It’s been almost 15 years since Money, Power & Respect dropped, and nearly twenty since Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) changed hip-hop forever. If the Wu-Block album had been announced in 1999, it would’ve garnered an incredible amount of hype, but today, in a hip-hop industry that could be described as “in-transition,” Ghost & Sheek’s epic collab LP dropped relatively quietly. The music, however, is far from quiet, and maintains the level of lyrical consistency we’ve come to expect from these two mainstays of the old guard of East Coast hip-hop.
Billed as a Ghostface Killah/Sheek Louch collaboration—though originally conceived as a collaborative project between all of Wu-Tang & D-Block—the 14-track offering features notable contributions from both rappers’ respective camps. It’s a lyrical gangbang of sorts featuring some of the most recognizable voices in hip-hop. Sonically, the album is cohesive. The sound is grimy but big—the only exception being the smooth, Gza-, Masta Killa- and Erykah Badu-assisted “Drivin’ Round”—with production contribution ranging from no-names like the Bay Area’s Fithestate, to legends like Erick Sermon. There aren’t any obvious singles or standout tracks, but there is a consistency in the production and the bars that lives up to expectations.
That’s not to say that there aren’t definite highlights. On “Take Notice,” which follows a voicemail interlude where Sheek Louch is trying to get a hold of a bed-ridden Tony Starks before they hop a flight to Europe, Pretty Toney comes through and drops one of the strongest verses on the album with a noticeable cold-induced rasp to his voice. (“From here to La Cienega, I do hood yoga/I pull muscles countin’ money, need a new shoulder.”)
For heads of both D-Block and Wu-Tang, Wu-Block is a lyrical wet dream. Ghost and Sheek complement each other well, and their chemistry on the album is bolstered by appearances of their legendary compadres. The formula, however, isn’t new, and in some ways the project sounds unavoidably dated. The bars are more than on point, the beats are solid, but the vision as a whole feels inescapably static, which is a quality that has worked against recent releases by both camps.
Wu-Block stays true to its roots and makes no compromises in pursuit of airplay. While the tides of hip-hop may be in flux, and the release might not break any new ground, the collaborative LP is a genuine and welcomed addition to the modern hip-hop landscape—reminding listeners that the two crews can still rap circles around your favorite rapper, and that nobody can do so quite like they can. —Nick De Molina (@odmod)