Nowadays, we all have the lowdown on [a]Wu Tang Clan[/a]. They ruminate on death, destruction and arcane mathematics...

Nowadays, we all have the lowdown on [a]Wu Tang Clan[/a]. They ruminate on death, destruction and arcane mathematics – and we become strangely soothed by the consistency of their menace. Perversely, what’s really shocking is when one of them shape-shifts into a sensitive fellow who has soul tunes, tinkly bells and the termination of social deprivation weighing heavy on his mind.

Raekwon, Chef, Lex Diamonds, Corey Woods, a rapper who is as wide as he is tall – call him what you will, but he’s the man who confronts us with sweetness and light rather than fire and brimstone. ‘All I Got’, the track in question on the follow-up to his ‘Only Built 4 Cuban Linx’ album, has him cooing affectionately over a backing track which may well be on loan from Janet Jackson. And though talk of pistol whippings and several million ways to die crop up elsewhere on the preposterously titled ‘Immobilarity’, this lighter, funkier, almost tender dimension of Wu-ness is forever hanging around.

As there’s a marked dearth of kung fu effects, clanking chains and other horror-rap accessories, it comes as no surprise to learn that The RZA is absent from the mixing desk. Instead it’s New York’s Carlos Broady and Infinite Architects, plus Atlanta’s Trife who mould the sounds. Raekwon is served well by the change – he sounds footloose and fancy free, palpably chuffed to be excused lyrical duties amid yet more bone-breaker-beats.

He considers himself a master of the multi-textured yarn and here he’s not mistaken. The crux of his kaleidoscopic rhyming is surviving, searching for answers and acting upon them if you should find them. In the case of the excellently unadorned ‘Power’, the quest for ego-swelling omnipotence is also on the agenda. With ‘The Forecast’, he reverses the habit for dissing those outside of your immediate neighbourhood by paying homage to almost every town in the world. On ‘100 Rounds’, there’s talk of swollen sores, tax reports and flags over Iraq. ‘Yae Yo’ maps out the business of manufacturing and dealing crack in eerie detail. While, on a rather different note, ‘Heart 2 Heart’ manages to namecheck the Prince Of Wales in a vignette about those who wish to “Hollywood-ise the realness”.

Whether or not the Wu syndicate now amounts to more than a marriage of financial convenience, there’s little arguing that their solo efforts – see also Method Man, The RZA and Ol’ Dirty Bastard in the last 12 months – still impress. Refusing to let the others steal a lead, Raekwon is back with a similar vengeance. Though with a slightly brighter disposition, mind. [a]Wu Tang Clan[/a] ain’t nothing ta fuck wit. But on this showing, one member of that Clan rightly senses the import in taking us for a merry whirl around the dancefloor, too.

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