Various, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai – The Album (2000)
Most Wu-Tang fans haven’t been supportive of the RZA’s new musical direction. In recent years, he’s evolved from simulating soul loops on classics like “Protect Ya Neck” and chopping samples on “C.R.E.A.M.” to writing compositions with textures and tempo changes. Only the work of Cash Money producer Mannie Fresh and Timbaland is as cutting-edge, and neither of those beatsmiths have amassed as many classic songs as the Wu-Tang fountainhead. However, like the RZA’s last full-length project, 1998’s Bobby Digital, the Ghost Dog soundtrack that accompanies indie auteur Jim Jarmusch’s film is certain to be misunderstood by his acolytes. The music is weird and atonal, yet orchestral and highly inventive. On tracks like “The Man,” it changes at mid-point from an ominous synthesized romp to an ambient orchard laden with gunshots. Other songs like “Cakes,” a team-up with Kool G. Rap, mold chopped loops with the RZA’s synthesized extemporization. Unfortunately, the RZA also saddles Ghost Dog with a legion of Wu-affiliates, none of whom possess the charisma or originality of the core Clan. Their endless prattling about their supposed verbal, sexual and physical prowess distract from the RZA’s experiments. As avant-garde as the RZA seems to be, he’s still stuck on the same shit as his peers – most of who lack his unique vision. It leads to a frustrating confluence of excellence and mediocrity. Razor Sharp Records and Epic.