Artist: Ghostface / Wu-Tang Clan
Album: Big Doe Rehab / 8 Diagrams
Reviewer: Alex Thornton
Ghostface Killah: Big Doe Rehab (4.0 stars)
Wu-Tang Clan: 8 Diagrams (2.0 stars)
"I feel that the new Wu Tang album is bullshit...real bullshit. RZA chose a certain selection of beats and wanted brothers to get busy off of that. [Some of us tried] to bring some shit to the table but this is a voting thing. You get outvoted. That's why the last 3 or 4 Wu albums were bullshit." -Ghostface Killah to MTV this Novemeber
Damn. It's one thing for a performer to tell Behind the Music years later that he's not proud of his entire body of work, but it's another entirely for him to call his own album "bullshit" right before it comes out. His statements may be unorthodox or inappropriate, but he's still right; 8 Diagrams is a huge disappointment. Sure, Ghost was technically part of the album too, but he participated less than any other core member, and more to the point, The Big Doe Rehab is exactly what 8 Diagrams should've been.
8 Diagrams does fail primarily due to the beats, so while much of the blame does fall on RZA, the others still put practically no energy into their verses. Most of the low-key tracks are miles away from the hyped-up grime that made The Wu famous; RZA is clearly trying too hard to prove that he can still innovate. Most tracks are dry and forgettable while "The Heart Gently Weeps" is just an expensive mess (due to the squandered Beatles sample). "Starter" gets close to the RZA we knew, but then the MCs turn it into an awful "for the ladies" number that doesn't belong on a Wu disc to begin with. The only song on the album with that classic Wu feel is "16th Chamber," a bonus track that isn't even available on most versions of the album.
For Big Doe Rehab, meanwhile, Ghostface manages to find balance. Iron-Man still occasionally crafts intricate, coded rhymes but also tones it down at times so you don't need a degree in Ghostface-ology to know what a song is about. He sounds natural rhyming next to Beanie on "Toney Sigel" but also shows better chemistry with the Shaolin boys on "Yolanda's House" or "Paisley Darts" than anything on Diagrams. He deserves to pop lyrical champagne on "Celebrate" and "White Linen Affair" because now more than ever, Ghost has drastically outpaced his peers. Whether with the beats, rhymes or topics, he shows growth without giving up what attracted us to him in the first place.
Ghost's solo project proves that there is no excuse for 8 Diagrams and if anything, the group album should've been easier to pull off given the shared responsibility. A lot has happened over the last 15 years so it's expected that the group won't have that same raw, hungry sound. Still, The Big Doe Rehab proves that success is no excuse to lose touch; Wu-Tang as a whole changed, but Ghostface evolved.
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