January 11, 2002
Wu Tang Clan : New York Hammerstein Ballroom
No matter what happens after this tour they can die now. They did it...
Wu Tang Clan albums like 'Wu-Tang Forever', 'Swarm' and 'W' were such a cacophony of self-important crap the group lost their credibility, their label support, their fan base and a lot of money (even the plans for the Wu Tang Clan mini mall/movie theater had to be scrapped - no joke).
Movie deals and solo albums were helping out a few members but the rest were left "shaking roaches out the cereal box" as Ghostface would say. Then, on Dec 19th their fifth album dropped. The few stragglers that were still paying any attention were gobsmacked. They're still gobsmacked. 'Iron Flag' doesn't suck.
Sure it's no '...36 Chambers' but it's close. Their first album since '...36' to be recorded in New York, 'Iron Flag' has RZA back at the controls bringing in old soul piano riffs and making Ghostface go off on fierce tracks like 'Rules' and 'Uzi (Pinky Ring)' . ODB has been replaced with Flavor Flav and Cappadonna is out of the picture due to beef over his preposterous 'Greatest Hits' album but the rest are all here. RZA, Method Man, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa, U-God and GZA are all on 'Iron Flag' and they are all at the album's album release party at the Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC.
It looks like the night is going to be a waste of time. The crowd is sparse and white and you got the feeling most people are here just to see if ODB will make another appearance. Last year he escaped from jail, turned up, said a few lines, saw the cops rush him, grabbed a bottle of champagne and took off. No such luck this year as ODB stays in the mental ward of his jail, cowering with fear because, as he puts it, "the government got a plan to kill all rappers".
Then, out of nowhere, Ghostface storms the stage in a bathrobe and the most absurd jewellery ever made and within seconds he's surrounded by eight of the most testosterone-fuelled hard-asses New York's ever seen. The Wu Tang Clan haven't looked this good in eight years. Psychedelic, scientific, integrated aircraft ninjas from the deepest hellhole projects New York has to offer. They're incomparable to anyone else in hip-hop.
Ghostface rules the night without a doubt. Ushering in the different MCs from the Clan, he has this way of letting beats go by and then catching up to them that makes him more of a lyrical acrobat than a rapper. He also combines macho threats with childhood nostalgia in a way that makes him both loveable and petrifying at the same time. He can be threatening your life with his ringed fist in your face and, in the same breath remind you of those Flintstone-shaped vitamins you used to take when you were sick.
Raekown and Method Man fill in the gaps, while Method Man pushes the sexy marijuana vibe for the girls. Once you get over the sound quality and the lack of order on stage you remember why you were into this band in the first place. They are matchless. Just as this pops into your correspondent's mind Raekwon leans over the crowd, towel in hand, mouth full of gold and yells "It's the same style/RZA trainable, jump the turnstyle /On the alley tried to challenge God for the new vials/Especially that/Aluminum bat in the act /Relax, lay back, sell a grenade a day, it pays black and the reaction is one of amazement.
Haters beware. If the Wu Tang Clan are not back. If they never make an album again and disappear off the face of the planet forever (i.e. if ODB is right), tonight's show 'Iron Flag' is a testament to their undefeatable exclusivity. A slap in the face to all those who lost faith. No matter what happens after this tour they can die now. They did it.
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