Artist: Prodigal SunnTitle: Return of the Prodigal SunnRating: 2 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Paine
The Sunz of Man debut, The Last Shall Be First remains a relative classic in the Wu spin-off catalog. With a strong RZA presence and notables like Tony Touch filling in, Killah Priest, Hell Razah, 60 Second Assassin and Prodigal Sunn made a large impression with their sophisticated knowledge and intricate lyricism. As the group broke off for dolo, Prodigal Sunn was left to behind the scenes work, while Priest and Razah proceeded to other ventures. After a lengthy absence, this is the Return of the Prodigal Sunn (Free Agency).
Immediately, the biggest problem in this release is that while it’s being billed as The Return…, it feels more like a platform for other artists. A song like “Procrastinators” suffers enough from its aimless subject matter and bland wordplay, but Free Murder, Yung Masta, and Bonzi J. Wells don’t help either. Most of the album is filled with lackluster guests that rarely match up in theme or skills to the lead. The one interesting collaboration should be the reunion of Sunn and 60 Second Assassin on “Godz People.” However, the song relies feverishly on a tone-deaf sang hook, and two very quick verses aligning poverty with righteousness in very simple terms. Efforts like these muddy up an album from an artist associated with enlightened content and wisdom. The one exciting moment that feels right is “Campaignin’,” a track that says little, but has that smooth mic control in the vein of Wu’s “It’s Yours.” Prodigal Sunn’s flow is at his best when he builds momentum and raises his voice, something Freeway may’ve learned from him.
Like the lyrical content, the album’s production misses many steps towards restoring Prodigal Sunn’s name. To its advantage, RZA did participate lightly. The Abbott’s new group, C.C.F. Division appears on “Brutality.” As one of the darker points in the record, this track uses classic grimy Wu percussion with a very Bomb Squad-esque shredding effect to really tease out the concept. Unfortunately, when the strongest lines are “N***a’s wearin’ wires / Beat a n***a down til’ his mouth wired,” any production may be too little. While the beats are often there, the choruses and hooks aren’t. The songs may be more structured, but the hooks rarely feel natural or worthy, given the underdeveloped content. Less can be more. One of the better produced efforts is “Reach Out” with Madame Dee. Simple keyboard and piano arrangements play very nicely against Dee’s harmonies and some of the album’s better story-rapping.
Return of the Prodigal Sunn does not announce itself with heralding horns. Rather, this is an album for purists in search of updating with a founding member of a great group. Prodigal Sunn’s intentions are wise, but the mortar without the bricks makes this album cave in quickly.