8 Diagrams, The Big Doe Rehab

Wu-Tang Clan and Ghostface Killah

Phases & Stages

Wu-Tang Clan

8 Diagrams (Street/Universal Motown)

Ghostface Killah

The Big Doe Rehab (Def Jam)

To expect Iron Flag Part 2 would be wrong. 2001 marked the last time the Wu-Tang Clan swarmed as one, Flag an assault of poisonous darts shot over streetwise RZA bangers. Six years later, fifth WTC LP 8 Diagrams pops vintage Shaolin lyrical heat, "Take It Back" prepping a firing line of "Wolves" in feeding frenzy. Opener "Campfire" burns slow as Method Man and Ghostface tag-team a haunting beat, even depleted Wu MC chemistry rivaled only by Tribe's Q-Tip and Phife. Yet as that chemistry holds the album together, so does it tear it apart. The much-publicized rift of RZA and his seven other swordsmen glares on 8 Diagrams, production far more experimental and melodic than any prehiatus work. RZA of Renaissance proffers an unequaled vision, and the inability to convince his soldiers to follow suit keeps the disc from being the complete innovation Wu's abbot intended. The dubbed out "Get Them Out Ya Way Pa" lacks fervor, a disjointed bassline laid erratically as Meth, U-God, and Masta Killa struggle to fall into rhythm, while "Gun Will Go" slips into the irrelevant as a failed experiment of melodramatic strings generates sleepy verse. Only featured on four tracks, Ghostface Killah's been busy with his seventh solo LP. The Big Doe Rehab falls closer to 2006's More Fish than his previous releases, lacking the creative edge that separated him as a solo artist from his fellow Clansman. Ghost comes strong on the Raekwon and Meth accompanied "Yolanda's House" but mails it in for "White Linen Affair," name-dropping fellow celebrities who show up for the fictitious Toney Awards. One of the hardest working men in hip-hop fails to push himself on Big Doe, but better Ghost rapping than Soulja Boy. So "We Celebrate."

(Wu-Tang) ***

(Ghostface) **.5

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