While Wu-Tang Clan members like Ghostface Killah, Ol' Dirty Bastard and Method Man were watched for their personalities and marketability as much as they were for their lyrics, Inspectah Deck’s role was crystal clear: bars, no gimmicks. His storied verses on “Triumph,” “C.R.E.A.M.” and "Above The Clouds" were consistently the show-stealing flawless rhyme schemes, head-turning similes and metaphors, and a snug delivery. On his latest album The Manifesto, the 9th Chamber keeps up his consistency with dope rhymes—but unfortunately, not much else.
As should be expected, Inspectah Deck’s rhymes are sharp and precise. The Alchemist-laced “The Champion” and alongside Termanology and Planet Asia on “Serious Rappin’” highlight braggadocios, punchline-laden bars, while he and Cormega trade lyrics about street perseverance on “Born Survivor.” This is the routine for most of the album. While the themes and concepts of the album aren’t particularly moving, they’re still capable showcases for Deck’s skills, and would work even better if the fat from a 20-track release was trimmed.
Run-of-the-mill songs that work to Deck’s strengths are tolerable, but the lowest points of The Manifesto appear when they stick to the bland rigidness of song formulas outside of his repertoire. “The Game” has the potential to be one of the most disappointing songs of the year, wasting the nostalgic Wu-Tang combo of Inspectah Deck and Raekwon with insipid synths and a quasi-AutoTuned hook. The handclaps and baritone pianos of “We Get Down” sound like they’re straight from a G-Unit beat tape, and “Luv Letter” is ruined with a forgettable chorus and pedestrian lines like, “You were just concerned about the bitches in my face, I was just concerned about the riches in my face.”
While the beats on The Manifesto aren’t all bad, they are inconsistent and, at worst, unmemorable. MoSS serves a pair of heaters with the previously mentioned “Born Survivor” and the woodwind-fueled “5 Star G,” and Lee Bannon’s gritty baseline for “P.S.A.” recreates the guttural sound that nostalgic Wu-Tang heads should love. But as far as standout beats go, that’s where it ends—three or four selections out of 20. The rest are routine dark beats that only do their job of being something for Deck to rap over. It makes some sense considering that Deck’s song topics aren’t elaborate or game-changing themselves, but it’s disappointing considering the Wu’s storied history with producers like RZA and Allah Mathematics.
The Manifesto shows that Inspectah Deck still has the rhymes that have built his reputation as one of the most reliable members of the Wu. Here’s hoping that next time, he can put together the entire package.