There is an old expression that says; “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” This expression really hasn’t applied to the Wu-Tang Clan. The more things have changed for them, the more different they have been. The group that once took analogy in Voltron now rarely ever assembles. In the old days their albums had more fingerprints from RZA than an amateur crime scene. Nowadays John Douglas would be hard pressed to find Bobby’s prints. The heart and soul of the crew has passed away and one member does nothing but talk shit about the others who outshine him. The days of “Protect Ya Neck” and “Wu-Gambinos” are gone. As the man once accused of biting ‘The Purple Tape’ used to say, things done changed.
If anyone can resurrect that old Wu-Tang sound it would be the RZArecter right? Most likely…but not in this case. It is Cypress Hill’s legendary producer DJ Muggs that has brought GZA back into the chamber. Right from the jump of “Those That’s Bout It,” it sounds like Muggs is intent on making a follow up to Liquid Swords. “Destruction of the Guard,” “Exploitations of Mistakes,” “Advanced Pawns” and “All In Together Now” are just classic Wu (with about a ’97 sound). Toss in multiple guest spots from RZA, Raekwon and Masta Killa and this just feels like it used to.
As razor sharp as ever, GZA flexes his incredible narratives on “Exploitation of Mistakes” and continues his name-dropping theme with the NFL/sex-themed “Queen’s Gambit.” Unfortunately there are other moments where GZA sounds as if there are other things that he would rather be doing. I don’t think anyone is expecting him to deliver rhymes like he did when he was warning y’all to protect ya neck, but his seeming lack of inspiration is surprising. “Unprotected Pieces” comes to mind as it just seems to be lacking something on his part – like the beat demands a little more fire in his delivery.
Nevertheless, Grandmasters was one of the most heavily rotated albums of 2005 for me. Not just ’cause it is really dope, but it brought me back to the days when I’d have 5 Wu albums in my CD changer.