Thursday, 8 February 2007

RZA – ‘Afro Samurai OST’

Delayed gratification has been the keynote of RZA’s career for the best part of a decade. His touted solo “masterpiece”, ‘The Cure’, has been promised since before the release of ‘Wu-Tang Forever’ in 1997, and currently resides in the same bracket as Dre’s ‘Detox’, the new My Bloody Valentine record and (surely nobody really believes) ‘Chinese Democracy’. In the meantime, RZA hasn’t been lazy – contributing to Wu albums, solo joints, soundtracks (in particular, to ‘Kill Bill’ and ‘Ghost Dog’), and albums as RZA and Bobby Digital. But all of these releases came with a pre-loaded defence mechanism against heightened expectations, be it the cartoon persona of Bobby Digital, or the stylistic constraints of a soundtrack for somebody else’s project. Nothing is allowed to be a ‘true’ RZA solo album, so nothing is quite as good as ‘The Cure’ surely, must be.

Given this pathological tendency, RZA must’ve been salivating at the prospect of Afro Samurai – a project so silly, and so ‘RZA’, as to cast Samuel L. Jackson as a jive talking blaxploitation anime hero, questing to become the ‘Number One warrior in the world’. No sweat, no pressure: a license to indulge his favourite tropes. Accordingly, we are treated to silky-smooth RnB pastiches (forgetting that R. Kelly’s light years ahead on this bonkers path), sword-swinging nerd rap with Talib Kweli and Q Tip, an underwhelming Big Daddy Kane appearance on ‘Cameo Afro’, and the over-familiar dialogue snippets: c’mon, “give him his sword” already. It’s nice enough, but nothing new, and hardly a stretch. RZA only steps from behind the boards on a few tracks, and on most of those he retreats into his diminishing-returns, misogynistic Bobby Digital persona. “C’mon, Bobby, let’s get some sleep,” suggests an unnamed lady. “Unh,” says Bobby. Only on ‘Fury In My Eyes’ does RZA allow a glimpse of the awesome potential that still lurks: over a melody reminiscent of Kill Bill’s Meiko Kaji moments, RZA’s slurring flow combines with Thea’s feline hook to inspiring effect: “I’m the master of the clan, you can see by the headband / spirit of God becomes one inside man.” It’s enough to sustain those who believe he still has the classic in him to rival ’36 Chambers’.


More fun:

RZA - 'Fury in My Eyes'

Couple of mp3s at So Much Silence.

Buy 'Afro Samurai'

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