2015 has been a big year for the Wu-Tang Clan Reunion and rap album release tour de force. Starting with December’s A Better Tomorrow Wu-Tang get together, and another record, Once Upon A Time In Shaolin, that was sold for $5 million, and that we have to wait 88 years for the copyright to return to the owners of the work to possibly get a chance to hear it.
There’s also been a surge of solo records over the past two years. Ghostface Killah released 36 Seasons, Sour Soul, a collaboration with Toronto jazz-band BadBadNotGood, and his sequel to Twelve Reasons to Die produced by Adrian Younge, and featuring RZA & Raekwon, who also put out his own solo record, Fly International Luxurious Art. Inspectah Deck made his follow-up as Czarface with Esoteric & 7L, Every Hero Needs A Villain, and GZA has his solo record, Dark Matter, on the gauge to be released sometime this fall.
Wu-Tang stays a strong collaborative group and appear even here on Method Man’s solo slot, The Meth Lab, his first solo record since 2006. And with more on the way, like GZA’s record, Ghostface Killah collaboration with MF Doom still in the works, another Method Man/Redman record, and then even another Method Man record, Crystal Meth, slated for 2016, it’s fair to say that we have a lot of Wu-Tang member records still to come.
And each Wu-Tang rapper took a different approach with their solo releases. Ghostface Killah took the most jazzy and artful approach, with having a real band back him on Sour Soul, and a story concept sequel to Twelve Reasons to Die. Raekwon went the “I’m rich and famous” route, Inspectah Deck paid homage to the comic-book and rap friendship, but Method Man seems to be stuck on the raw, gangsta rap style that they had back in the ’90’s, and it’s honestly impressive that he’s filled 19 tracks full of it.
Backed by Hanz On & Streetlife on nearly every track, and classic collaborations from Redman and Wu-Tang’s Raekwon, Inspectah Deck, and Masta Killa, he doesn’t have to fill the whole hour himself, but even the guest MC’s he chooses to include follow the same theme and overall voice that Method Man sets forth. It’s a great opportunity for these rising Staten Island rappers, since The Meth Lab was, “done by Staten Island”, and “made in Staten Island,” but Staten Island isn’t the same Staten Island that it was back in ’93 when Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) came out.
The production is great, and the beats fit the mood, but there’s nothing really said on The Meth Lab, nothing that blows me away. Method Man still has the technique and rap prowess, but he seems lost, like he’s been stuck in the past for the last 22 years since Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), and the content doesn’t quite fit in with today’s evolved rap climate. Could The Meth Lab and it’s follow-up next year, Crystal Meth, inspire the new generation of rappers from Staten Island? It completely can and I would never be one to say it couldn’t, but not every rapper out of the Wu-Tang can keep relevant in this post-Wu-Tang solo record world.