Hell Razah

Ghostface KillahWyclef JeanMethod ManEarth, Wind & Fire (music group)

ALBUM: "Renaissance Child" (Nature Sounds)

Nearly 10 years after his arrival on the hip-hop scene as part of Wu-Tang spin-off the Sunz of Man, Hell Razah finally drops his full-length solo debut, "The Renaissance Child."

The Brooklyn rapper helped create a futuristic sound on Sunz's 1998 release, "The Last Shall Be First." Favoring deep philosophical lyricism over punchy one-liners, Sunz were positioned as Wu-Tang's heirs apparent, with enough clout to land guest shots by Earth, Wind and Fire and Wyclef Jean on their debut. Although "The Last Shall Be First" went on to sell a respectable 350,000 units, the group fell victim to Wu-Tang oversaturation and more or less vanished.

After that, Hell Razah kept his chops up with appearances on several Wu-Tang albums, including Ghostface Killah's "Supreme Clientele" and Method Man's "Tical 2000."

Finding a home on Nature Sounds, the progressive Brooklyn label responsible for the 11th-hour revival of Masta Killah's career, Hell Razah is poised to establish his relevance. From the hypnotic head nod of the title track "Renaissance," featuring Tragedy Khadafi, Timbo King and RA the Rugged Man, to the nostalgic memory lane flow of "Project Jazz," featuring Talib Kweli and Victor Vaughn, Razah's debut consistently and credibly updates the classic Sunz of Man sound.

Best of all, Hell Razah still steers clear of rapping about partying and other genre clichés, instead focusing on tales of ghetto reality and empowerment—a refreshing concept in today's hip-hop landscape.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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