RZA @ The Fonda: The Live Review That Almost Wasn’t

So if you’ve been keeping up with the site from the beginning or, like me, have to read all the old posts when you find a new site you might have noticed that I did not deliver on the Bobby Digital review I promised. This was for a number of reasons (busy with other shows etc.) but mostly it was because I was just so disappointed by the whole thing that I didn’t feel like writing about it.

It has become relatively popular to hate on The Abbot as of late and until last week I was staunchly opposed to this trend. Most of the negative words concerning the RZA these days has been pretty unfair. People didn’t buy/like 8th Diagram. Well I’m hardly surprised. Wu-Tang’s big hitters like Ghostface and Raekwon were badmouthing it publicly way before its release date and then there was that release date conflict between Ghostface’s album and 8th Diagram. There was talk about making a separate Wu album without RZA altogether which, like Tom Breihan pointed out, Ghostface and Raekwon basically did anyways. Then you have the collapse of the 8th Diagram tour ,in which the group refused to perform 8th Diagram songs, and you basically have yourself a recipe for disastrous sales and image.

I actually liked 8th Diagram. I thought it was a ballsy thing for The Wu to do. They hadn’t really evolved much from their original sound and god knows its not the same musical marketplace it was in ’92. The RZA recognized that they couldn’t make the same record anymore and struck out to mine new territory. The production was a little too clean for my tastes but the ideas were good and the verses were better than they’d been in yeeeeaaaaaars.

The talk that the RZA had lost his mind though abounded and I’m sad to say I’m finally beginning to believe it. Whether its hawking fine vodka or setting up a hip hop chess website I hate to say that I think The Abbot has lost his way.

First of all, Stone Mecca opened the show up and was TERRIBLE. I’ve been asked to describe them a few times and I really don’t know how. They were a kind of R&B-Funk hybrid monstrosity that crooned bland lyrics about loving on ladies and whatnot. I expected the opener to be a little off, as wu-affiliates tend to be, but this was just another thing entirely. As it turned out, Stone Mecca was to act as The RZA’s backing band as well. Not a great sign.

This move was in keeping with RZA’s new musical direction. Live instruments, funk, hippy-ish but its not at all what I’d expect from a Bobby Digital set. I was left wondering “Where’s the digital?” The new material seemed out of place next to the old stuff with all of the singing going on, I felt like there was more from the backup singers than Bobby Stills at points (especially drama.) Its also harder to talk about gangster themes over these types of beats and I found myself thinking that The RZA’s hypemen seemed fairly ridiculous yelling at what was predominantly indie kids about representing our hood and everything. At a certain point they need to come to terms with the fact that their audience isn’t the same that it was when they started out. When the RZA was talking about being on the streets with this record I couldn’t help but think that it was more likely that he’d just been holed up in his Hollywood Hills home making beats and might not have even set foot in a grocery store recently. (see “straight of the block” especially the french part)

This show was really hard to wrap my head around and I hope wu-tang can pull itself together but I think at best right now they could be a touring band playing all their old hits (which is what I call an album tour with no album songs) That’s my best case scenario right now and it makes me pretty sad.

you can check out a couple of the songs i mentioned at http://www.myspace.com/rza

**also, it should be said I was pretty intrigued by wu-chess when I heard its announcement but I heard you have to pay. Also RZA, I never got my founder’s email when it launched. come on man why are you snubbing me with your automated e-mail lists.**

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