REVIEW: U-God – UGodz-Illa Presents The Hillside Scramblers

UGodz-Illa Presents The Hillside Scramblers

Artist: U-God

Album: UGodz-Illa Presents The Hillside Scramblers

Label: INDIEgo

Rating: 3 / 10

Reviewer: A to the L

Now this Wu-Tang cat is gonna have to work hard to convince people that he is worthy of their cash. U-God’s “Golden Arms Redemption” is generally agreed as THE most disappointingly awful of the Wu members’ solo sets. “GAR” was a letdown in all types of ways – of course it was recognised that both U-God’s performance on the mic, and his choice in beats were way below par, but couple this with the overall feeling that this poor album confirmed the end of the Wu-Tang dominance on the Hiphop market, and you’ve got a recipe for abject misery every time its name comes up.

Since then, U-God, like many of the Wu soldiers, lowered his profile and lay in the cut, reorganising himself and his allies for a new attack on the industry. His return earlier this year took many people by surprise, as he directly attacked RZA, ODB, and Raekwon by accusing them of causing separations between him and other members of the clan, even going as far as comparing his situation as a Wu-Tang Clan member to that of a modern-day slave. Many felt that this was a publicity stunt of sorts to promote this album, a suspicion alluded to by U-God himself in subsequent interviews – the question of course is – exactly HOW tight are Wu-Tang as a unit right now if one of the members feels he needs to diss other members in order to get on?

Tune in next week for the next episode of Wu-Tang: The Movie… in the meantime lets check out U-God’s Japanese fire-breathing dragon impression…

Similar to Kool G Rap’s “Click Of Respect” album, this joint sees U-God as the head of the squadron, appearing on the majority of songs, but usually letting his performance play second fiddle to the performances of the 10-deep Hillside Scramblers crew. The opening cut ‘Pain Inside’ features U-God, Black Ice, and Letha Face (who handles production on 13 of the 18 tracks) emceeing over a spooky west coast flavoured beat. Whether unintentional or not, U-God’s performance is overshadowed by the other two rappers, with Letha Face in particular impressing with his aggressive flow at times.

‘Lean Like Me’ and the later ‘Struggle Ain’t Got No Color’, are the only two tracks on the entire album that feature U-God go solo. The old criticisms from his Wu-Tang glory days are here – his flow still sounds forced, and his tendency to slip into five percent-ish ramblings do more to paint him as a mumbling fool, that a clever scholar. ‘Struggle Ain’t Got No Color’ also suffers from horrible production, with DJ Homicide’s computerized strings sounding cold and soul-less, and as a result U-God’s attempt at serious commentary is lost in the mix.

‘Destiny’ sees Letha Face and Inf-Black dropping rhymes over a glossy interpolation of Barry White’s ‘I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More’ that also rips off Roy Ayers well-worn ‘Everybody Loves The Sunshine’ on the hook. Where Ghostface got away with borrowing heavily from the same B.White track on ‘The Watch’, U-God and the Scramblers fall down because they again strip the soul out of the original source. By choosing to try to replay the sample, instead of actually USING it, the modern technology sucks the warm feeling out of the sound. The whole thing sounds too shiny, too new, too stiff.

‘Stick Up’ brings Inf-Black back on the solo tip, but with similarly disappointing results – his second rate Mobb Deep-styled imagery sits uncomfortably over Letha Face’s brooding backing track. As you work your way through the album its strikingly obvious that each track is usually a combination of average production, and the usual rah rah lyrics, and on the rare occasion where the beats are close to being on-point, the emceeing usually doesn’t elevate away from the run-of-the-mill. ‘Tell Me’ provides further evidence of this problem, although Letha Face and Inf-Black are joined on this cut by Beanie Sigel lookalike Desert Eagle, who sounds hungry on the mic, and may just move on to better things.

‘Chippin’ & Chop It’, the first single, tries desperately to recapture the feeling of ‘Gravel Pit’ (which itself wasn’t actually THAT good a single). However once again U-God and his homies fail – the rock guitar infused techno track rapidly grates on the nerves, and U-God’s attempts to sound ‘hard’ are as laughable for the fact that he’s only 5 feet and some change in his socks, as they are for his stunted flow.

Interest is piqued momentarily by the Letha Face solo cut, the club friendly ‘Booty Drop’ where crunchy synths meet a heavy knock-knock break, and ‘Spit Game’, where Autumn Rue proves that although she looks like Pink, she can definitely sing better than her, before things again descend into mediocrity with ‘Ghetto Gutter.’ Here, U-God tumbles over the plodding beat like a drunk man at chucking out time on a Friday night, and despite the valiant efforts of the lovely Autumn Rue to inject some soul, some spirit, and some quality into the mix, U-God ultimately pulls into into the mire of bollocks where the majority of the rest of this album already rests.

‘Take It To The Top’ and ‘KJ Rhyme’ reintroduces King Just to the world. For those who are unaware, King Just tried to capitalize on the Wu-mystique during their all powerful “36 Chambers” era, with his single ‘Warrior’s Drum’ and album “Mystics Of The Gods”. Now if he couldn’t make a dent in anyone’s wallets THEN, what makes him think that he’s gonna make an imprint in anyone’s mind NOW, when nobody could give a fig about Wu-Tang, especially when, if anything, his flow has regressed since 1994?

‘Gang Of Gangsters’ really sums up the entire album in a long and tiresome six minutes and forty six seconds. Empty threats, mindless rhyming, tired beats – its all here. Also here is the comically named Frank Banger (*snigger*) and the 4 year old sounding Ja-Mal who pledges to get “…movie cream so his rims can be bigger than movie screens.” You can almost vision him in the studio, teeth tightly clenched after being shot nine times in the face with a water pistol, 50 Cent-ing his little heart out.

Closing things out, ‘Put It On Me’ features U-God and Autumn Rue trying to recreate the Ja-Rule / Lil Mo chemistry on their track of the same name… and failing; ‘Here We Come’ is semi interesting, but only because of Letha Face’s eerie beat, and is quickly mentally renamed as ‘There They Go’; and ‘Prayer’ the final cut only answers my own pleading for audio order on four minutes and eight seconds when it ends.

It seems that without the backing of the Wu-Tang Clan, U-God is quickly exposed as just another rapper, and a pretty poor one at that. The fact that he’s chosen to surround himself with cats who possess equally questionable amounts of ‘talent’ (Autumn Rue and the underused Desert Eagle not withstanding), means that its easy to write this album off as the sub-standard dross that it actually is. I’d still buy this before the Method Man album, but that’s not really any kind of recommendation is it?

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