The pairing of the Lox with the Wu-Tang Clan makes so much sense, it’s a travesty that it took until 2012 for it happen. How could the music industry watch the video for the Ghostface Killah/Ghostface’s awesome orange fuzzy hat/Jadakiss classic “Run” and not immediately demand an entire album-length encore? It’s not one of those weird pairings that work somehow, like French fries and carne asada or a 7-and-7. Wu-Tang and D-Block are two of New York’s most beloved collectives, with a shared love of rhymes about toting heat and pushing white, and they’ve managed to not beef with each other despite sharing the same turf and target audience. Instead of going Avon-Marlo on each other, the Wu and D-Block approach it like Prop Joe’s New Day Co-Op, working together to bring us high-quality product.
The tracklist confirms everything you thought Wu-Block would be: “Crack Spot Stories”, “Cocaine Central”, and “Stick Up Kids”, to name a few. There aren’t any trails being blazed here, but I’m OK with that; you can miss me with Jadakiss and Ghostface rapping about filling out tax returns or something. Too often we get mad at artists for staying in their comfort zone and not trying something new. Outside of a Future Christmas album (apparently this is a thing on Rap Twitter), do we really want our artists to start rolling out half-assed attempts at something new? If dead prez can screw it up, so can every other MC Get Busy.
Technically, this album is a joint venture between Ghostface Killah and Sheek Louch, with guest appearances by Jadakiss, Styles P, and Raekwon. For all the assembled firepower, Wu-Block fails to actually put all three Lox members on a track with Ghostface and Raekwon, sticking us with the painful leaving-the-strip-club-level blue balls. Wu-Block doesn’t have a climax; it’s just a steady grind of average-to-good tracks. The production is cohesive to a fault, to where the songs just seem to start blending together until the dreamy “Drivin’ Round”, a tour of economically depressed neighborhoods on which GZA laments, “A button on his lapel, a picture of Obama/Four years later, we still in the same drama/These street corners just overcrowded saunas/Beggars and losers drop weight, sweating from the trauma.”
To wake you up from any lull you may have fallen into during “Drivin’ Round,” the frantic “Stick Up Kids” is a verbal pistol whip complete with Ghostface’s trademark irreverence (“My grandmother go to church to pray on my victims/She said brrrrrr, stick ‘em!”) and a 16 from Jadakiss so grimy you’ll want to file a police report and cancel your credit cards.
One thing to take away from Wu-Block is that all the MCs still have it, from Ghostface throughout to Method Man and GZA’s guest appearances. It’s reasonable to assume that each MC came correct out of mutual respect for each other. Remember when you first heard Raekwon and Nas on Mobb Deep’s “Eye for an Eye” and it just felt like it was meant to be? That’s how Wu-Block works. The chemistry between the experienced, professional MCs makes Wu-Block a solid, if unspectacular, listen.