It was '93 when the Wu dropped their first group album. This was also the introduction of a group of talented MCs, including Ghostface Killah, who is one of the best metaphorically rhyming lyricists out of the group. It's also safe to say, that next to GZA's "Liquid Swords", Ghostface's first album "Ironman" and his second album "Supreme Clientele" are two of the hottest solo projects from any Wu member. Ghostface seems to progressively become more and more commercial with each album he drops. As a whole, I'd have to say that out of his three solo albums ("Iron Man", "Supreme Clientele", and "Bulletproof Wallets") his newest release does not bring as nice a job on production and lyricism than his first two joints. However, that's not saying that this is a bad album at all though, because it's really not.
The production on this album is still pretty tight (no surprise with RZA behind the boards on five tracks), despite the commercial feel to the album as a whole. Also, despite a horrid cliché of rappers turning to softer songs with R&B support for singles (shown with the album's track, "Never Be The Same Again" and "Love Session") there is a good showcase of tight production. "Flowers", which features Method Man, is a fast paced track with some clever lyrical delivery from both Ghost and Johnny Blaze. However, this is probably the only song on the album with no real meaning behind the lyrics, just basically a show off of the witty topics these two can bring to a listener ("... I'm what you get when that Absolute and Hennessey mix - Ultimate! Ultimate! - Wu-tang, my whole click - Ultimate! Ultimate!..."). "Theodore" hits ears like some hype storybook shit with some fast paced bells and even faster paced lyrics. This track and "Strawberry" are the two sickest tracks on the album, I felt. "Strawberry" comes with the same kind of fast paced production, as "Theodore", but the hook in this song is just straight ridiculous. "Forest" should not be left unheard either, though. This song also has that storybook type feel to it, especially with the deranged perspective Ghost puts on all the old school children's stories he mentions ("...how was your day, have you seen the Prince? Haven't seen him since he pushed Humpty, the Dumpty fell off the fence...").
Some of the skits on this album had tighter beats then actual songs. For example, "Teddy Skit" had some ill, slower, spaced out music going on with Superb reminiscing of the old days, holding down his mentor. Also, "Jealousy", is a tight little interlude about... you guessed it... jealousy! The production isn't as deep in this one, but the "jealousy" chants by the females over Ghost talking about how "...it can get you killed, shot..." is still attention grabbing enough to keep you from skipping this 55 second track.
Of course fellow Wu members lend their vocals on this album. Method Man comes through with a song stealing verse on "Flowers". Also, this album basically features Raekwon on it, with "The Chef" appearing in almost half the tracks, similar to how Raekwon's "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx" featured Ghostface on half of it's tracks. This album could have used more special guests from the original Wu, tho. I would have loved to have heard Inspectah Deck or GZA on a track or two on this album, rather then Ghost's lackeys like Superb or slower paced guests like Carl Thomas.
The main problem with "Bulletproof Wallets", is that it's one of those albums that you have to listen to a couple times before you can get more then four songs to really grow on you. Too many songs, like "Maxine", "Ghost Showers", "Juks", and "Hilton", just don't possess that attention grabbing production as tighter tracks on the album. And the tracks that suffer from this sleepy production, make Ghostface sound more annoying and complex with his lyrics, turning too many songs into tracks you'll easily be able to fast forward through.
Also, Ghostface has never been considered an outstanding lyricist, even though some of his content is harder to figure out then what the song's are actually called (given the fact that the track list on the cover of this album is completely wrong). Ghostface is one of those artists who has to let their delivery and approach grow on you, which is why I'd suggest copping his first two solo albums instead of this one. "Bulletproof Wallets" tries too hard to be a party album, but suffers from a lack of banging tracks you'd actually want people to groove to.
Bootlegging also was cast over this album like a black plague. There were so many potential songs that were really tight, but got cut from the album due to sample clearances at the last minute (which may explain why the cover has all the wrong tracks listed on it). You may want to check out some of these songs, like "The Watch", "Good Times", "The Sun", and "Ice". If these songs could have replaced the weaker points of this album, "Bulletproof Wallets" could have easily been the hot banger of the year.
Overall, this is a solid album. At first listen, you can tell for the most part that this is more up-beat compared to his last two albums. The production is really tight on a lot of songs, and lyrically - well, you just have to feel Ghostface to begin with to like him. If you've never heard him before, I'd definitely recommend picking up his first album before this. But, "Bulletproof Wallets" is definitely an album not to be overlooked, especially for those devoted Wu-Tang fans. And next to Masta Ace's "Disposable Art", "The Blueprint", and "Stillmatic", this could possibly be the hottest commercial album to drop in 2001.