RZA as Bobby Digital: Review by Nate Patrin
RZA as Bobby Digital
First Avenue, 6/30/2008
Review by Nate Patrin
Photos by Daniel Corrigan
When the Wu-Tang Clan came to town last winter, they left RZA behind -- and their new album 8 Diagrams along with him. It was a frustrating but sadly unsurprising decision given the internal friction in the group, so any hopes to see the Wu-Tang’s mastermind MC/producer in person would have to hinge on the tour to support his new album Digi Snacks. The second RZA album operating under the semi-alter-ego Bobby Digital – a street superhero that RZA actually wanted to fight crime as in real life at one point (he even went so far as to get an armored suit and a bulletproof Suburban) -- Digi Snacks is a solid blend of his classic grimy soul and “digital orchestra” production techniques meshed cleanly with enough modern, anthemic club-rap dance beats to move things forward.
The RZA as Bobby Digital. More photos by Daniel Corrigan.
But that’s not exactly what the audience heard Monday night. Instead, they got a live group, opener/backup band Stone Mecca, which started off the night as a laidback Afro-Latin funk/R&B unit and ratcheted up the heat and intensity once RZA took the stage. There were a couple times where the band and the MC didn’t quite fall on the same page, but those were brief and forgivable; the closest it got to sounding dissonant was the experience of hearing RZA’s signature production style run through the wringer of live, rough-hewn funk and coming out the other end a different kind of heavy. It worked for Ghostface and Raekwon when they had solo sets with live bands in years past, and it worked fine here, too.
Especially once familiarity started settling in. The Digi Snacks material went over fine, but it’s still recent enough that Stone Mecca’s transformation of it wasn’t quite the revelation that, say, reworkings of “Fast Cars” or “Drink, Smoke and Fuck” (from 2003’s RZA-as-RZA Birth of a Prince) were – much less the Wu-Tang callbacks to “Tearz” and “Wu Tang Ain’t Nuthing Ta F’ Wit,” or “1-800-Suicide” from his early-mid ‘90s horrorcore side project Gravediggaz. And with RZA at the middle of it, it still made plenty of sense: whether spraying champagne on the audience, pausing to plug Belvedere vodka, or stalking back and forth spitting his sharp, harsh, halting but swift verses, it definitely felt like RZA could command any style and make it into his. By the time he switched near the end of his set from his classic material to Digi Snacks’ first single “You Can’t Stop Me Now,” the new stuff sounded classic, too.--Nate Patrin