Wednesday, November 16, 2011

U-God's Resume 5 Year Plan Review

The Results of the Plan

So today we'll do a long, in-depth retrospective on U-God and how he emerged from the RZA's five year plan. No big deal. And also: so booooorrrrring. So grab a seat, or better yet find a link outta here.

Let's go.
On one hand I would say U-God came out of the five year plan just great! In just a few years everyone in America learned the name U-God. A lot of people could even recognize his voice on songs that played on the radio and on BET. He was in music videos and living the high life, I’m sure. I would even speculate that he had established a legitimate fanbase! Plus, all the money and celeb connections and travel and doing what he loves and getting money for it…we would be so lucky to live like that. U-God was on top of the world! Good on him.

On the other hand I would say that his fame might have had nothing to do with his own abilities, but his connection to a very popular super group with a bunch of people in it. So the coattails argument may have come up in his head, whatever that is. The Clan had several breakout stars who sold millions of solo records – and he wasn’t one of them. Everyone knew and loved Method Man, ODB was becoming America’s sweetheart, GZA, Ghost and Rae were being listed with the great MCs, and RZA was being praised for his vision and production. U-God was one of the odd men out. Shit, the only ones left without a solo at this point were the RZA, Deck, Masta Killa, and U-God. But RZA was known for his production and Deck had established himself as a force behind the mic. So it was really only U and Masta Killa at this point. In fact U had that Black Shampoo track working against him, so things were also kind of a mess for him. So...that's got to be a lot of stress for Baby U (I hate that name BTW).

It’s impossible to discuss the Wu without comparing the MCs. In the old days, people would sit around and list their favorite members of the Clan, discuss their best lines, and then talk some shit about the rest. U-God always got bad word of mouth in my circles. Why? His style is on par with Rae and Ghost, right? His flow is rugged and on point, and he’s mad creative (who else rhymes  like that consistently?). I think the answer has something to do with the randomness of his spitting. Rae and Ghost also do stream-of-consciousness rapping, and they get pretty random, but they both also kill back-and-fourths, and rap the shit out of a story rap. U-God always stuck to the stream-of-consciousness flow and never really changed up or tested other styles (maybe except for Black Shampoo), plus he got mad random a lot...sometimes it sounds like he’s just listing words. In fact, that’s what he sounds like a lot of times, and nobody likes that. It’s nonsensical and impossible to relate to.

I wonder how U-God would have done if he had been a solo artist instead of a member of a collective. Would he have sold units? I doubt it. I would argue that early on the Wu was the Method Man show featuring the rest. Ghost and GZA held their own as well but I don't know if the rest of the Clan had the charisma to get signed. Let's be honest, ODB probably wouldn't have had a chance (due to his weirdness) and the rest of the clansmen are pretty odd (if you've never heard of the Wu). I've noticed that promotion from early Wu appearances was dominated by Meth and Ghost, sure the other guys were around but everyone knew who to put the mic in front of during freestyle time. In fact, it's tough to even find early promotion featuring U-God, I don't know what he was doing, but it wasn't promotion. And that's the thing, U was playing a supporting role even in promotion, in his first five years he established himself as a relief from the headliners within the Clan. Everyone pays to see Meth and Ghost, and U-God spits some dope lines between them and (1) breaks things up (2) is quick about it (the four-bar killer) and (3) makes the headliners look better.

So what’s the point? The Tort Team started this series to prove that U-God’s lousy reputation was unearned, and now it looks like we’re agreeing with it. We’re not. Dumping on U-God is like saying that Flava Flav is the worst member of Public Enemy. Of course that’s true, but Chuck D is a headliner and Flava plays his part to make the group better. Chuck D as a solo act would have been incredibly dope, but Chuck D with support from Flava Flav changed music history. Similarly, the Wu-Tang Clan would have been dope with or without any specific member, but the fact that they all form together as one makes the overall unit better. When U-God comes in to spit, he usually improves the project, and in some cases he dominates. We’ve seen that many times in his first five years of songs, and we'll see it again. The Wu is stronger with U.

As we continue this series we’ll take a look at U-God’s solo albums, and we'll also see the entire Clan slide from the premier name in hip hop, to veterans trying to hold their spot in the face of Kanye, Eminem, and 50 Cent. The end of the five year plan also marks the end of the Clan’s glory days. Sure there are lots and lots of good things to come, but it’s a long, long, long slide from the top to where we find ourselves right now. Today the Clan has low sales, infighting, and solo albums that get almost no attention. In 1998 I would buy anything even loosely associated with the Clan, today I even skip some major releases. There has just been too much Black Shampoo and not enough Bells of War. Things are very different indeed.

Series Score 0/10


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