The default praise for late-period Wu-Tang albums has generally claimed that each project resurrects the vibe of the group’s heyday. Clan members haven’t exactly discouraged comparisons between past and present Wu by releasing albums with titles like Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2 and Tical 0: The Prequel, or songs like “Criminology 2.5” and “Mef Vs. Chef 2,” the first two tracks on Wu-Massacre, the much-anticipated collaborative album from Ghostface Killah, Method Man, and Raekwon.
Wu-Massacre marks a self-conscious return to basics for the three most talented Wu-Tang rappers. The terrific “Criminology 2.5” opens with machine-gun fire, the roar of helicopter blades, Ghostface shouting, and swinging disco strings before settling into the kind of minimalist soul loop that was RZA’s specialty in his glory days. The rest of Wu-Massacre follows a sturdy template of spare beats, tag-teamed rhymes, and cinematic atmosphere. On “Pimpin’ Chipp,” Ghostface offers a street narrative so dense, it takes multiple listens just to process it. Producer RZA connects the dots between the raw emotion of his seminal early work and the contemporary hyper-soul sound on “Our Dreams.” Wu-Massacre thrives on the chemistry between Ghostface Killah’s excitable ranting, Raekwon’s smoothness, and Method Man’s combination of raspy humor and middle-aged grumpiness. Though the tight, cohesive, filler-free 12-track project sometimes feels more like a super-sized EP than a proper album, it’s worth remembering that Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) changed hip-hop with just 13 tracks.