Review : INSPECTAH DECK - Manifesto
PitchforkInspectah Deck was never the most commercially viable member of the Wu-Tang Clan, and 1999's Uncontrolled Substance certainly wasn't a five-mic classic. But during a worrisome stretch for the Wu-Tang Clan that year, he seemed among the most likely to survive and even thrive if the Clan ceased to exist as a functioning group. Largely self-produced and forgoing any A-listers (U-God doesn't count), the album harbored no delusions about what it was meant to provide-- Deck ripping through one simile-laden verse after another with beats that stayed out his way. But since then, his fall-off has been dramatic, as he's rattled off increasingly less-noticed solo drops and sounded wholly uninspired on higher-profile Wu-related releases (remember "keep it fresh like Tupperware" from 8 Diagrams?). It was easy to view last year's "House Nigga" as some sort of nadir, Deck spending five minutes dissing Joe Budden for his Internet fame. This was the guy whom even GZA was scared of following on "Triumph"?
A more positive approach is to see the song as Deck's attempt to find his place in a galaxy of faded NYC stars; the wise ones realize they're not competing with Drake. At the outset, Deck seems aware of what could constitute a solid 2010 release on his part. Though the ringside samples of "The Champion" are beyond played, he still lets off rounds of impressively pugilistic internal rhyme. Meanwhile, the Obama-quoting "Born Survivor" continues the low-key revival of Cormega and reveals the image Deck wants to create for himself here, a grind-oriented street soldier not all that far removed from latter-day dead prez albums. They called it "revolutionary but gangsta," while Inspectah boasts, "Still I'm quick to pop it off/ With the model broads or the Molotovs."...full text
PrefixmagFor Manifesto, his fourth LP, Wu-Tang alum Inspectah Deck teams up with some familiar names and faces; Cappadonna, Raekwon, Termanology, and Cormega lend some lyrics, and Alchemist and the Rebel INS, among others, are behind the boards. “This album isn’t about bashing hip-hop’s younger generation or hip-hop’s commercialism,” he says, “Manifesto is a celebration of 20 years in the game and still going strong as a valued asset to the culture.”
Perhaps unfortunately, the album comes out just a week before the release of a more notable post-Wu record: Ghostface, Raekwon and Method Man’s Wu-Massacre. Manifesto is released on his own Urban Iconz Records and distributed by Traffic Entertainment Group....full text
SlantmagazineIt's a shame that, having snapped some of Wu-Tang's most memorable stanzas, Inspectah Deck still operates in the shadow of his colossal Clansmen. With his searing opener on "Triumph" and scene-stealing contributions to "Protect Ya Neck" and "C.R.E.A.M.," as well as a hatful of phenomenal cameos on his Wu brethren's solo efforts, Deck became renowned for his tongue-in-cheek namedropping, his elaborate wordplay, and lucid flow. But for all his talent as an emcee, his standalone releases have been met with lukewarm critical response and ice-cold commercial reception, including 1999's criminally undervalued Uncontrolled Substance. Assuming executive production duties on the record and roping in familiar Wu affiliates for some much-needed marquee power, Manifesto is Deck's latest stab at emerging from that immense W-shaped shadow.
Once again, though, it seems Deck is disoriented without his Staten Island militia, struggling to sustain energy or engagement when working independently. These tracks, of which there are far too many, suffer universally from bland production and too often from uninspired lyricism. Manifesto's middle sector limps through a series of lifeless beats bereft of both grit and groove, hitting rock bottom with the tacky metal guitar of "Serious Rappin'" and the irksome chipmunk refrain of "Crazy." The rest of the songs are built on forgettable piano and string samples supplemented by deep synths and littered with cameo appearances that are predominantly unremarkable.
Following last year's exceptional Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...Pt. II, on which Deck proved his mettle with three outstanding contributions, it comes as no surprise that Raekwon is summoned to endow Manifesto with his Midas touch. The pair exchange solid deliveries on "The Big Game," but they're wasted on a grating electronic loop and AC's woeful vocal hook. The cheap production work deflates the track completely, and such problems continue later on in the album, underlining the absence of an omnipresent producer to provide The Manifesto with a consistent sound....full text
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