Method Man, Ghostface and Raekwon
Before the release of this EP-length record by Wu-Tang’s three foremost gangsta rappers, Ghostface, Raekwon and Method Man, the latter complained that Def Jam had rushed the project. Given the tendency for Wu records to arrive months if not years late, overloaded with throwaway tracks and annoying interludes, this seems to have been the perfect amount of label pressure to keep Wu Massacre from turning into an actual massacre. Delivered in record time and kept to an incredibly concise 30 minutes, it’s blessedly free of the pandering radio-ready singles and mediocre filler that often make these rappers’ solo albums frustratingly bloated if not completely unlistenable. Simultaneously unambitious and uncompromising, Massacre delivers exactly what it was supposed to: an unfussy helping of hard street anthems, drug war capers and soulful reminiscences. “Wu Appetizer” would have been a better title.
Predictably, the best songs feature all three MCs trading verses, or reprising Wu-Tang classics. Ghost and Meth start with a blast on “Criminology 2.5,” setting a quick pace over the chiming BT instrumental. Meth provides a fitting thesis for the record: “We call that, raw rap/got fiends in front of my door mat.” The trio keep serving Wu addicts what they want on lead single “Our Dreams,” Clan leader RZA’s only production credit, a funky, nostalgic number with guitar and flute highlights building on the chorus’ moving mid-70s Michael Jackson sample. The trio turns in uneven verses over Mathematic’s military-drum-powered beat for “Dangerous,” with Ghost sounding especially awkward. That track reveals another of the album’s major challenges: what to do with the choruses? With songs rarely lasting more than three minutes, the worst refrains are pseudo-melodic rapped afterthoughts. In the best cases, like the excellent fallen woman fable “Miranda,” the chorus boils down to a judicious two-second vocal snippet. On “Meth vs. Chef Part II,” it’s reduced to a drum roll as the MCs exchange escalating boasts. Such dynamic solutions help make Massacre a fast, generally very effective killer.