RZA: The Man with the Iron Fists

    Twenty years as one of the top producers and rappers in the world apparently gets you connections. RZA, the legendary rapper and producer behind the Wu-Tang Clan, must have dialed every number in his Rolodex for his latest project. This year’s “The Man with the Iron Fists,” RZA’s directorial film debut, is a kung-fu splatter-fest featuring names like Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, Eli Roth and even Quentin Tarantino, who has a producing credit. Fittingly, the soundtrack features artists that are even more expansive than the movie itself. All of the (living) Wu-Tang Clan members show up throughout, of course. Then there’s Talib Kweli, Pharoahe Monch, Freddie Gibbs, M.O.P. and Pusha T. Kanye West even drops a solo track, and that’s only about half of the features.

    From the first track it’s obvious RZA is still as unpredictable as ever. On “Baddest Man Alive,” he teams up with the Black Keys for a weirdly (but coolly) compressed and crunchy track that somehow delivers despite its historically problematic rap-rock label. It’s a characteristically fuzzy, lo-fi Black Keys’ track, and RZA even adopts the same vocal filter Dan Auerbach uses, giving the track a consistency despite the different vocal deliveries. Contemporary soul group The Revelations gets its own track, the mournful “I Forgot to be Your Lover” — an irresistible slow jam that evokes the great soul records of the 1960s and reminds us that we’re still in Tarantino’s shadow. And this is all before Chinese pop star Francis Yip suddenly shows up to belt in her native tongue the ballad “Green is the Mountain.”

    Mostly, though, this is hip-hop, and hip-hop as a movie soundtrack has an awkward kind of incongruity to it. It may be difficult for you to imagine Pusha T and Raekwon rapping about selling crack in “Tick, Tock” smoothly complementing anything you would see in this kung-fu epic. But that’s OK. As a stand-alone musical piece, “The Man With the Iron Fists” is basically a new Wu-Tang album with other interesting tracks interspersed throughout. But we’ll take it: The world needs more Wu-Tang anyway. (8/10)

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