When Zilla first told me about the concept behind Wu-Tang Pulp, I thought it was a terrible idea. The Wu canon is inviolate. There is no way to improve a song like “Bring the Pain” when Method Man raps as smooth and stellar as nutella. A banger like “Fish” is better than even pot-encrusted Branzino. Over the last two decades, “B.I.B.L.E.” has achieved old testament import. So how can you top or even come close to matching the greatest rap crew of all-time?

The answer is that you don’t even try. Wu-Tang Pulp is something different altogether. It taps into the purest ideas behind art. The flash of first inspiration before you’ve even had a creative awakening. It channels the childhood moments when you remember having your mind blown. For many of us, that came with Wu-Tang. They are the archetypal group whom you never forget hearing for the first time. Wu Tang Pulp is about paying homage to that idea, but also a way of wringing new life out of the source material. It is re-imagination — closer to the Dirty Projects debt to Black Flag on Rise Above than one of those covers albums that you hear once and promptly forget.

Am I biased? Of course, I’m fucking biased. This site’s logo borrows from Mathematics’ original design. Zilla used to write a column for the site and still occasionally contributes. There are even beats from staff samurai, Son Raw “(Mystery Inside”), and inner sanctum a-alikes, Floodwatch (FCK YR LF (Verse 32)” and Disco Vietnam (“Homeless Swordsman”). But I was prepared to hate this. Instead, I love it. This is for me and anyone who believes that Wu Tang is forever. The depth of imagination and meticulousness paid to every song is like a 27 inch Zenith — believe it. If a song has four verses, there are four verses here, with everyone trying to summon the feel but not the necessarily the form of the original.

The carefully curated guest appearances ensure consistency and respect to the original. BLK HRTS and Elucid channel the Bellevue fury of vintage ODB. Ethel Cee makes people need Aleve almost as much as Meth. But special bong bong bongs go to the Wrecking Crew: Zilla Rocca, Has-Lo and Curly Castro. These three are probably the most unfairly unsung crew in indie rap right now. They understand how to maximize their personal strengths and compensate for each others’ weaknesses. Most importantly, they call each other out on what’s bullshit and what’s not.

Nor are the Wrecking Crew remotely as dogmatic as you might imagine from guys re-working the catalog of a group whose apex arrived a decade and a half ago. Half their time is spent debating the merits of Lil B. Don’t believe his Twitter rants, Has is occasionally very based. Trust. And on Wu Pulp, they’re at their most supreme. Zilla’s writing flickers with sleazy tales of deadbeats and down and out villains of detective fiction. Has is meditative and intricate with the style of a man who can’t hear the word “swords” without thinking about liquid. While Castro outright steals the show, turning in most the growling, weird and best bars that I’ve ever heard from him.

Wu Tang Pulp isn’t the future, but it’s not the past. It’s another chamber, set apart from the previous lineage, but inextricably tied. You don’t need this for summer school. That already ended. But it’s never a bad time to do the knowledge and understand the math.

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