Note : 'Manchild' was recently released, but Virgin Records had it pulled off shelves claiming that Shyheim is still under contract with them and is unable to release material on Wu-Tang Records. It's unknown when the LP will be properly released again.
A few years ago it seemed we never got enough Wu-Tang related product, they always seemed to drop a small amount of the albums promised but since we hit 1999 its like anything with the Wu-tang logo is dropping every other week. So this fortnight it’s the turn of Shyheim to drop his 3rd album, yes number three, while core Wu members have only reached their second album this Wu-fam member is hitting 3rd base.
For those of you who were taking hits of ya hip hop 5 long years ago in 1994 you’ll remember this lil 14 year old kid who was down with the Wu, he was Shyheim AKA the Rugged Child. If you checked his debut you’ll know it wasn’t bad, he had some nice production on tracks like ‘Here come the horns’ and ‘On and on’ and although his voice hadn’t broken he showed some maturity. A few years later his second album was received with mixed reviews, but it did bring us the lil Wu-Tang epic that was ‘Young Godz’ and the very good ‘What makes the world go round’. Now ever since we heard Shyheim on ‘Soul in the hole’ and ‘Co-defendants’ we realised he had come of age, not many child stars make it into their prime before they are abandoned by the fickle industry. Shyheim has stuck with it, polished his style and honed in on his skills, no longer the rugged child he is ‘Manchild’.
This album is really gonna be Shyheim’s major attempt at most hip hop fans taking him seriously and not as a novelty act anymore so the album blasts open with ‘I declare war’. A lil manic piano production gives Shyheim that energy to spit lines of fire and serves as a reintroduction to Shyheim as an adult. His skills have improved, we all know in his younger years he could break down scenarios vividly and he continues to do this on ‘Crime Story’ and the title track ‘Manchild’. This is one of the album’s most powerful tracks as he breaks down what he’s gone through over the years and how he’s tried to keep his head up. Tekeitha adds a haunting hook to the very dope Spanish guitar loop.
He doesn’t rely heavily on his infamous 8 man associates but Method Man joins the album for ‘Am I my brothers keeper’, a dose of Wu isn’t just brought with his verse but the Oriental beat accompanying this track touches back to the original Wu sound. He even adds an eastern feel by sampling Brian Mcknights ‘I belong to you’ on ‘One life to live’, which takes the original mellow love track and thugs it out.
‘Furious Anger’ is one hell of a song, not only does it establish a great connection between 2 emcees it reminds us once again that the road Big L would have traveled a prosperous road if he hadn’t met his untimely death. Riding an ill loop, the 2 go verse for verse with interwoven samples from Samuel L. Jackson’s infamous ‘Pulp Fiction’ quote.
If I’m gonna talk about the low points, well first off I was surprised how short it was, the 13 full tracks are only around the 45 minute mark, but its quality that counts right? . That’s true but some of the tracks go back to the sound that he displayed on ‘Shit Iz real’ which was directed towards the radio play but he seems better and more comfortable with what he does best on tracks like ‘I declare war’ and ‘Furious anger’. Examples of average tracks come in the form of ‘Unconditional Love’, which is dedicated to his Mother, its not that bad but its no ‘Dear Mama’. ‘Twin Glocks’ is also disappointing, as its lackluster production just drowns Shyheim out. I couldn’t wait to get to the end of the album to hear ‘Cease-fire’ which is subtitled as Wildflower 2000, now we all know how amazing Ghostface’s take on this was but not only does the lazy production (Courtesy of who I think is RZA) take it down but Shyheim just seems like he can’t be bothered to put any effort into it.
Overall this is a very decent album and definitely worth picking up. Maybe it was the move from Virgin to Wu-Tang records, great production, or maybe its just Shyheim’s maturity in voice, flow and lyricism but ‘Manchild’ is definitely his best album to date.