Classic material aside, Wu-Tang Clan’s most important contribution to Hip Hop History may have been creating a branding model that brought the genre to a corporate audience. Any rapper with a clothing line, liquor or sneaker should thank Wu-Tang and the money they led to the industry, but simultaneously, any fan who’s ever bought these products has surely learned what happens when an artist just slaps his name on something for the money. Sadly, Wu-Tang has been an innovator in that field as well—enter, Legendary Weapons.
In reality, the crew isn’t “back” so much as up to their old tricks, and Legendary Weapons is a group album only in the sense that there are a lot of people on it. Most of the original nine stop by to pay their respects, though only having one or two of them on a track at a time diminishes the power of the big posse cuts that the group was once known for.
Ghostface contributes the most to the album overall, teaming up with Sean Price on “Laced Cheeba” and AZ and M.O.P. on the title track. Raekwon and Method Man provide their star power to a track a piece as well, but by the time “225 Rounds” rolls around (with U-God, Cappadonna & RZA), the album starts to feel like a collection of guest verses with no real center.
On the production side, things once again fall into familiar territory for second-tier Wu—middle-of-the-road approximations of the traditional RZA aethetic blended in with snippets of kung-fu dialogue. The opener (“Start the Show”) stands out a bit due to its higher energy, but it’s still ultimately unmemorable. After that, there’s relatively little to differentiate one song from the next other than the emcees themselves, a difficult task considering how few lines most of then have.
It may be tempting to support the greater good and give Legendary Weapons the same pass that’s been given to dozens of similar releases over the years, but this is Wu-Tang Clan—these artists have set a standard that is not being lived up to. We’ve seen more than enough evidence that these emcees and producers are still very capable of making great music, so it’s unfortunate that they weren’t able to put more time into this latest effort. Legendary Weapons won’t do any additional damage to the Wu legacy, but fans waiting for a true return to the 36 Chambers are going to have to keep waiting.