When he’s not crafting cinematic chamber music styles for the Wu-Tang Clan, RZA uses his force to score original soundtracks. After executive producing soundtracks for Kill Bill and the Afro Samurai anime series, RZA takes on The Man with the Iron Fists, in which he also makes his directorial debut with Quentin Tarantino, as well as co-writes and stars. While he has given fans early previews leading up to the film’s November 2nd release, the entire collection doesn’t steer too far away from his previous work. You’ll find Wu mythology, lyrical themes, and dialogue from the film to tie it all in. It makes The Man with the Iron Fists an eclectic experience with guest artists sounding right at home over the Abbot’s sonic imprint.
RZA oversaw the 15-track effort and created songs that re-imagine selected scenes from the film. The soundtrack opens with a reunion of sorts with The Black Keys and RZA on “The Baddest Man Alive,” a continuation of their collaboration from 2009′s Blakroc. Over a creeping backdrop, the soundscape is desolate as the duo exchange words about how tough they are. Dan Auerbach sings about taking the “pitchfork from the devil” and grabbing a “crocodile by its tail.” RZA, for his part, delivers lines like, “I’m the baddest man alive and I don’t plan to die/When the grim reaper comes, I look him right in his eye.” The album transitions to its first taste of the Wu on “Blackout,” which features Ghostface Killah, M.O.P., and Pharoahe Monch sticking to their trademark grunts and grime.
One of the most-talked about tracks on The Man with the Iron Fists is new solo material by Kanye West. RZA and ‘Ye have collaborated on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy before, whom the latter returns to his former soulful sound in “White Dress.” The contemplative lyrics—which presumably are about his relationship with Kim Kardashian—speak on ‘Ye’s desire for the married life. “Even though I met you in a club with a tight dress/At first sight I could picture you in a white dress,” he raps. “White Dress” and contributions by the Revelations (“I Forgot to Be Your Lover”) and a striking collaboration with Idle Warship (“Get Your Way (Sex As A Weapon)”) are the soundtrack’s lighter moments that pertain to love, sex and relationships.
The hip-hop collaborations are evidence of RZA’s martial arts inspiration coming to life. The second half of the album features old and new talent over dark and cinematic production. Tracks like the Frank Dukes and BADBADNOTGOOD-produced “Rivers of Blood” with Kool G Rap, “Built For This” featuring Method Man and Freddie Gibbs, and the Flatbush Zombies-assisted “Just Blowin’ In The Wind” provide a vivid depiction of RZA’s Blacksmith character in the film and his persona. But a true standout of these posse cuts is “Tick, Tock” that stars the trio of Pusha T, Raekwon, Joell Ortiz, as well as Danny Brown who all deliver hard-nosed rhymes for the streets.
Fans shouldn’t expect anything less from RZA, who has always ventured into classic kung-fu imagery and soul while binding in an East Coast vibe. His production blueprint paired even with unlikely artists—British Grammy Award-winner Corrine Baily Rae (“Chains”) and Cantopop star Francis Yip (“Green Is the Mountain”)—shows that he can thrive creatively out of his comfort zone. In contrast, the Wu-Tang Clan co-founder can still pair MCs like Ghostface, Wiz Khalifa and the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s son Boy Jones for a hip-hop meets epic tale of strings and horns on “I Go Hard.” Or even reunite his Wu-Tang brethren for quick back and forth exchanges in “Six Directions of Boxing”—a subtle reminder that the group needs another album in 2012. Part of what makes RZA thrive in hip-hop is his ability to make well-crafted side projects outside of the Wu-Tang Clan. With The Man with the Iron Fists soundtrack, it ensures that the marital arts flick will be just as good. —Eric Diep (@E_Diep)