There was a certain time in recent hip-hop history when the Wu-Tang Clanand everything associated with it was pre-approved for critical success and the support of an ardent fan base – or, at the very least, serious consideration on both of these fronts. A line around the block to get Cappadonna’s autograph? I stood in it. Second tier Wu affiliate albums? Purchased. Of course, the center would not hold long after 1997 and the resultant Wu-Tang diaspora has diminished the influence of Clan central command-although it must be noted that certain members have thrived in this era of decline and transition. Which is where, one supposes, Hell Razah is hoping to come in. An original member of Wu disciple group Sunz of Man, Razah brings a lot of the aforementioned history with him on his official debut. Just a cursory inspection of the album and its track listing starts to re-place the listener in that all too brief period when the Wu-Tang cosmology kept heads spinning. Names like Bronze Nazareth and Killah Priest, references to the Maccabees and the opening track, which finds Hell Razah stoking his own self-mythology via Christian scripture, are all sign posts indicating where this album is coming from.
The sound of the album is steeped in all the right Wu influences as well. While none of the album’s 16 tracks approach the classic RZA productions of years gone by, all of them consistently nod to that gloriously gothic, dusty soul aesthetic. This is an impressive feat considering Child’s sound is being extruded from (at least) 12 different producers (big names as well as relative unknowns.) Bold-faced lyrical contributors also make their mark on the album. R.A. The Rugged Man comes off lovely in his hard-charging, name-dropping salute to his musical forebears on “Renaissance” and MF Doom (in Viktor Vaughn mode here) continues his positive cross-pollination with the Wu-Tang Clan on “Project Jazz”-which he also produced.
Hell Razah, for his part, turns in a solid performance, abetted greatly by his authoritative, stony voice. Which in turn helps him pull off grim lines such as, “I’m like embalming fluid in champagne glasses”. Plus, coming from a sector of the Wu Empire that was never exposed to gold-selling riches seems to have given Hell Razah a lingering hunger for success. There’s some detectable anger in his perspective and, well, most MC’s simply have more to say when there’s still something to prove. Renaissance Child is a significant bit of proof that Hell Razah may be able to make a name for himself and maybe even remove some of that tarnish from the battered Wu-Tang standard.