Full disclosure: I have a minor beef with Jadakiss, so the following must be taken with a grain of crack. I mean salt. Sorry, it’s just that I’ve been thinking about crack a lot since listening to Wu Block. Anyway, my beef with Jadakiss: I grew up about ten minutes from him, in a quiet suburb that borders his native Yonkers, and in early 2011 he dropped a single called “I Miss You,” in which he boasts about walking into my town and stealing Toyota Camrys. Yes, he apparently did us like that. While our beef never quite came to a head – we’ve never thrown down at the BET awards or anything – I’ve eyed his work suspiciously since then.
Nevertheless, I wanted to listen to Wu Block, a collaborative effort from Ghostface Killah (Wu-Tang Clan) and Sheek Louch (The Lox, aka D-Block), featuring various members of their respective groups. If Watch the Throne, Jay-Z and Kanye’s 2011 collaboration, was luxury rap, Wu Block is decidedly not. It’s more like an on-welfare-during-the-end-of-the-month-when-things-are-getting-kinda-tight rap. They clearly rely less on “luxurious” beats and more on their lyrical nastiness - Wu Block is just a vicious, relentless 45 minute attack. Wu Block is not the kind of album that you’ll just stumble upon and instantly fall in love with Rap. If Big Willie Style is the bunny hill of the genre, this is a legitimate black diamond. You’re not going to like it unless you know what you’re getting yourself into.
The first half of the CD is nothing short of a felonious assault on the microphone, littered with a ridiculously-named assortment of songs like “Crack Spot Stories,” “Guns For Life,” and “Cocaine Central.” Did I feel a little weird this weekend blasting this CD while driving through Olean, New York, which is as close to the embodiment of small town white America as it gets? I sure did. But that’s on me, not Wu Block. My gut tells me this CD was not produced for people spending a weekend in Olean, New York.
They mercifully slow it down a touch on the 8th track, “Drivin Round,” which features Erykah Badu. Her chorus is the sonic equivalent of a rose growing amongst the weeds poking out of a cracked Staten Island sidewalk. Not to compare the rhymes in this song to an uninvited pest, but Ms. Badu gracefully lends a lady’s touch to the madness.
The 13th track, “Stella,” is one of the best songs on the album, not just because Method Man joins in on the fun for the second time, but because it “borrows” a beat from one of the greatest rap songs of the past few years, Fabolous’ “I Miss my Love.” I use the term “borrows” in a very generous way – listen to the two songs and you’ll understand why. Since recycling is big in the rap game these days, I’m okay with it.
I’m actually surprised how much I liked this album. I’d kind of forgotten about all these guys – except you, Jadakiss – for a few years, and this album seems like it came out of nowhere. It needed more Method Man, that’s for damn sure, but for once it was nice to listen to an album without hearing a single foghorn. It’s also refreshing to know that there are rappers out there who haven’t evolved into caricatures of themselves (See: Wayne, Lil’ or Minaj, Nicki), but have instead focused on doing what they do best: rapping.