In the mid 90’s Robert “The RZA” Diggs was the most prolific producer of the era, creating full length
backdrops for his fellow Clansmen.
As time passed the Rzarecta seemed
more concerned with putting the executive in front the producer than actually
making music. While the past few years haven’t meant him churning out classic
after classic, it has seen him making great use of his immense talents.
He has been scoring movies and creating soundtracks, from Ghost Dog to Kill Bill to The Protector.
His latest venture is handling all the music for Spike TV‘s acclaimed new cartoon Afro Samurai. It seems as though RZA is much more inspired making music for these types of projects
than making straight up Hip Hop albums. That isn’t to say RZA hasn’t made some dope beats in the last 5 years or so, but his
work hasn’t exactly been all that inspired or original (like his early days),
except for when he is scoring films and making soundtracks.
Afro Samurai The Soundtrack is
easily the best example of what I’m talking about. For those who don’t know, Afro Samurai is cartoon on Spike TV about a black samurai who
kicks righteous ass every week, complete with a Samuel L. Jackson-voiced side kick. RZA has always been about creating worlds with his music, and given
that this cartoon blends black and Asian cultures – RZA‘s claim to fame – he is like a kid in a candy store here.
This isn’t your traditional soundtrack though – not just your 15 or 16 songs
that appeared on the show or movie. The
Abbott sews the 25 track album together with short scores from the cartoon
and vocal snippets. As critical as the songs obviously are, these short musical
interludes are just as important for creating the vibe which makes this such a
great album. The blaxpoitation-inspired “Afro’s Father’s Fight” not only sounds
good and bridges two sounds of the album, but it is clearly fitting for the cartoon.
The same can be said for the “Bazooka Fight Instrumental.” “Ninjaman,” “The
Empty 7 Theme” – it’s good, really. “Tears of a Samurai” is easily the best
instrumental interlude – just a stunning minute thirty right there.
Still, it’s the songs that will leave you shaking your head. The Ruler Zig-Zag-Zig Allah brings
along a pretty impressive cast to help create his universe. The grouping of Talib Kweli, Suga Bang and Lil’ Free
just wreck the ridiculous “Certified Samurai.” It only gets better. Q-Tip rolls through for “Just A Lil’
Dude” with Free Murder and sounds as
good as ever on RZA‘s ominous
production. Its “Cameo Afro” that is really gonna turn heads though, as legends
Big Daddy Kane and GZA pair up and prove that even in
2007, few can fuck with them. It just doesn’t stop, RZA‘s “Fury In My Eyes/Revenge” and alter ego’s Bobby Digital‘s “Insomnia” are both
just phenomenal tracks.
Shit, “Who Is Tha Man,” “Glorious Day” and “Take Sword Pt.1 and Pt. 2” are
all well deserving of mentions, as are Stone
Mecca‘s beautiful back-to-back R&B joints, “Oh” and “The Walk.” Front
to back, I think it is safe to say that this is Rakeem‘s best work in a decade. From the production to the vocal
performances, Afro Samurai The Soundtrack
is just really ill all the way though. Call it the re-birth of a Prince.