Tuesday, 4 March 2003

Album Review: Uncontrolled Substance

While Inspectah Deck has never been the most visible bee to buzz forth from the Wu Tang hive, he has always been a stable, jack-of-all-trades member. His mic skills, while not exemplary are matched by a certain proficiency behind the production desk. Thus his debut was not awaited with the same excitement that met his fellow Clansmen's debuts. Nevertheless, Uncontrolled Substance has a lot to like about it.

The Rza produced Movas & Shakers is undoubtedly the standout track. In fact, it’s one of the best Rza productions from the 1999-era. Until this point in their careers it was probably the most commercial party track the Wu had released. It’s Inspectah Deck’s commentary on the club scene, “We trip the light, ride to the rhythm of the night / skin tight honeys show me love at first sight / work light crazy legs non-stop body drop / my hip hop drop you to your knees in shock.” It isn’t insightful and nor is it particularly deep, but the beat is such that the lyrics don’t really matter.

One of the other highlights is The Grand Prix. The track is introduced by U-God as a “lyrical grand prix” and has U-God, Street Life and Inspectah Deck battle it out for a supposed three million dollar purse. Predictably it all ends in a draw. It would’ve been more interesting to have someone judge a winner and then hear the competitors argue the case. Elsewhere, the Pete Rock produced, Isaac Hayes sampling and Marvin Gaye inspired Trouble Man is a funky nod to the 1970s. Again, it’s all a bit out of character for the normally moody Wu Tang, and all the better for it.

Unfortunately Inspectah Deck cannot maintain the innovation for the entire album and there are several below-par moments. Lovin You with La The Darkman is particularly bland. The preposterously named, Hyperdermix is an attempt at Gravediggaz-style eeriness, but succeed only in sounding like a poor videogame score. The worst of the lot though is the totally uninspired 9th Chamber. The production by 4th Disciple is capable without being extraordinary but the rhymes are quite poor. The guests, La The Darkman, Barretta 9, Killa Sin and Street Life aren’t up to the job at all merely coming up with turgid, uninspired verses. It sounds like a poor track from the awful Wu Tang Killa Beez offshoot.

Inspectah Deck is not the most charismatic MC the world has ever heard, nor is he the cleverest, he seems to know his limitations and that seems to make his work all the more charming. All in all, while it never reaches the heights of the Wu Tang’s A-List’s debuts (Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Method Man etc), it is a debut to be proud of.

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