Wild Mercury Sound
The Wu-Tang Clan's "The Heart Gently Weeps"
I was talking the other day to an Uncut writer, a hip-hop expert actually, about what a disappointing year it had been for rap in general. I suppose I'm a bit of a dilettante in this area, but looking back over the year's blogs, I can find scant reference to much hip-hop at all; certainly nothing to match the Clipse and Ghostface Killah albums from last year.
Maybe, though, the traditional end-of-year rap arrivals might change that. There's purportedly a new Jay-Z record on the way; after last year's fairly lame "Kingdom Come", I guess we have to hope that his recent good one/bad one pattern continues. And then, intriguingly, there's the long-awaited Wu-Tang Clan reunion.
With the obvious exception of Ol' Dirty Bastard, the Clan are rumoured to be at full strength on "8 Diagrams", unlike so many tours of the past few years when you'd be lucky if a couple of the core members actually turned up. The Clan's reputation seems to have faltered of late, with only the mighty Ghostface continuing to make records that bear comparison with their mid/late '90s pomp; I'd say "Fishscale" is up there with GZA's "Liquid Swords" (which he's going to perform live at a Don't Look Back gig next year, incidentally) as the best Wu solo album (I nearly wrote "solo joint" there, in that inexorable slide into hip-hop vernacular that can afflict normally sensible writers when they operate outside their comfort zone).
But anyway, to get to the matter in hand, a tune has leaked, Ghostface is all over it, and you can listen to it here. "The Heart Gently Weeps" is slouchy, dense and pretty fucking great; the sample-spotters in the office are claiming it's built around Ramsey Lewis' version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps".
If anything, it reminds me of solo Ghostface tracks more than peak Wu: a massive soul sample, some slightly wonky remapping of the melody; a curious sense of romance that surfaced on "All That I Got Is You", for one. There isn't that menacing trudge that defined so many great Wu tracks, a vague hypnotic quality. But it's still got a lot more edge and richness than pretty much any rap record I've heard this year. In the unlikely event the album turns up, I'll let you know how the rest measures up.
In other news, John Robinson has just put "Skunk (Sonically Speaking)" on. I don't think music actually gets any better than this.