For those of you not familiar with RZA, he is a rapper and producer who didn't attend class when they began teaching 'gangster, bling and bitches are cool.' He was probably sat at home playing chess, watching a Kung Fu movie, or perhaps even practising Kung Fu. He's that kind of guy, despite being from "the mother fucking streets of Shaolin." He is a pioneer of quality rap, and respected by most as one of the best and most diverse producers in the hip-hop industry.
This particular soundtrack is for 'Afro Samurai: The Resurrection' (out on DVD in April 2009), a Japanese anime starring Samuel L Jackson and Lucy Liu. The story follows a black samurai in Japan, fighting for his status as a god by obtaining and maintaining the number one headband in the country. It's artistic, hard hitting and violent. So is the soundtrack.
'Whar' features Kool G Rap, Ghostface Killah, Tash Mahogany and the man himself, RZA. The lyrics from the rap stars are calculated and aggressive. The beat is simple, but infectious. It's difficult not to bounce your head up and down as it rolls along, destroying all in its way.
'Nappy Afro' comes out of the blue. It's just not up to the level of all the other tracks on the album. It sounds commercial. Whoever told 'Boy Jones' to rap needs their head examining. 'Arch Nemesis' is another low point on the album; the beat simply doesn't work. In fact, it jars on the ears, and could definitely have been excluded from the CD.
'Kill Kill Kill' does exactly what it says on the tin. Rugged Monk flows expertly over the bass heavy beat, and the whisper-laden chorus is creepy. These are the kind of songs that subwoofers are designed for. Another strong album song is 'Bloody Samurai.' The variety of the rapping and the sung chorus, in addition to the hard hitting beats that bless the album throughout, make this a great track.
At ten minutes and fifty seconds, 'Take the Sword Pt. III' is easily the longest song on the album. Despite this, it's simply a succession of rappers rapping over the beat. It's mostly good, but ends with the strongest of the lot, Bobby Digital (aka RZA) lacing some mind numbing rhymes on the track.
The album adds a rock element with 'Dead Birds.' The track takes a heavy metal beat, almost like AC/DC; and Killa Priest, Prodigal Sunn and Shavo do their things over the top.
Overall, this is exactly the kind of album that rap purists want more of. There is no mention of bling, or sexism, or anything else that rap has become synonymous with lately. That being said, there are violent lyrics - if you've seen the movie or the series, this won't surprise you in the slightest. Even if you haven't heard of Afro Samurai though, this is a great album and another example of just why RZA is rated so highly.