Iron Flag Extra tracks
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What would we do without the Wu-tang Clan? Not only are their individual albums superb, (Ghostface Killah, Method Man, Ol' Dirty Bastard, et al), but Iron Flag shows Rza's sonic adventures behind that production desk get ever more sublime, sci-fi and sexy. Obviously touched by his Ghost Dog: War of the Samurai off-key zen noir experience, Rza kicks off with a great celluloid touch, then gets so jiggy on your arse that even those "righteous" backpacking notebook geeks will have serious ants in their pants. Rza's has marichari horns, dancehall rhythms, squelchy, fat funk and serious "I Testify (to the spliff)" gospel divas as well as 60s soul singers, Ann Peebles and Ron Isley on Wu's fantastic fourth album. Not only is this a straight-up party rap with thought-provoking, entertaining lines, it's a jive-ass hip-hop roadshow of an LP. Killah, Method Man, Raekwon, Gza and the rest of the crew are on phenomenal form. Prolific they may be, but there is no holding back on the quality, subject matter and delivery of these rhymes. It don't matter whether they are representing their name/hood with a very fine Flavor Flav on "Soul Power (Black Jungle)" or licking the competition on the electro funk of "Uzi" (Pinky Flag"): Iron Flag shows the doubting Thomases out there why there has never been a better rap posse than the Wu-- Flav's alma mater included. --Reuben Dessay
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By 2001, Ghostface Killah had unquestionably stepped up to become the Wu Tang empire's most valuable commodity. He is simply untouchable on every line of every track. On 'Rules' Ghostface gets in his two cents on the 9/11 attacks, "Who the f**k knocked our buildings down? / who the man behind the World Trade massacres, step up now / where the four planes at huh is you insane b****? / fly that s**t over my hood and get blown to bits." Later he sensibly suggests, "Mr. Bush sit down, I'm in charge of the war." In fact 'Rules' is one of the highlights on the album, featuring a rejuvenated Method Man chanting the, "How the f**k did we get so cool?" chorus line. Another highlight, 'Pinky Ring', really shouldn't be a decent record but somehow is. Taking the sample from 'Sesame Street' it somehow manages to remain credible. 'Pinky Ring' follows 'Gravel Pit's' lead by being a Wu track aimed squarely at chart domination. It didn't set the UK singles chart alight, but it remains a hip hop club favourite two years after it's release. Other stand out tracks include the (Ann Peebles-featuring) haunting 'Babies' and the international bonus track 'The W'.
There are a couple of bland tracks which makes this a four-star LP and not a five-star classic. 'Dashing' remains a little too bland for the rest of the album, and despite Gza's best attempts to rescue the song from mediocrity with an excellent final verse, it remains the dullest track on the album. Elsewhere, 'Chrome Wheels' is a little too orthodox to be an outstanding track. Apart from that I find the lyrics of 'In The Hood' a little cliched.
Another (albeit one which is forced on the group) problem is the lack of ODB. His wild, unintelligible ramblings have always been a highpoint of Wu albums for me. However, on 'Soul Power' Flava Flav steps into the void left by ODB's absence admirably ("Without me having my finger in the plug / I'm getting shocked anyway"). If nothing else it is good to hear Flav's voice on record again.
Ultimately 'Iron Flag' is a very good album but slightly shy of the usual five-star excellence that Wu Tang Clan albums provide the listener. What is most noticeably missing is a little of the mysticism that made the Wu so original. There are a lot more verses dedicated to girls and money than there have been on previous Wu Tang Clan LPs, which is a shame, and there is a lot less of the kung-fu nonsense that made the Wu so endearing when they exploded on the scene around a decade ago. Despite this though it is a very good album; hip hop fans would be wise to pick up a copy of 'Iron Flag' and for Wu Tang Clan fans it should be seen as an essential purchase.
Re-enter the Wu-Tang - Iron Flag.
Most importantly, they played to strengths- there's lots of GZA. Ghost was always paired with Rae. INS kept his flow upbeat. Meth was his usual charismatic self. RZA wasn't all over the LP lyrically. Masta Killa improved on his flow. Even U-God came correct. And in a shocker- they avoided the excess of most hip hop LP's today. At 55 minutes, this is trimmed of all fat. Just the meat. No skits.
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A worthy album to be added to your collection.
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