‘8 Diagrams’ tells group’s story
It can be difficult to find rappers with creative content, but Wu-Tang Clan delivers unique songs and sounds in their latest album “8 Diagrams.”
While many of their old albums, like “Iron Flag” and “The W,” preach about the reality of street life and the grind of getting by, “8 Diagrams” puts the gang mentality behind them.
“8 Diagrams,” which was released Tuesday, Dec. 11, is a 14-song album complete with a DVD. The album itself is classified in stores and on iTunes as hip-hop/rap while past albums were labeled only as rap.
The DVD is a combination of classic live Wu-Tang concerts and interviews from members of the clan on how the rap game has changed.
It has been six years since Wu-Tang’s last release; not counting a live album that came out in 2004. This is their fifth full-length album since their start in 1993, and all five albums have been produced by RZA.
In this album RZA lays down symphonic string and horns in songs like “Rushing Elephants” and “Unpredictable” and also uses the familiar Beatles guitar sample “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante, assisted by George Harrison’s son Dhani Harrison, plays the sampled Beatles chords in Wu-Tang’s “My Heart Gently Weeps.”
Hip-hop music is often about having something real to say. In “8 Diagrams,” Wu-Tang tells their story and raps their struggle rather than trying to create an image and prove themselves as thugs like they did in their old albums.
What makes Wu-Tang stand out from so many other artists is their ability to take music with emotion – like jazz, funk or soul – and mix it into a hip-hop beat. The song “Life Changes” uses heavy, blues-filled female vocals to flow with the deep rap base. This is the hip-hop sound that is more present in “8 Diagrams” than in any of their previous albums.
“8 Diagrams” has many of the Wu-Tang trademarks, such as recorded dialogue before a lot of the songs as an introduction of what’s to come. If the album did not have any of those it would be hard to classify it as Wu-Tang. Though the group is very New York street, they are also very unique. Their creativity, compared to other rappers, is not cliché.
The album lacks soul with the void of missing member ODB – one of Wu-Tang’s most odd but also most essential components.
The song “C.R.E.A.M.” from 1993s “Enter the Wu-Tang, 36 Chambers,” represents making money, and “growing up on the crime side.” ODB shows his toughness with his raspy rap style and creates a presence in the group that will never be mimicked.
Wu-Tang Clan has matured over their almost 15-year career, and this album is more of a reflection in terms of the song content.
Special guests on the album include Erykah Badu on “My Heart Gently Weeps,” funk legend George Clinton on “Wolves,” and Sunny Valentine on “Gun Will Go.”
These artists contribute greatly to the slow songs in the second half of the album. Singing has a strong presence in “8 Diagrams” and definitely gives the music a softer sound. With the clan rapping less about gang unity and more about “the hip-hop renaissance,” like in the song “Weak Spot,” the softer sounds only seem natural.
Wu-Tang is growing up, which is noticeable even in Method Man’s voice. Though RZA was the only member to have a solo track, “Sunlight”, Method’s sound of authority, is far from faded.
Understanding “8 Diagrams” depends on whether one is really able to understand Wu-Tang. They have never been typical, and in no way do they change the bizarre sound they’ve always had in this album.
Hip-hop has changed since the group’s start in 1993, and Wu-Tang hangs with the times. However, appreciating the change in the Clan will determine the success of the album.
Wu-Tang Clan is playing an all ages concert at the Fox Theatre on Tuesday, Dec. 18, presented by the Colorado Daily and Radio 1190. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. and tickets are $40.
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Clare Lane at Clare.Lane@colorado.edu.