman, Nas, Isaac Hayes, Busta Rhymes
Stats: 2000, 13 tracks
Reviewed by: Mass Dosage

If this wasn't a Wu Tang Clan release I doubt it would receive as much attention as it is bound to. "The W" is the Clan's first combined effort in a while and there must have been a lot of pressure to make up for some of their recent lackluster solo releases (Ghostface Killa's "Supreme Clientele" being the only real exception). So, does this album deliver the goods and save the Wu's tarnished reputation? Well... not exactly. While it doesn't sink them either, at the end of the day it is rather disappointing - if only because it's the Wu and it isn't anywhere near the level of "36 chambers", "Liquid Swords", "Cuban Links", "Tical" or even "Forever". The latter had its fair share of lowlights but made up for them with joints that were undeniably phat. Unfortunately "The W" is pretty thin on these 'Wu-Bangers' and is instead weighted down by a number of average tracks which aren't bad but aren't what they could be either.

The album starts off on a surprisingly unremarkable note with "Chamber music" - making one wonder where the traditional, go-for-the-jugular, Wu Tang album opener went? This under whelming vein continues over the next few tracks, and things only start cooking on "Redbull" where Redman and Meth make especially noteworthy appearances. The album hits its lowpoint on "Conditioner" which is also the only track featuring ODB who is currently in prison. His vocals are of a noticeably poor quality and he comes off sounding uncharacteristically muffled and monotonous (the repetitive chorus doesn't do much to change this impression). The lyrics are shoddy and what the hell Snoop Dogg is doing on here one can only wonder, maybe they had to include someone from the West in order to ensure their safety while they worked on some of the tracks in LA.

The album's first single, "Protect ya neck 2 (the jump off)", is up next and it has a nice uptempo feel to it - helping it to stand out from the previous songs. This is more along the lines of what I expected from this release as the Wu hand the mic around and switch flows in the fashion that made them famous. Nas doesn't do a bad job on "Let my niggas live" but it is strange to see so many guest appearances on this album - after all, the crew have more than enough talent and variety within their own ranks. A Wu album wouldn't be a Wu album without at least one slow, sad, serious song and "I can't go to sleep" featuring Isaac Hayes delivers the goods in this regard. Ghostface and RZA may blurt their rhymes a little bit too much but at least they sound passionate. The comparisons to "All that I got is you" are noticeable but it's nice to see violins making a triumphant return to RZA's production arsenal.

"Do you really (thang thang)" is in my mind the best track on the album as the mic gets passed around like a quick-burning blunt getting smoked. If this doesn't get released as a single I will be very surprised 'cos this is destined to tear up both clubs and corners. Busta Rhymes appears on "The Monument" which is good but not as monumental as Busta promises it will be in the song's opening lines. "Gravel pit" was obviously made with commercial appeal in mind and it succeeds in being very catchy. "Jah World" pretty much finishes things off - Junior Reid shines but things sound a bit formulaic, as this is another slow and serious song featuring Ghostface and the RZA.

Virtually all the production on the album was done by the RZA who went for a rather subdued, stripped down approach that unfortunately comes off a bit bland at times and lacks the clever originality which earned him his props as a producer in the past. "The W"'s biggest problem seems to be the fact that it lacks the energy and vitality of earlier Wu releases and the crew don't really say or do anything new either. It's not a bad album, and it has its fair share of highlights, but comes across as disappointing because of the high standards that it fails to meet. [7/10]

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