Iron Flag Was Not The Wu-Tang Clan's Finest Hour But A Nice Surprise Album | Review

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CLASSIC: 4 out of 6

Released: December 18, 2001

The Wu-Tang Clan released Iron Flag barely a year after The W, and it was also their least commercially successful release to date. The lead up to the release was very low-key with the seeming to come out of nowhere and very much as a surprise. That in itself was fun for fans, but the question was, is it any good and could it be better than The W?

Review

The album begins with the underwhelming “In The Hood”, while the next track “Rules” is definitely better. But still, it doesn’t sound very “Wu-Tang”, and seems to be more commercial and less underground. Like they’re going for a more radio-friendly sound. The third track “Chrome Wheels” has a distinct Bobby Digital sound with a synthesizer type of sound.

“Who the fuck knocked our buildings down? / Who the man behind the World Trade massacres, step up now” - Ghostface addressing 9/11 on “Rules”

“Soul Power” features none other than Flavor Flav from Public Enemy who sings the chorus and engages in a lengthy convo with Method Man during the outro about growing up in Long Island. Fans speculated that the reason for bringing in Flavor was to fill the absence of Ol’ Dirty Bastard who at the time was facing an increasing amount of legal trouble.

“Uzi (Pinky Ring)” is one of the better tracks and features way more actual Wu members than the previous tracks. Next, is one of Iron Flag’s highlights, the modern soul song sounding “One Of These Days” which features verses from Raekwon, U-God, and Inspectah Deck. It’s not produced by RZA, but Nick "Fury" Loftin.

Fact: Cappadonna was airbrushed off the cover for Iron Flag. Evidence of this appears in The Wu-Tang Manual where you see Cappa in a similar photo, whereas on the Iron Flag cover he’s missing.

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“Y’all Been Warned” is another highlight and like the previous track is not produced by RZA (although it sounds like it), but True Master. It has the sound that fans had come to expect and wanted to hear from the Wu. The following track, “Babies”, also has a sound that’s fitting for the Wu. It’s a low key ghetto story-telling song which begins with a great vocal from Madame D while Ghost, Rae, and GZA provide the verses.

“Radioactive” has a superhero comic feel both musically and lyrically. The beat is pretty cool and has some cool sound effects but they appear way too often and become irritating. The next track, “Back In The Game”, is produced by superstar producers, Trackmasters, and sounds really smooth for Wu-Tang. It works well with soul singing and piano loop and it’s much like the more soulful work of Ghostface’s 2000s work like Fishscale and More Fish.

 From the  Iron Flag  CD artwork inlay. Showing the new website for Wu-Wear Shoes ( www.wuwearshoes.com )

From the Iron Flag CD artwork inlay. Showing the new website for Wu-Wear Shoes (www.wuwearshoes.com)

“Iron Flag” is the second to last track and it has a distinct “classic” Wu-Tang feel circa 1997. Lyrically it sounds like that time also, with the Clan showing far more lyrical dexterity here. It’s a really nice token song, but it doesn’t measure up to those early albums, and even on this album it’s not the best track. The last track on Iron Flag, “Dashing”, is typical of this album, as it sounds more “happy” and funky.

Summary

Overall Iron Flag was nice as a surprise album and contains a small handful of great tracks. But mostly it feels lacking and doesn’t feature “enough” Wu members. The lack of lyrical firepower evident on The W only worsens on Iron Flag. Also, the beats are too simple or too funky and commercial. Not the Wu’s finest hour.

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How Classic Is Iron Flag by The Wu-Tang Clan?

Classic: None | Great: "One of These Days", "Y'all Been Warned", "Babies" | Good: "Rules", "Uzi Pinky Ring", "Radioactive", "Back In The Game", "Iron Flag" | Okay: "In The Hood", "Chrome Wheels", "Soul Power", "Dashing"
Alexander Ramalho