Two years after Epic Records hastily booted Cappadonna back into the hip-hop underground despite the promise of his fine debut album, the rapper returned bitterly with The Struggle, his first indie release, which promised to detail his post-Wu-Tang struggle to exist. The hunger is definitely here, as Cappadonna has never sounded this driven (skip to the last track, "Struggle With This"), yet stripped bare of his Wu affiliates and major-label budget, he sounds sadly plain. It's not so much the rapping that comes across as run of the mill -- Cappadonna is a fiery MC with a firm grasp of drama and an emotive delivery -- but it's rather the production and songwriting that underwhelm. Fourth Disciple delivers a dark, moody Wu-esque production ("Blood Brothers") that longtime fans will savor, but it's unfortunately his only contribution. Elsewhere, Calogero helms the majority of the tracks, while Soulfingaz, Remedy, Quasi, and Big Mizza each produce a couple. These producers are surely capable talents, who seem to be balancing RZA's trademark Wu sound with their own individual styles; however, despite occasional moments of heat ("Role of a Lifetime," "Get Away from the Door," "Season of da' Vick"), the beats sound a little flat, partly because of the low budget. It doesn't help, though, that the songwriting is lackluster throughout. The tracks have serviceable hooks, but they aren't catchy at all. Moreover, the songs are simply arranged into three-minute verse-hook-verse structures that present no surprises whatsoever. Despite The Struggle's shortcomings, it does have its merits, above all an earnest tone. Cappadonna isn't posturing -- he's genuinely struggling here, as even a quick listen will prove, and he's firmly underground, as the low-budget sound makes all too clear. Despite his efforts here, however, the Wu expatriate can't match the verve of his previous albums for Epic, and relative to those albums, The Struggle sounds plain despite Cappadonna's heartfelt intentions.
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AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier
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