Recordings: Wisemen – Wisemen Approaching

As “”dead”” as the Wu-Tang legacy is declared to be, the hip-hop collective’s growing swarms of underground worker-bee offspring don’t seem to be getting the message. Latest case in point: RZA’s prodigious new “”Wu-Element”” (producer) Bronze Nazareth, who – as if the family tree hasn’t sprouted enough branches – has picked up three hitchhiking twigs off the streets of Detroit to form a fresh-faced mini-clan of his own, self-assuredly titled the Wisemen. Their mission is an admirable one, if overambitious: revive the raw, beats-rhymes-life purity of hip-hop’s golden era at the dawn of the ’90s.

Yeah, right. But Nazareth is one of the most promising hands behind the new age of always-stellar Wu beats, and his most recent – in a royal march of sawing strings, chirp-cut soul samples and jumping heartbeats – are no exception.

However, if these wide-eyed hopefuls want to come anywhere near the minimalist genius of the golden-age greats they so admire, they’re going to need a far better tutor – Nazareth, for all his musical prowess, goes bland and sloppy behind the mic, clumsily recycling the spiritual/militant flow and lyrical fodder of his forefathers. A student can’t surpass his master; likewise, Nazareth – whose 2006 solo debut The Great Migration showed some promise – is dragged down by amateurs, a second-grader in a first-grade classroom. Even top-notch guest listers Killah Priest, Vast Aire and GZA (crammed into the beginning of “”Associated,”” tripping over a messenger-trumpeting sonic gallop) offer no more than sloppy seconds. In this noble fight, the Wisemen may actually be digging the Wu grave that much deeper.

2 1/2 Stars