RZA

The Man with the Iron Fists [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]

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Offered the opportunity to direct a karate flick -- and with all the freedom, funding, and flash that an executive producer like Quentin Tarantino would allow -- Wu-Tang leader and kung-fu fanatic RZA must have been like a kid in a candy store. Still, the soundtrack to his directorial debut is classic, restrained RZA, as sneaky, restrained, and cool as the Wu when Bobby Digital first landed. After a rap-rock opener that's James Bond big with RZA and the Black Keys reuniting after their collaboration on the Blakroc album, this soundtrack gives up highlights that resist gimmicks or going over the top, with fellow Wu man Ghostface Killah leading M.O.P. and Pharoahe Monch down the darkest of alleyways ("Black Out") while RZA and Kanye West co-produce the latter's "White Dress," a sassy soul strut that suggests what 808s & Heartbreak would have sounded like had it been released by Stones Throw. Even more surprising is how the deceptively small "Get Your Way (Sex Is a Weapon)" from Idle Warship (Talib Kweli and RES) rises to the top like one of the best cuts off an old Lyricist Lounge comp, and when Corinne Bailey Rae delivers the deepest of blues on the standout "Chains," it's RZA the compiler at his best, dropping a surprisingly successful cut in the fourth quarter, between futuristic B-movie sounds ("Just Blowin' in the Wind" by RZA and Flatbush Zombies) and a slithering bit of murder music ("Tick, Tock" from Pusha T, Joell Ortiz, Danny Brown, and the Wu's Raekwon). Add some classic Stax sounds ("Your Good Thing Is About to End" from Mable John, as reserved and wicked as Uma Thurman's Kill Bill character), Ghostface, Wiz Khalifa, and Boy Jones in RZA's warped and wonderful vision of an end title track ("I Go Hard"), and the massive punch of "Built for This" with Method Man, Freddie Gibbs, and Streetlife, and this soundtrack stands tall in the man's wide-reaching discography, offering fans a Wu-flavored vision of a world where both the damned and cursed still swagger.

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