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Wu-Tang Clan, Kirk Franklin, Ghostface Killah

click to enlarge Wu-Tang Clan -  - 8 Diagrams Motown / Universal - Sounds like: A cloudy night of ass- - kicking and heartbreak -  - Short take: Rap's kung-fu chess masters - justify the hype, eventually -  - Fourteen years since it first "formed like Voltron," and six - since it did it last, the Wu-Tang Clan has somehow - hauled the pieces together for a swampy comeback - worthy of their legacy. And that's lofty praise. Despite a - rocky gestation, you can mark it down right now: 8 - Diagrams will be remembered as a Wu-Tang classic. - RZA's production is slightly less mean-streets than it - once was, but even with reverb and symphonic - instrumentation, his beats remain sparse and - devastating. The rap itself is exceptional  Method Man - ("Wolves") and Raekwon ("Take it Back") especially have - found a second wind in a big way. Don't expect ear - candy on first listen, but take it for a couple spins and - the reward is there.  Kiernan Maletsky -
  • Wu-Tang Clan

    8 Diagrams
    Motown / Universal
    Sounds like: A cloudy night of ass- kicking and heartbreak

    Short take: Rap's kung-fu chess masters justify the hype, eventually

    Fourteen years since it first "formed like Voltron," and six since it did it last, the Wu-Tang Clan has somehow hauled the pieces together for a swampy comeback worthy of their legacy. And that's lofty praise. Despite a rocky gestation, you can mark it down right now: 8 Diagrams will be remembered as a Wu-Tang classic. RZA's production is slightly less mean-streets than it once was, but even with reverb and symphonic instrumentation, his beats remain sparse and devastating. The rap itself is exceptional Method Man ("Wolves") and Raekwon ("Take it Back") especially have found a second wind in a big way. Don't expect ear candy on first listen, but take it for a couple spins and the reward is there. Kiernan Maletsky

click to enlarge Kirk Franklin -  - The Fight of My Life Zomba - Sounds like: Ballsy Christian youth- - group music -  - Short take: The hip-hop generation now has - its gospel -  - Unlike his contemporary Christian music brethren - spreading the word through watered-down pop hooks - and soft rock schlock, Kirk Franklin  the Kanye West- - like superstar of the gospel world  has crafted a career - around capturing the fire and brimstone of the pulpit - with the streetwise sounds of modern genres. On - The Fight of My Life, Franklin shows off this - songwriting prowess. It's especially evident on the James - Brown-meets-Prince funk jam "Little Boy," which layers - horns and handclaps into an arms-in the-air anthem. - Franklin also ventures into sultry sounds with "It Would - Take All Day" and hip-hop motifs on "Declaration (This is - it!)." If you're not into the gospel, The Fight of My - Life won't entice. Funky churchgoers, however, will - sway.  John Benson
  • Kirk Franklin

    The Fight of My Life
    Zomba
    Sounds like: Ballsy Christian youth- group music

    Short take: The hip-hop generation now has its gospel

    Unlike his contemporary Christian music brethren spreading the word through watered-down pop hooks and soft rock schlock, Kirk Franklin the Kanye West- like superstar of the gospel world has crafted a career around capturing the fire and brimstone of the pulpit with the streetwise sounds of modern genres. On The Fight of My Life, Franklin shows off this songwriting prowess. It's especially evident on the James Brown-meets-Prince funk jam "Little Boy," which layers horns and handclaps into an arms-in the-air anthem. Franklin also ventures into sultry sounds with "It Would Take All Day" and hip-hop motifs on "Declaration (This is it!)." If you're not into the gospel, The Fight of My Life won't entice. Funky churchgoers, however, will sway. John Benson

click to enlarge Ghostface Killah -  - The Big Doe Rehab Island / Def Jam - Sounds like: Gold-clad, roller- - skating gangsters with afros and sneers -  - Short take: Ghostface at the top of his game -  - Ghostface Killah's third release in the last two years is - decadent, colorful and triumphant  and that's only the - cover art. The Big Doe Rehab finds our hero - addicted to doe (Money? Women? Female deer? Who are - we to decide?), aware that he has a problem and maybe - even mildly concerned about it (probably not, though). - For all the self-awareness and atoms of regret, this is - still a Ghostface album, filled with the same bleak short - stories and shouted in that same emotive flow. He's - mesmerizing, whether it's on enormous rockers ("We - Celebrate") or '70s smooth ("Supa GFK"). This is nothing - new, really, but why change the formula when it's made - you a legend? Make no mistake: Ghostface is that. And - it's never been more apparent that he knows it.  - Kiernan Maletsky
  • Ghostface Killah

    The Big Doe Rehab
    Island / Def Jam
    Sounds like: Gold-clad, roller- skating gangsters with afros and sneers

    Short take: Ghostface at the top of his game

    Ghostface Killah's third release in the last two years is decadent, colorful and triumphant and that's only the cover art. The Big Doe Rehab finds our hero addicted to doe (Money? Women? Female deer? Who are we to decide?), aware that he has a problem and maybe even mildly concerned about it (probably not, though). For all the self-awareness and atoms of regret, this is still a Ghostface album, filled with the same bleak short stories and shouted in that same emotive flow. He's mesmerizing, whether it's on enormous rockers ("We Celebrate") or '70s smooth ("Supa GFK"). This is nothing new, really, but why change the formula when it's made you a legend? Make no mistake: Ghostface is that. And it's never been more apparent that he knows it. Kiernan Maletsky

  • Wu-Tang Clan, Kirk Franklin, Ghostface Killah

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