Wu Tang & Friends: Unreleased is almost exactly what it presents itself to be, though a more accurate title might be Friends & Wu Tang. Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, Raekwon, U-God, RZA, GZA, Masta Killa and Method Man all turn out in some shape or form in this collection of revived outtakes, remixes and re-remixes. But they do so in equal ratio with lyricists such as Shyhiem, Solomon Childs and Allah Real. So many MCs batting verses back and forth (peppered with the now-obligatory handful of "skits") infuses the whole thing with a mix tape vibe and with only mixed results. What ultimately prevents the whole record from devolving into a complete mess is DJ/producer Allah Mathematics fleshing out of the old signature Wu sound (sparse beats complemented by a piano or orchestral hook) with better gear and a significantly developed technique. It still can't hold a candle to Ghostface's Fishscale or RZA's more nuanced soundtrack work. But then again it's not really trying to. Wu's triumphant if wounded return may ultimately come in the form of their upcoming album, 8 Diagrams, slated for release this summer. In the meantime, Unreleased exposes the Wu's softer side. "King Toast Queen" might be the most soulful, tender ballad to ever reference "tig ole bitties."
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