"It ain't to the point where the crew is breaking up, we just not fucking with The Abbott…If this album drops or we don't come to some solution, of fixing what we all need to be comfortable with and what we all feel we need to be represented with, if we don't' get that and it's just about the politics then, let it be what it be…I already feel like the [Wu-Tang minus RZA] album is gonna have to come out."
This was Raekwon back in November of 2007, a month before the release of one of the most divisive albums of the Wu-Tang Clan's career, 8 Diagrams. Moreso than the fans, it very publicly divided the Clan as Raekwon and Ghost in particular aired out grievances with the RZA about finances and more notably the creative direction of the album. While Rae and Ghost (and admittedly most fans) wanted a return to the gritty, dark production of the Clan's heyday, the RZA was pulling from the work he's done on his own with live instrumentation and more orchestral sounds. The riffs calmed down as the album got closer to release but for many, Rae's gripes were well-founded and fans such as myself wondered when that RZAless Wu-Tang album was coming.
Well it's been more than a year since Raekwon told an interviewer that Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang would be coming and we haven't heard a peep about it from anyone involved in the Clan though they've all been active since. There have been tours, Rae's been amping up the Cuban Linx 2 talk yet again (with some impressive joints leaked, to boot) and RZA's been back at work with the Afro Samurai franchise, scoring another movie as well as the game. Yet and still, there have only been non-committal references to another Wu album by various members, with or without RZA.
After playing around with the idea, and a few conversations with friends about the notion of other producers working on a Wu full length, I decided to get to work on my own idea of what it might sound like. Entitled Wu-Tang vs. The Abbott, I've selected 11 producers who have either already worked with the Clan in some capacity or whose sound I believe with compliment Shaolin's Finest:
DJ Muggs (1. General Principal, 2. Advance Pawns)
The RZA to Cypress Hill's Wu-Tang Clan, both crews have held allegiances with one another for quite a while, dating back to RZA and U-God appearing on "Killa Hill Niggas" on 1995's III: Temples of Boom. Muggs' dark, moody production fits the Clan's style, as is evidenced on these two tracks from his collaborative effort with GZA Grandmasters.
Pete Rock (3. The PJs, 4. Strange Fruit)
Another legendary beatmaker in the mix, Pete Rock's already worked with the Wu, producing more than a couple of bangers for Ghostface's solo album, and featuring clan members on each of his solo records.
DJ Premier (5. Jeru Da Damaja - One Day, 6. Crookyln Dodgers - The Return of the Crooklyn Dodgers)
The first producer I included in this list who I was actually surprised to learn that he hasn't yet worked with the Wu. As I'm typing this up I'm still looking around for anything at all, so if you find it, please drop a line in the comments to correct me. Premier literally defines that gritty sound of New York's early and mid-nineties golden era, using hard break loops and samples to craft Hip Hop classics. The Wu over a Premo track could be a match in Hip Hop heaven.
Mathematics (7. Ghostface Killah - Mighty Healthy, 8. GZA - Fam (Members Only))
While the RZA handled the majority of the Clan's production in the early days, there have been a few understudies in the crew: 4th Disciple, True Master and the next producer in the mix Allah Mathematics, better known as Mathematics. The influences of the Abbott are evident, but he's carved out his own niche over the years with solo joints and his own record company Quewisha.
Bronze Nazereth (8. Masta Killa feat. Inspektah Deck & GZA - Street Corner, 9. Bronze Nazareth, Solomon Childs & Byata - Street Corners)
One-third of the group Wisemen, Bronze Nazareth was invited into Wu's group of in-house soundsmiths back in 2002, and three years later he handled the bulk of the production on the compilation album Wu-Tang Meets The Indie Culture. One of favorite joints from it, "Street Corners" appears on Masta Killa's Made In Brooklyn. I included both since Masta Killa's version features clan members and further illustrates how well they can fit into someone else's production.
Carlos "6 July" Broady (11. Ghostface Killah - We Made It, 12. Royce Da 5'9" - Street Hop)
Even though he's apart of The Hitmen (Bad Boy's production team) he's one of the more underrated producers in the game. I got familiar with his work on Royce Da 5'9"'s album Death Is Certain, and his ability to balance soulful sounds with punch-you-in-face joints would suit the clan as a whole well.
Da Beatminerz (13. Tek & Steele - Tools of the Trade, 14. Heltah Skeltah - Prowl)
The sonic backbone of another iconic NYC rap crew, Boot Camp Click, Da Beatminerz have worked with many East Coast underground luminaries over the years, and considering their signature sound of hard drums and samples is synonymous with New York rap, it's not hard to imagine how a Wu-Tang/Beatminerz joint would sound.
Khrysis (15. Sean Price - King Kong, 16. Sean Price - Stop)
As a member of the North Carolina's Justus League (Little Brother's their most well-known export), his efforts were overshadowed by his fellow JL beatmaker, 9th Wonder. When 9th parted ways with Little Brother, Khrysis' star seemed to shine a little brighter with spots on several Justus League affiliated projects, including these two joints from Sean Price's Jesus Price Superstar. When one of New York's most respected lyricists refers to you as his "personal go-to guy", you know you're onto something.
Marco Polo (17. Heltah Skeltah - Insane, 18. Marquee (Instrumental))
His 2007 album Port Authority was like a love letter to those that miss that ol' New York boom-bap, and has earned the respect of spitters like O.C., Masta Ace, and Kool G. Rap. With more than a few bangers crafted for East Coast heavy hitters, he'd have no trouble cooking up something for the Wu.
Dan the Automator & Prince Paul (19. Handsome Boy Modeling School - Waterworld feat. Encore, 20. Handsome Boy Modeling School - The Truth feat. J-Live & Róisín Murphy)
Both are incredible producers in their own right, collaborating with damn near the entirety of the Hip Hop community between the two of them. Their team effort, Handsome Boy Modeling School, particularly the debut album So...How's Your Girl? produced some of the murkiest, dustiest and atmospheric tracks they'd put out to that point. Most tracks were co-produced, but these two were solo joints, Automator on the former and Paul on the latter.
Maker (21. The Beginning, 22. Broken Wing feat. Qwel, 23. World of Shadows feat. Thawfor)
The most unlikely out of all of these, simply because of the producer's visibility and connection to the Clan in comparison to the other folks in the mix. I got put on to Maker when I was in college with his production for the group Glue, and as a member of the three man DJ squad The Comeups (Side Note: At the time they hadn't decided on a solid name, so they went through a few. When I first went to a party they DJ'd they were going by The Lou Ferrigno Experience). I was regularly blown away by his soulful and atmospheric production. His use of dusty samples and solid drums to make dark soundscapes would fit the Wu like a glove, IMHO.
Bonus: I can't believe I didn't mention this before, but I snuck a gem onto the end of the mix, "State of Grace" by Raekwon, produced by none other than the RZA. One of the first tracks to leak from Only Built For Cuban Linx 2, it's proof positive that RZA still has it in him to do the sort of record that Wu fans are looking for. It's precisely the sort of thing I thought of whenever talk of OBFCL2 was bandied about, and represents that there's still hope, however slight for the RZA and the rest of the Wu to hash out their creative differences and make a dope album again.
D/L: Wu-Tang vs. The Abbott
Hope you enjoy it, and let me know who YOU think should be included if Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang ever sees the light of day.