ay-Z versus Nas. Nas versus Jay-Z. My opinion is that Nas barely won outwith Stillmatic, choosing lyrics over beats. The production on TheBlueprint was a little bit better than the production on Stillmatic, but thelyrics on Stillmatic were quite a bit better than the lyrics on TheBlueprint. Why couldn't these just be put together to create one superalbum, rivaling Illmatic or Life after Death? Well, the Wu-Tang Clan putthe two together excellently but failed to create the true classic thatthey've already done twice before, with Wu-Tang Forever and Enter theWu-Tang: 36 Chambers.
A lot of people did not enjoy Wu-Tang's last effort, The W. Being aself-proclaimed Wu-Tang fanatic, I loved it, of course. Songs like "OneBlood Under W", "Redbull", "Hollow Bones" and "Chamber Music" were classicWu-fare, and there wasn't a song that needed to be skipped. People have,however, been mostly unanimously pleased with the Iron Flag. The firstsingle, "Uzi (Pinky Ring)", says it best: "Face it, the Wu are back!"
Speaking of "Uzi", it's the closest thing to either "Triumph" or"Protect Ya Neck" that has been put out since, well, "Triumph". Yeah, The Whad "The Jump Off", a posse cut with a sharp beat, but it didn't seem right.Uzi starts off strong with U-God's best verse in a long time and finisheswith the ever capable, underrated GZA, featuring the best horns on a rapsong, along with Jay-Z's "The Ruler's Back" and Pete Rock and CL Smooth's"T.R.O.Y."
The album thankfully isn't bogged down by guests. While the guestson The W were awesome (Nas, Busta Rhymes, Redman, Junior Reid, Snoop Dogg),the guests on Iron Flag are of a totally different nature. Flava Flavdrops by on "Soul Power", and can be described no other way than as "acrazy-ass crackhead of a hype man." Ron Isley and the Trackmasters work onthe albums second best cut, "Back in the Game", which should be a singleout soon. The best verse on the whole album is the GZA's from that song:"We were at the same table when the chips were checked / A gamblin' "Rebel"who "Inspects" the "Deck" / Just when you thought we would fold our hand /Against all odds we raised the bet like we changed the plans / It was liveon air but in between station breaks / I was holdin' a pair and just madethe table stakes / Split the demos, put insurance on tapes / A safeguardagainst the crusaders in capes / If I double down they say the Gods aresharks / If we win against the house they thought the cards was marked / Wedraw hit after hit from a royal flush menu / While the dealer promoted thefull house venue / A spade in the club with the heart to wear diamonds / Thehigh roller who got credit upon signin'/ They look puzzled when I shuffle,most of 'em stunned by the hustle / Recourse of bluff game's your muscle".The idea of making a verse based on allegory for a card game shows the witand unpredicatablity of the whole Clan, especially the GZA. As for moreguests, an uncredited woman shows up to sing the hooks for "Chrome Wheels","One of these Days", and "Babies". "Chrome Wheels" sounds kind of like a leftoverfrom one of the Bobby Digital albums, but still comes together despite asub-par verse from Streetlife. "One of these Days", with production by NickFury (and the Howling Commandos..?) is a pretty rocking beat that will stayin your head for a while. However, "Babies" is the highlight of the wholealbum. RZA's soulful beat just makes you want to chill, and the verses areall strong. The production is reminicient of The W's "Hollow Bones", withdemphization on drum and bass, and is the best Wu-Tang song since "I Can'tGo To Sleep".
The production of the album is outstanding. Besides theaforementioned songs, "Radioactive", "In the Hood," and "Y'All Been Warned"all have production that represents the Wu-family (RZA and True Master) andtheir talents and ideas. And, as is usual on the Wu-Tang albums, the lyricsare above average to the point where they are out of the range of the talentof almost all MCs today. The whole album features excellent wit, sharp flowand rhymes, and memorable production. The only reason the album doesn'tmerit a perfect score is because it isn't revolutionary -- it's what weexpect from a Wu-Tang album, no more, no less. Awesome lyrics andproduction, but nothing on Iron Flag is as mind-blowing as it was on 36Chambers which may be the only perfect rap album.
The only downpoint on the album is the interlude "Good Thing WeBrought the Glock". While the lyrics are pretty funny, the beat is slow andmuddy, and for some reason, Wu-Tang decided to throw "Good Thing We Broughtthe Glock" after every bar, getting very annoying very quick. Besides thatdark moment, the rest of the album is full of bright spots, unique songs,and sharp lyrics and production. Iron Flag is definitely worth your 14.99,Wu-Tang fan or not.
Reviewed by: Brett Berliner
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01