I almost feel sorry for the Hip Hop kids coming up today, who will never get
a chance to witness the ragged glory of the Wu-Tang Clan in its prime; when nearly a dozen emcees – each
uniquely talented in his own right – prowled arena stages like urban panthers,
spitting street knowledge so dense you couldn’t cut it with a samurai sword
(just a liquid one). With the passing of ODB,
the Wu will undoubtedly never be the
same, but recent stellar albums from Ghostface,
Method Man and RZA hint at a coming Wu-Tang
revival, with a reunion album and tour looking likely sometime in the next

Hell Razah represents the second
wave of Wu family artists, commonly
referred to as the “B team.” Hailing from the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, the
emcee was previously best-known as a member of late-’90s Wu-Tang spin-off group Sunz
of Man
, making guest appearances on Ghostface‘s
Supreme Clientele, Method Man‘s Tical 2000 and Killah Priest‘s
Heavy Mental. In recent years he’s
been sharpening his lyrical skills underground, re-teaming with Sunz of Man producer 4th Disciple on 2004’s Freedom of Speech and joining forces
with Killah Priest and Tragedy Khadafi to form the militant
group Black Market Militia. Now,
though, Hell Razah looks ready to
blow up on his own, with a potent debut album that brings much-needed doses of
intelligent lyricism and mathematical science back into the game.

The album’s third track, the Dev 1-produced
“Renaissance,” is honestly good enough to warrant a purchase on its own merits,
with Hell Razah effectively
distilling the last 30 years of Hip Hop history into 3 minutes and 30 seconds
of fierce lyrical prowess. “I’m Hip Hop
before Sugarhill signed a deal/
before Studio 54 popping pills/ It
was real when Kool Herc worked the
wheels of steel/ Now we bring the game back into the New York field,
” he
raps on the killer chorus. Then Tragedy
, Timbo King and R.A. the Rugged Man come along to drop dense rhymes referencing Christopher Wallace, EPMD, Beastie Boys, the 5% Nation, Pac, The
Juice Crew, C-Murder, Kool Moe Dee, A Tribe Called Quest, Def Jef , Canibus

(before he met Wyclef), Sweetback, Uptown Saturday Night, Black
Caesar, Rudy Ray Moore, Dolemite, Richard Pryor, Public Enemy, Grand Wizard Theodore

and many, many more. Kids, open your ears and keep your fingers on the rewind
button, ‘cuz school is most definitely in session.

But Renaissance Child is no mere
ol’ school throwback: This is some serious next level Hip Hop, with an All-Star
production team that includes 4th
, Bronze Nazareth and MF DOOM, and a killer lineup of guest emcees
such as Talib Kweli, Killah Priest, The Maccabeez and more. From Biblically-themed opener “Nativity” and
the brutally aggressive indictment of the Hip Hop game that is “Buried Alive,” to
the funky “Project Jazz” and the Ras
-featured “Musical Murdah,” Hell
‘s debut suggests that, even if the Wu-Tang Clan never makes another album, the group’s storied Hip Hop
legacy rests in some extremely capable hands.