The members of the Wu-Tang Clan have gotten really good at giving their fans exactly what they want — nothing more and nothing less. This is true of Raekwon’s “Only Built for Cuban Linx… Pt. II,” released last year; it’s true of the albums Ghostface Killah has released in the past few years, all of which have solidified his status as the Clan’s best (and most inventive) MC; and it’s definitely true of “Wu Tang Presents… Wu-Massacre,” the newest release in the ever-expanding Wu discography.
A collaboration between Raekwon, Ghostface and Method Man, the breezy record clocks in at about 30 minutes and covers the trio’s topics of choice: making money, avoiding prison and bullets, and the women they love (or those who have wronged them). There are numerous rehashes of Wu-Tang classics: it’s hard to resist bobbing your head to “Criminology 2.5,” an updated version of the original complete with an almost identical beat and the same frantic talk of street chases; and “Mef vs. Chef 2” takes us inside another freestyle battle between the two MCs (which Mef wins, hands down: how do you beat rhyming “beyond lyrical” with “Cap’n Crunch cereal”?).
Despite an unfunny and just-plain-irritating skit from Tracy Morgan, giving tips to women on how to make ends meet (“recognize your vagina is an ATM”), the hilarious “Ya Moms” continues the Wu tradition of absurdity (“Ya mom’s hair so short … she take a shower and get brainwashed”).
“Our Dreams,” the first single off the album, features an artfully cut sample from Michael Jackson’s “We’re Almost There.” It’s on this song, though, that the realities of the trio’s overstuffed touring and recording schedule become clear; the transitions between verses and hook are sloppy, abrupt and not in keeping with the feather-light soulfulness of the sample or the flowing raps presented by Ghost and Meth. Coming off successful recent albums like Pt. II, Ghost’s “Wizard of Poetry” and Meth and Redman’s “Blackout! 2,” it’s no surprise Def Jam was eager to milk the Wu cow: the label reportedly gave the trio a six-week deadline to record. While the rapping holds up due to Ghost, Meth and Rae’s skillful writing and sheer excess of charisma, some of the beats lack the same polish and the album on the whole seems like it’s meant to tide fans over (and make a few bucks) until we get a full Wu release. Not that there’s anything wrong with that — even casual Clan fans know the group makes no secret of their love of a regular paycheck. The extras — incredible cover art by Marvel Comics artist Chris Bachelo, a pre-release trailer as a series of “7even”-style crime vignettes with clues leading us to Rae, Ghost and Meth — seem to be where most of the trio’s creative energy was directed.
There isn’t much new going on in the world of hip-hop these days, and “Wu-Massacre” is no exception. I’m not sure what it says about the state of hip-hop that the Wu-related project I’ve been most excited about in the last year wasn’t an original release but rather “Enter the Magical Mystery Chambers,” a mash-up of the Beatles and Wu’s discographies by British DJ Tom Caruana. Considering Meth, Ghost and Rae’s lyrics are still on top form with “Wu-Massacre,” it seems that with this release they’ve at least provided an ambitious DJ with ample material.