RSD 2019, blue smoke colored vinyl, limited to 1500**
RZA's first full-blown "RZA as RZA" solo album is not The Cure, the long-promised masterpiece that has gathered a great deal of mystique throughout the years. Hampered by a valley that's thankfully cleaved by some considerable peaks, Birth of a Prince is instead a durable addition to the Wu-Tang legacy.
By no means is it a masterpiece, and it's not even one of the best Wu-Tang solo albums -- but it has enough going for it to prevent most of the followers from losing interest. Following the all-but-completely unheard The World According to RZA -- an ambitious project featuring lyricists representing continents other than North America -- as well as arriving almost simultaneously with his contributions to the score of Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, Vol. 1, Birth of a Prince neither diminishes nor bolsters RZA's stature.
Along with an ineffective middle patch, some of the guest appearances hold the record back. The Megahertz-produced "We Pop" serves up a vicious dose of zapping funk, but one of the worst verses in the history of hip-hop ("All y'all can see is the back of my jersey/Blowin' in the wind goin' back to Jersey/Off to Brooklyn, left ya back in Jersey/I was doin' a buck-90 like a throwback jersey"), delivered by an uncredited up-and-comer(?), kills the effect.
The opening and closing thirds show RZA firing on nearly cylinder -- lyrically inspired, conceptually dense, sequentially tight. While many will no doubt see this as an unfocused record, those who take it on more of a song-by-song basis will value it as a respectable addition to RZA's body of work -- an addition with plenty to offer amid some weak tangents.