erasing clouds

Wu-Tang Clan, Iron Flag

reviewed by Dave heaton

The step towards consolidating their sound that the Wu-Tang Clan took between the expansive double-CD Wu-Tang Forever and the concise follow-up The W continues with their latest album Iron Flag.

Since The W, the Clan's sound is tighter than ever, coming straight at you with energy and ferocity. On that album they were basically two types of songs: hard-hitting, compact anthems to demonstrate that they're back and better than ever, and dark, moody tracks depicting inner-city life as a nightmarish type of hell. Iron Flag is much of the same, though the group comes across even more confidently. This album shows less of the dark side, though some tracks--like "In the Hood" (complete with background gun shots and sirens), the crime story "Babies" and the scary, paranoid trip that makes up the second half of the title track--still vividly depict poverty-ridden, crime-ridden cities as warzones.

Most of the album is devoted to showing that the Wu still has it. They demonstrate what made them legends, the rugged yet abstract rhymes over hot tracks, throughout Iron Flag. Their main tactic here is to put songs together tag-team style, with each MC dropping whatever's on his mind. That's why a song like "Rules" has a bit of everything: a raw Method Man hook, a verse from Ghostface challenging the men behind the Sept. 11 attacks, a solid boasting verse from Inspectah Deck, and more. It's a mark of a true creative team that every individual's presence can be so prominent without making the piece as a whole feel disjointed. That's why Iron Flag at times feels like the Wu's most accomplished work yet. They work together without sacrificing their individual talents.

Musically Iron Flag is upbeat and direct, with a strong nod towards funk and soul. Ron Isley even shows up on one track, making the connection with R&B traditions solid. If by now, it's clear that even the best Wu-Tang tracks will inevitably be compared negatively to their debut (to many, nothing's ever as good as the album where a group first made its mark, unfortunately), it'd still be a crime if hip-hop fans stopped showing love to the Wu. When they did a tour right before The W, I was impressed at the Lawrence, Kansas show with how together they seemed, considering the reputation they gained by delaying albums so many times, canceling so many shows, etc. At the show they seemed 100% on top of their game, ready to take over the hip-hop world once more. In the relatively short time since that show, they've released two albums--both show the same strong presence. Here's hoping that they continue on this path, pushing ahead creatively and always sharpening their skills.


Issue 8, January 2002 | next article

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