Once in a blue moon, some money-grubbing entity – could be a label or an individual – decides to put forth a product that, at its core, is dishonest. Nu-Mixx Klazzics, for example, was Death Row’s desperate attempt to cash in on Tupac Shakur’s work by pairing existing tracks with some of the worst production ever heard. Releases like these are completely devoid of creativity, and are usually lacking in quality. And of course, the intentions behind such a release are as transparent as can be – providing one does a little research. Mathematics’ Return of the Wu & Friends is an example of a product that, when held to the scrutiny of such research, doesn’t fare very well.
The truly embarrassing thing about Return is its rehashed tracks. “It’s What it Is” and “Iron God Chamber” both appeared on Masta Killa’s 2006 effort, Made In Brooklyn. “Strawberries & Cream” and “Rush” are from Mathematics’ 2005 album, The Problem, as is “John 3:16.” “Treez” has appeared on Mathematics Presents Wu-Tang Clan & Friends Unreleased. “Real Nillaz” made its way onto both The Problem AND Mathematics Presents… “Da Way We Were” is from 2003’s Love, Hell or Right (Da Come Up). That adds up to eight repeat tracks, some of which have not only already been released, but have already been re-released (over half of the album, for those of you keeping track at home). That still is not the last violation of this collection.
Regarding the “new” tracks: “Early Grave” lifts an Ol’ Dirty Bastard verse from “Dirty Mef” off of 2004’s 4:21The Day After, and “Clap 2010,” “Respect 2010” and “All Flowers” are merely remixes of existing tracks. “Steppin 2 Me” is more disingenuous about its origins, as it lifts verses verbatim from GZA’s “Breaker, Breaker (Remix),” while being billed as an “exclusive” cut (note to labels: slapping a new name and new beat onto existing lyrics doesn’t mean it’s a new song). To add insult to injury, the album’s final cut, “Keep Pace,” is listed as being a Wu-Tang cut – but unless not a single member of the Wu-Tang Clan is featured on the track. Honestly, the only redeeming thing that can be said about this album is that it would be a barely passable product for someone completely unfamiliar with the Wu catalog. The lyrics are, as one would expect, on point, and the production ranges from horrendous (“Clap 2010” brings new meaning to the adjective, “minimalist”) to pretty damn good (“Rush” makes good use of the harpsichord).
At this point, it should be clear that Return of the Wu & Friends is a label’s (Gold Dust Media) shameful attempt to cash in on fans that have faith in the Wu-Tang brand. From mislabeling tracks as “exclusive,” to its gratuitous re-use of existing cuts, this release should leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth. The hope here was, obviously, to imply that, at least in part, there was new material on the album. Even the name of the album is insincere – suggesting, in some way, that the Wu-Tang Clan has indeed returned to form like Voltron and feed the masses. But it’s clear that’s not the case in this album. From top to bottom, this project lacks respect for this talented producer and fans of the W.