Let’s face it. If there are nine guys in your group, it’s gonna be hard for you to keep people’s attention. Just too much going on. Add in a plethora of solo projects, and you have the way I’ve felt about the Wu-Tang Clan since the mid nineties. After a smokin’ hot 1993 debut and that first salvo of excellent solo albums (“Only Built 4 Cuban Linx”, “Return to the 36 Chambers”, “Ironman”, “Liquid Swords”, “Tical”), it just became way too bothersome to follow the Staten Island crew’s exploits. It didn’t help that the material was largely forgettable-Ghostface’s sterling solo career notwithstanding.

Over the past couple of years, though, it seems as though the Clan members are exhibiting some measure of quality control, resulting in a cumulative career renaissance. Raekwon’s “Cuban Linx 2” was one of last year’s most highly regarded hip-hop albums. The perennially underachieving Method Man has finally put aside the acting dreams and started dropping hot verses again. Perfect time for those two to join forces with Wu MVP Ghostface for an album? Oh yeah.

“Wu-Massacre” may only be 30 minutes long, but it’s the most satisfying Wu-related album in at least half a decade, probably since Ghost’s “Fishscale”. Yeah, it’s a little TOO short, but it results in a musical tightness not generally associated with The Wu. Trimming the fat pays dividends, especially for Mef, who delivers his most lyrically astute album since Wu’s first effort. Tracks like “Mef vs. Chef 2” reveal that the man can rhyme his ass off when he wants to-and he has a way with a punchline that you’d usually associate more with his occasional duet partner Redman.

While RZA only shows up to produce one track here (the poignant, MJ-sampling “Our Dreams”), it wouldn’t be farfetched to say that the boardwork on “Wu-Massacre” is seriously influenced by the Bobby Digi’s production style. It’s consistently warm and soulful, even when the subject matter isn’t-take “Gunshowers”, which rides a sample of The Delfonics’ “La La Means I Love You”. The only head-scratcher is “It’s That Wu Shit”, the final track, which takes a sudden detour into modern-day production. It’s the album’s only for-sure skippable track.

Rae’s blue-collar rapping style tends to get lost next to the more ostentatious Ghostface (who is this album’s MVP, shining on the group tracks as well as his solo cut “Pimpin’ Chipp”), and with Meth’s lyrical resurgence, Rae is reduced to almost a guest-star on an album that’s 33.3% his (at least in name). Mind you, I’m not complaining-Meth and Ghost do more than hold their own. “Wu-Massacre” has a focus and a spark rarely heard all the way through on a Wu-related album. It doesn’t beat you over the head with guest artists (although it’s nice to hear Inspectah Deck again), and the skits are thankfully limited (there are only two). Considering my only beef with this album is it’s running time (and the last track), it’s safe to say that the Wu-renaissance continues!

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