When Staten Island’s Wu-Tang Clan released their debut, Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers, hip hop suddenly found itself on its back, rubbing its jaw. Unfortunately, their subsequent discs evolved into double-sided, sprawling affairs with too much skim milk and not enough cream. The Wu collective assembled Iron Flag in less than a year–truly amazing when you consider the logistic nightmare of merely assembling nine rappers in one place–and the result of their efforts is an hour-long bomb that attacks from every angle and features some of the best turntable work on any Wu album.
Their first project recorded in New York since 36 Chambers, Iron Flag is distinctly a New York record, with many angry references to the assault on the city and America. “Who the f**k knocked our buildings down?/Who the man behind the World Trade Massacre?/Step up now” threatens Ghostface Killah. Perhaps the only things missing are the sociopathic ravings of Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Currently incarcerated for a number of offenses, ODB’s presence always added a sense of danger and unpredictability to the Wu’s albums. An inspired cameo on “Soul Power” from Public Enemy’s Flava Flav is well intentioned but falls short of Ol’ Dirty’s antics. Still, the album is tight and focused, and at a mere 12 tracks, there’s little filler. Producer RZA has mastered his craft like a Zen archer, and this arrow, fired from his deadly turntable, strikes the mark dead center.