RZA : Bobby Digital In Stereo

RZA : Bobby Digital In Stereo


Wu-Tang boss in 'just another day at the office' scene...

Yes, back once again, the Shaolin Wage-Slaves. Some days, the multifarious

troops of the Wu-Tang Clancan sound like word magicians, like agents for

musical change, like the most transcendent rappers on the planet. At other

times, sadly, they make the dissemination of arcane knowledge and the dark arts

of hip-hop appear as inspiring as a soul-sapping nine-to-five job. Fancy a

sandwich? Sorry, no, The RZA has to work through his lunch break: there are lazy

rhymes to write, a few old loops to record sloppily, maybe a little filing to

break the routine.

So it is with ‘Digital Bullet’. Bobby Digital, for those who became

disillusioned with Wu-minutiae a while back, is the alter-ego of RZA, sometime

genius producer and nominal head of the sprawling, irrepressible Clan. Digital,

a kind of shag-happy superhero, has a similar confused relationship RZA,as

Slim Shady has with Eminem. Where does one’s personality end and another’s

begin? Does he have to make it unreal to keep it real? Is the appalling sexism a ‘joke’? And, after 1998’s highly ropey’Bobby Digital In Stereo’ – an album

notable mainly for a guest spot from Lisa I’Anson- who cares, anyway?

On the evidence of that album and ‘Digital Bullet’, RZA‘s main use for the

Digital persona is as a way of flogging a few more sub-standard tracks to his

true disciples. Those expecting a continuation of the Clan’s superb,

phantasmagoric ‘The W’, or even his brooding instrumental ‘Ghost Dog’ soundtrack

(mystifyingly released only in Japan) are in for a big disappointment.

At best,these are semi-finished rejects from ‘The W’, like the sluggish ‘Righteous Way’

featuring reggae singer Junior Reid, and ‘Glocko Pop’, passable, with Method Man

and a couple of minor Clansters dutifully helping their boss out.

Nevertheless, the crudely constructed music and sleepily threatening raps become

hypnotic after a while. Even at his most distracted, the RZA can still create

the muzziest, most oppressive atmospheres in hip-hop and, when one of his

quality mates (GZA, the fugitive ODB) drop round, there’s a glimpse of how

compelling ‘Digital Bullet’ could’ve been.

There are a couple of innovations,too, with the unusually fashion-conscious Latino flick of ‘The Rhumba’ and the

ultra-minimal ‘Bong Bong’, which plants shouty freestyling into a Buddhist

temple garden.

For a purported concept album, however, it’s tremendously half-assed. On the

penultimate track, ‘Build Strong’ RZA hastily flams up a denouement to his

Bobby Digital myth. “Drugs, money, sex, it ain’t fulfilling me,” he repents over

maudlin piano, but compared with ‘The W”s magnificent show-stopper, ‘I Can’t Go

To Sleep’, it’s more crocodile tears than torrential sob. Hardly surprising,

really – after all, how much melodrama can you squeeze out of another uneventful

day at the office?.

John Mulvey