The ranks of the Wu-Affiliates have run the gamut from hype-men and weed carriers to established artists and promising younger acts. Part of the latter category, Bronze Nazareth came on board around five years ago and quickly established his value to the group both as a rapper and producer. Coming from Michigan instead of New York, Nazareth brought a different set of influences while still keeping with tradition. Now on his fifth album, School for the Blindman, Bronze continues to hold it down for The W. But in a way, he also highlights why it may be time to move on.
While Nazareth doesn’t go out of his way to emulate early classics, School for the Blindman does a suitable job feeling like a legitimate Wu release. The rough drums and scraps of soul records that make up “King of Queens” could just as easily feature Ghostface, but Nazareth’s intricate rhymes fit the atmosphere perfectly and have their own identity. When the veterans do show up—like on “Fresh from the Morgue” with RZA—Nazareth sounds confident and natural, even managing to outshine Canibus on “The Bronzeman 2.”
Bronze Nazareth handles the bulk of the production work, so the album feels cohesive despite the tracklist running a bit long due to its many interludes. This is probably better than going too broad, but eventually, that cohesion becomes a bit too tight and the individual tracks blend together. “Fire Implanters” brightens things up a bit early on, but most other tracks are the darker, gritty beats you expect.
There’s a clear effort put into the project, but it still ends up sounding a bit dated. Nazareth solidly applies the Wu formula, but not in any way that we haven’t heard before. It’s decidedly “’90s” (right down to the abundance of skits and interludes) but more as a side-effect than a tribute. “Gomorrah” and “The Letter” stand out because of their clear subject matter, but much of the album’s latter half is ultimately forgettable.
Bronze Nazareth performs his duties as a late-era Wu-Tang affiliate well, and frankly, seems to be putting more effort into carrying the flag than several of the core members at the moment. Nevertheless, times have changed and it would be nice to see what he would be capable of if he were more willing to branch out a bit rather than carry on other rappers’ legacies. It’s nice to hear good Wu-Tang tracks still being made in 2011, but it could be better to hear some Bronze Nazareth tracks in 2012.