Artist: Masta KillaTitle: No Said DateRating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Matt Barone
Maintaining a level of obscurity amongst his more outgoing Wu-Tang Clan brethren, Masta Killa has remained the legendary group’s silently consistent representative. Appearing on the majority of his fellow Clan members’ solo projects, a guest verse from this monotone-pitched MC is like a stamp of pure Wu-tang authenticity. While Clansmen like Method Man and The RZA have gained acceptance by stepping out from behind the large ‘W’ shadow, Masta Killa has demonstrated strong loyalty to the Clan and its devoted fans, making the long-overdue release of his official solo debut No Said Date all the more important for the future of the Wu.
This album is finally seeing record store shelves after years of speculation and release delays (which the Masta cleverly nods to by titling it No Said Date). Rather than recruiting outside producers and guest artists, Masta Killa has kept it all in the family, utilizing vintage Killa Bee production from The RZA, True Master and Mathematics. Listening to this overall solid album will inspire warm sentiments of the days when the Clan formed like Voltron on each individual project. Masta Killa, while possessing a notable amount of skill, has never been able to grace the masses with classic quotables, so having the Wu ride shotgun on No Said Date is a smart move, one that proves to be the album’s strongest point.
When left by his lonesome, Masta Killa does show and prove nicely, kicking more of his complex wordplay with the same deadpan pitch he has flaunted since 1993. Tracks like “Last Drink”, “Grab The Mic”, and “Digi Warfare” keep it simple, placing pounding instrumentals behind MK as he fires his verbal darts. Speeding up the haunting strings heard on Outkast’s “Skew It On The Bar-B” (which featured Raekwon), RZA injects some newfound energy into Masta Killa on the title track, rhyming with a quicker and effective delivery. He even displays his softer personality traits on the soulful and romantic “Queen”, bringing listeners back to the days when Ghostface compared his women to Camay.
While he proves that he is fully capable of pulling off a solo LP, Masta Killa is still at his best alongside his Shaolin counterparts. Raekwon and Ghostface flex their metaphorical muscle on the blazing head-nodder “D.T.D”, while Killah Priest and a rejuvenated Method Man damn near short circuit their respective microphones over True Master’s crackling pianos on “Secret Rivals”. Sampling from the classic TV sitcom ‘Sanford and Son’, RZA concocts a light-hearted and funky track for himself, Masta Killa, and the glorious return-to-form ad-libs of Ol’ Dirty Bastard to shine on “Old Man”. With it’s laidback ruggedness courtesy of the aforementioned True Master, though, “Silverbacks” may be the album’s audio climax, with Masta Killa, Inspectah Deck and the Gza all in top form serving up one of tightest all-Wu bangers in years.
For lifelong Wu-Tang supporters, listening to No Said Date is the audio equivalent to an 8-year-old’s Christmas morning. Don’t get it twisted, though, because this disc packs enough sure-fire winners to please anyone looking for a solid rap record. Playing the album straight through without any skipping is made easy thanks to the consistent stream of musical heaters. While some may become bored with Masta Killa’s subdued vocal nature, he gives his fans exactly what they wanted, resting comfortably in his Killa Beehive. No Said Date most likely will repel off of the Billboard charts, but it should momentarily silence skeptics who have written of the Wu-Tang Clan as fallen legends in the rap game.