n hip-hop music, there is a general rule. Most producers or beat-makers don't rap. At least they shouldn't. One only needs to look at Dr. Dre (a wonderful beat-maker and he's got THE VOICE, only he can't write his own rhymes) and Timbaland (just keeps making hits as long as he isn't rapping on them) for two great examples. The RZA proves in his debut album, Bobby Digital, that he isn't one of those producers.
The RZA is an impressive artist, no doubt. Not only does the RZA rap on every track on the album, but he also at least helped produce every track. The whole album has a very futuristic sound to it, which is completely different from any other track he had produced before. However, the "RZA sound" isn't completely lost, and all of his tracks can be easily recognized. They just sound like the RZA went to the year 3000 to produce them, which adds to the atmosphere of the album. Bobby Digital is a character offshoot of the RZA who is supposed to be "mad ignorant, but on some next level shit" (XXL, August 2001). The whole album flows from track to track amazingly, one track sounding similar but different from the track before it, and the final track is almost 180 degrees away from the first.
The first few times I listened to Bobby Digital, I didn't get much out of it. It was RZA beats, which were good, and rhymes by almost every member of the Clan, not to mention personal favorites Dr. Dooom and Ras Kass. However, the more I listened to the CD the more I realized every little sound in each song was meticulously placed. Every rhyme fit the beat perfectly, and the album was put together well. Many hip-hop fans state that Bobby Digital was good, but a dissapointment. However, one needs only to realize how perfect everything goes together to understand why I think it's a classic.
The only problem with Bobby Digital is the over-abundance of guests. Every member of the Clan appears on the CD, and almost every member appears on at least two songs. Combined with quite a few outside guests, plus Wu-family members Killarmy and the Black Knights, sometimes the CD feels clogged. It's nice to have a variety, but often times Bobby Digital feels like a Wu-Tang CD and rather a RZA CD. Still, at least all of the guests hold their own.
Another thing that stands out about the CD is how crazy and different the songs are. The remake of the Jungle Brothers' "Jimbroski," "B.O.B.B.Y." is an introduction to the Bobby Digital character and a heavy song tailor-made for subwoofers and casual hip-hop fans. "Holocaust (Silkworm)", the first single, is a slow jam that is still heavy and features another amazing verse from Ghostface Killah. "Domestic Violence" is an anti-"skank" rant that at times seems straight from RZA's heart. And finally, "Lab Drunk" is an upbeat humorous song about, well, being drunk in the lab. The way the songs and beats vary while still staying connected helps make the CD a classic, and one even casual hip-hop fans can enjoy.
Reviewed by: Brett Berliner
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01