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Masta Killa, No Said Date

reviewed by dave heaton

If the Wu-Tang Clan releases a hip-hop classic in 2004, will anyone notice?

At this point in time, 11 years and a hundred trash bags of discarded Wu-Wear shirts after the Clan dropped its legendary debut Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), the Wu just isn't living on the tips of everyone's tongues like they once were. They're still releasing albums like there's no tomorrow, but outside of the circles of the devout, there's just isn't a lot of energy around their name. And that's with good reason. For every blazing song and album they've been on, there's an absolute disaster (like Birth of a Prince, every other Raekwon song, and most of Method Man's career, Blackout excepted). But within the Clan's extensive ranks are a few silent assassins, MCs that kill nearly every time they get on the mic. I'm thinking about the GZA and Inspectah Deck, mostly. But with the release of No Said Date, you can add another name to that list.

Masta Killa is the last original Wu-Tang member to release a solo album...which is saying a lot, considering that Ghostface has released 4 albums in that time, the GZA, Raekwon and Method Man each have 3, and the RZA has at least three, depending on what you count. It's been so long, I might have forgotten to pay attention, except that the one time I saw the Wu live, on the pre-The W tour, Masta Killa damn near stole the show every time he came out. Throughout No Said Date, his rhymes are on fire. Lyrically he manages to encapsulate all of the Wu's best qualities - he's mystical, rugged, and martial-arts-minded, but never pushes any of these to ridiculous extremes. He reveals an introspective side on "School," rhymes about love relationships in an emotional but raw way on a couple tracks, and shows off his chops all over the place. There's a low-key, smooth quality to his voice which is infectious but not cartoonish, and he uses it to great effect all the way through the album.

No Said Date succeeds where some of the lesser Wu albums fail because Masta Killa keeps everything rhyme and beat focused, he doesn't let his personality overshadow the task at hand: to make powerful music. And he's helped by the fact that the beats on all the tracks have both a classic Wu sound and a stark, mysterious edge. The RZA produced three of the tracks, but some of the best come from Mathematics and True Master, who each produced three tracks. Dave West even produces one ("Love Spell"), lending an uncharacteristically pop R&B sound that still somehow works.

Yet No Said Date is even better than just a splendid solo debut by an underappreciated MC. Nearly every Wu-Tang MC appears on the album once, and several of them (particularly GZA, Inspectah Deck, Ghostface, and Method Man) drop seriously memorable rhymes. That fact, combined with the album's overall cohesiveness and traditionally Wu nods towards the East, makes this feel like another classic Wu-Tang Clan album as well as a fantastic start to Masta Killa's solo career. It's an album that better not be overlooked (like so many of the best of the recent Wu albums have been), because it has a force and majestic beauty that's just about unparalleled in hip-hop this year. It should make anybody remember why the Wu-Tang Clan was once so beloved.

Nature Sounds:
Masta Killa:

Issue 24, June 2004

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