Nothing perplexed me more in the world of music this year than the reaction to the new Wu-Tang Clan album, 8 Diagrams.
2007 has been undoubtedly the busiest year of my life, which explains my lengthy absence from posting on this site but also explains why I actually heard the new Wu record before I read anything about it (rare in this day and age, especially for a pop culture addict like myself). I listened to it the night I purchased it and then listened to it again and then again, and then one more time, so that I was going to sleep at 3 a.m. when I had to be up at the crack of dawn. I couldn't help myself. I felt like I was digesting a true masterpiece – an album that people will be talking about 10 and 20 years from now.
Then I went online the next to day to read what I assumed would be the dozens of glowing reviews, expecting an army of genuflecting critics kneeling before the alter of the Clan. Instead, what I found was a lot of harsh criticism, half-hearted praise and above all else lukewarm responses galore.
What on earth?
And so it is that the new Wu-Tang Clan album has brought me out of my recent hiatus, both to defend its honor as well as to proclaim it my Hip-Hop Album of the Year. (Note: I stop short of calling it the overall album of the year, although it is in my top five. I just liked the 2007 efforts by The National and Wilco too much to give the Shaolin Soldiers the top spot.)
Granted, it wasn’t a banner year in rap, but I still feel like I’m alone on an island in regard to this choice. Until the flurry of fourth quarter releases, I was content to give the title to Kanye, along with everybody else. I loved Graduation and honestly didn’t expect anyone from the trio of Wu, Ghost, and Lupe to strip Mr. West of the honor of Hip-Hop Album of the Year. But then I had my all-night Wu-Tang listening party and the decision was pretty much made.
But just to be sure I’ve given this record another 12 or 200 spins, broken it down piece by piece, then reassembled it. I’ve listened to it on trains, planes, and in automobiles. Over speakers and through headphones. I’ve given it every chance to fail, for my ears to hear the mediocrity I keep reading about. It’s not happening.