In one of his more candid moments, RZA once said that as a young man, his mother warned him to stay away from the Nation of the Gods And Earths “because there were so many young brothers that were gangsters and thugs and cleaned themselves up with it.” The fact that Wu-Tang formerly doubled as an acronym for “We Usually Take All Niggas Garments” speaks to a less flattering side of Supreme Mathematics. All of which is a long-winded way of saying that sometimes the same pair of Timbs that walk a righteous path can stomp someone out if that’s what the occasion calls for. During the bulk of 360 Waves, Planet Asia, Alchemist and the rest of Durag Dynasty often explore the aforementioned dichotomy.
The quartet offers a brand of intense tracks with hard rhymes influenced by the days when the singular act of rhyming and switching cadences was more or less revered as a sport. Planet Asia is still the best emcee this side of Inspectah Deck at jump-starting a posse cut with an energetic verse. His cohorts TriState and Killer Ben will keep younger, unseasoned listeners making multiple visits to Wikipedia with references to Annunaki, Dr. Malachi York and Sanskrit. Alchemist is the star of the show here though—alternating between soulful samples as on the title track, or inducing contorted facial expressions with spaced out synthesizers and keys on “Tetrahydrons On Mars.”
Listeners looking for a fundamental flaw won’t find one, but there are a few missteps that keep 360 Waves from being a top-tier project. Despite Alchemist’s pyrotechnics behind the boards, Killer Ben, TriState and Planet Asia keep things pretty even keeled on their end. Depending on your personal tastes, the A, B, B, A rhyme schemes and similes with obscure references heavily peppered with 120 lessons either maintain a consistent equilibrium or tend to get monotonous. Additionally, points are deducted for the amount of time they spend admonishing the skinny jean wearing, swag-obsessed rappers currently flooding the marketplace. There’s nothing wrong with cultural critique in and of itself. But the repeated criticism paired with an inability to provide a viable alternative sometimes makes them sound like bitter elder statesmen. It’s unfortunate, because a quick peek at the video for “360 Waves” or the hilarious album cover proves otherwise.
These are far from deal breakers, and ultimately 360 Waves is 10 bucks well spent. It’s not five-mic material, but it solidly provides the two essential elements of quality Hip Hop from any era—entertaining, often informative rhymes paired with quality production.