Album Review: Meth, Ghost & Rae – Wu-Massacre

[Def Jam; 2010]

Now at last drops Wu Massacre. In comparison to the endless delays seeming to plague every pending major hip hop release, it really hasn’t been too long. Time was when date-shifting led one to assume a record was going to disappoint (Rebirth kept with this), but considering everyone from Nas, Eminem, to Lupe Fiasco are taking eons with their albums, you never know. It’s really nothing new, hip hop’s eternal connection to drama and hype has always led to long waits.

Yet, the Wu is back in the public eye, Raekwon’s Only Built… resurrected the legendary group’s image. Now would seem the time for them to make moves. Ghostface more or less squandered the opportunity with his tiresome foray into R&B, but with more recent acts such as G-Unit falling apart or losing their sheen, the Wu still would appear poised to take the glory back. The hype has made the release of Wu Massacre an anticipated event. With Method Man, Raekwon, and Ghostface – three of the group’s more prominent figures – together, everything seemed in place.

The idea carried the possibility of a classic with it. The album art showed up online, and as much as a cover can, made the album look pretty damn cool. Yet, things just didn’t seem to expand. The album was supposedly dropping in March, but right up until its release, details were uncertain. Members were quoted in interviews saying the entire project had been rushed by Def Jam, and it seemed fair to gear for that disappointment.

The results aren’t so terrible, nor so inspiring. Pleasantly underwhelming may be the best way to describe Wu Massacre. It all clocks in at half an hour, brief, in particular for a hip hop album, most of which offer egregiously long running times. With only 10 true tracks (and two skits), this disc is way at the other end of the spectrum. Hence, the defense of the album has already become “quality over quantity.” Unlike Common’s Be, it sadly doesn’t apply.

Don’t misunderstand, there’s nothing to hate here, it’s a fine album. With the talents involved in the record, one could accept worse. Ghost, Rae, and Meth are all entertaining and likeable enough to essentially coast through it. Still, they really don’t have much to coast through. The rush they spoke of is apparent. The first two tracks are continuations of past collaborations, which is all well and good, but in this light, they come off as ideas necessitated by the hurry. Only four of the tracks are over three minutes long, songs seem to taper off before what should be their natural end. The introductory “Criminology Part 2.5” just seems to be getting going when “Meth vs. Chef Part II” begins. Then there are the skits, which seem to have been thrown in, perhaps sought by the label when they realized, “Shit, this thing is 10 tracks long.” They’re pointless, even for hip hop skits, although the random Tracy Morgan appearance is amusing.

The beats largely reside in the Wu Tang’s past, sounding much as one would expect a classic Wu joint to. It works, but as a classic group making a claim for continued relevance, it’d be interesting to hear the three embark into newer territory. On the closing track, “It’s that Wu Shit,” they do. The beat is mechanical sounding, electronic and essentially awesome.

One wishes Raekwon had appeared on it, but instead Meth and Ghost are left to weave around the beat, and they do so with great flourish. Once that track ends, and the album’s over, it feels as if it should just be beginning. The three MCs are on their game throughout, one only wishes the ideas that appear to be developing on the finished product had been given time to gestate. Instead, what we got is a record with three men still in their prime, restricted by what was essentially a limited allowance.