Masta Killa has been the quietest member of the loud and legendary Wu-Tang Clan. Though part of the original clay, he's the last one to drop a solo joint, though he's participated in everyone else's. So it's fitting that his No Said Date be the only solo Wu recording to feature all nine originals since the millennium turned.
There's reason he was the last: The passive-aggressive Masta Killa was always outshined by his more massive-aggressive Wu brethren. Hence, as you approach No Said Date you don't expect much beyond his infamous grim, monotone, elementary delivery. All you can hope for is that RZA retrieved some of those classic beats he lost in the Wu mansion flood of '96 for this release.
On first listen, though, you find that it's all there -- the ol' dusty Shaolin flick skits; the unconventional, musky armpitted beats; cryptic lyrics buried in Gods-and-Earths acronyms and metaphysical metaphors. It's classic Wu; all that and a bag of meth. Second listen: It's no fluke. This album shoulda come out somewhere between Ghost's Ironman and RZA's first Bobby Digital. It doesn't even fit in the current scatterbrained Wu culture, which seems stuck in an identity crisis.
Add on that Masta Killa does on this CD what other Wu members weren't able to do on their own CDs, like finally pull RAGU off -- Rae And Ghost United. Rae actually does pair with Ghost on his underrated Lex Diamond Story CD, and convincingly so on the cuts "Missing Watch" and "Clientele Kids." But while Rae was absent on Ghost's Pretty Toney CD, Masta Killa resurrects the union brilliantly on "D.T.D. (Do That Dance)," which employs a soul-vocal sample that paperclips a suspenseful horn ascension to a classic boom-bap drum track.
That ain't the freshest part of the CD, though. Those honors belong to the "Future" mini-track that features kids, presumably the children of Wu members, rhyming over a vintage RZA beat. It knocks so hard, you can't even call it cute. One of the kids spits, "I'm a snake cat from way back / that'll snap on ya unit / because y'all wack / and I need a snack" in a voice that can't be older than 8 years old.
No Said Date also succeeds in resurrecting ancient voices that sound off with no hints of rust or ash. In "Secret Rivals," Killah Priest, apparently on sabbatical for years, inscribes his usual heavy mental lyrics, spitting "I have a stance that's strong / when I perform / I transform / into a sandstorm / leaving one third of the land torn." On the same cut, Method Man -- not Johnny Blaze -- pipes in, "intellectual architect / bomb threat / to ya vegetable / Mr. Meth / you can get the left / and right testicles."
Masta Killa is no slouch on the effort either, with a flow that makes an argument that lyrics should dictate the beat in rap as opposed to the more modern dictum that it oughta be the other way around. His opening cut, "Grab the Mic," finds him rhymin' lazily over an even lazier-paced track that is no less compelling than any of his more hyper tracks, saying he's "also unique / it's so much heat / on the turntable wax / when I speak on a beat."
It's apparent that the reason this recording sounds so fresh is that there's no precedent for him as an artist. With the exception of Ghost and Ol' Dirty Bastard, all other Wu sophomore and junior solos were immediately branded slumps, but only because each of their debuts exhibited such groundbreaking material. Wu member U-God actually broke the momentum for this team's streak of home runs in first at-bats. Luckily, though, Masta Killa is right behind him to pick up the slack.