Iron Flag

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Iron Flag
Studio album by Wu-Tang Clan
Released December 18, 2001
Recorded 2001
Genre Hip hop
Label Loud/Columbia/Relativity
CK 86236
Producer RZA, True Master, Mathematics, Nick Fury, Trackmasters
Wu-Tang Clan chronology
The W
(2000)
Iron Flag
(2001)
8 Diagrams
(2007)
Wu-Tang Clan solo chronology
Ghostface Killah:
Bulletproof Wallets
(2001)
Iron Flag
(2001)
GZA:
Legend of the Liquid Sword
(2002)

Iron Flag is the fourth studio album by American East Coast hip hop collective Wu-Tang Clan, released on December 18, 2001 on Loud Records. It was certified gold in sales by the RIAA. Iron Flag served as the group's second lowest-selling album (687,000 copies), as their record label, Loud, was on the verge of shutting down at the time. The album debuted at No. 32 on the Billboard 200 with 153,000 copies sold in its first week of release.[citation needed] It has sold 470,000 copies in the United States as of April 2014.[1]

Overview[edit]

A gap of four years separated both the first and second albums, and the second and third albums, with those gaps being filled by a myriad of solo projects. It was consequently surprising to many when the Clan reformed for a new LP only a year after their well-received 2000 album The W, with only RZA's Digital Bullet and Ghostface Killah's Bulletproof Wallets released in between. The album's promotion was also quite low-key, particularly in comparison to the fanfare, hype and expensive videos that had preceded the release of the group's two previous albums. Unusual for hip hop albums of the time, Iron Flag only consists of twelve tracks (which contain thirteen songs plus a short introduction) with no interludes or skits between songs. This is similar to The W, which only consisted of thirteen tracks (though unlike Iron Flag it did feature interludes and skits).

Album cover[edit]

The album cover is inspired by the Iwo Jima flag-raising photo from 1945, one of the most famous photos of all time.[citation needed]

Absences[edit]

Ol' Dirty Bastard's contributions to the Wu-Tang's group albums continued to decrease with each successive album: after being one of the main stars of Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers, he was by far the least prolific Clan member on the group's follow-up album Wu-Tang Forever. He then made only one appearance on The W (on the song "Conditioner") due to being engulfed in legal troubles; legal troubles which in the year separating The W and Iron Flag had only gotten worse. Consequently, ODB does not appear on Iron Flag at all, making The W the final Wu-Tang album to feature him. He does, however, appear on 8 Diagrams posthumously.

Another absentee is Cappadonna: after being merely a very close affiliate of the group on Wu-Tang Forever, he appeared to have become absorbed into the group itself as a full member on The W (tracks with his contributions no longer being marked as "featuring Cappadonna"). In the year following the release of The W Cappadonna had become dissatisfied with being in the group (RZA has said he felt unhappy that people outside of the group did not respect him as much as the original nine members) and had also been in dispute with the group over the revelation that his manager Michael Caruso was a police informant.[2] Whatever the case, he only appears once on the album in a bridge for the hidden song, "The Glock". Although, it should be noted that he appears on the original cover of the album but was air brushed out. The original cover appears on the back of the "Wu-Tang Manual" by RZA. This suggests that he might have been removed from the album in post production.

Revisiting old sounds[edit]

Rather than stick to one unified sound for most of the album's tracks, as with previous Clan albums, much of Iron Flag returns to many different individual sounds and styles that the Wu-Tang had visited over the years:

  • "Chrome Wheels" uses the synthesizer-heavy "digital orchestra" sound of RZA's Bobby Digital In Stereo (RZA also raps in the song as his Bobby Digital persona, and Bobby Digital is name checked in the bridge (sung by Madame D). "Dashing (Reasons)" also uses the Bobby Digital sound, with the Digital trademarks of the off-kilter keyboard riff, a high-pitched portamento sine wave synthesizer, and prominent synthesized hi-hats.
  • "Radioactive (Four Assassins)" is firmly in the gritty, foreboding style of the Wu-Tang's debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers): it has a recurring dialogue sample from a martial arts movie, short and indistinct one-note samples buried in the mix, a quickly looping ascending bassline, and hard, pounding drums. The beat also incorporates the sound of shuriken throwing blades, which are "launched" with a single B note, before the sound effect pans from right to left then back again before dissipating. The repeated horn blare at the start of every bar is also reminiscent of Public Enemy, particularly "Night of the Living Baseheads."
  • "Iron Flag" has all the hallmarks of the Wu-Tang Forever sound: string samples coupled with subtle keyboards and a sped-up vocal sample (a technique which was pioneered by the RZA on Wu-Tang Forever but which by the time of Iron Flag's release had been widely imitated by many, most notably Just Blaze and Kanye West).
  • "Uzi (Pinky Ring)" recalls The W's murky blaxploitation-influenced atmosphere with its dramatic horn riffs and gritty drums. "Soul Power (Black Jungle)" is also reminiscent, albeit to a lesser extent, of The W.

Wu-Elements contributions[edit]

Many of the remaining tracks sound little like much the Clan had done before, and little like each other.[according to whom?] This may be a result of the collaborators involved: all of the above tracks are produced by the RZA, whereas of the remaining six, only two are RZA produced. Two are produced by in-house Wu-Elements producers True Master and Mathematics:

  • True Master's "Y'all Been Warned" is a simple one-bar composition with a funky guitar riff over a steady rhythm and a deeply buried piano sample. The advance copy of Iron Flag featured a slightly different version of this song which featured a synthesizer line over the top of the guitar riff. It is not known why this was changed for the final release.
  • Mathematics' "Rules" features a pattern of one bar repeated three times then a one-bar turnaround. The repeated bar features four samples layered in a vaguely call-and-response structure: an initial horn sample is answered by a James Brown grunt, which is answered by a two-chord piano sample, which is answered by another James Brown grunt. The horn sample is highest in the mix and effectively "leads" the other samples. The turnaround bar has two descending chords with a high-pitched picked guitar riff, bringing the four-bar pattern to the start once again. With its intro of scratched samples of various Wu-Tang lyrics, this track can be viewed as reminiscent of hip-hop producer DJ Premier's distinctive style.

Though these two producers are known for their distinctly traditional Wu-Tang sound, these two beats do not particularly resemble much of the Clan's previous output, at least not as a group. If anything, they resemble some of the sharp 1970s soul-influenced funk tracks from the Wu-Tang's 1999-2000 solo albums (U-God's "Dat Gangsta" and "Soul Dazzle" from Golden Arms Redemption, Inspectah Deck's "Word on the Street" and "Movers and Shakers" from Uncontrolled Substance).

Outside collaborators[edit]

There had been some discontent among fans and critics when The W included non-Wu Tang affiliated hip hop crossover superstars Busta Rhymes and Snoop Dogg. Nevertheless, Iron Flag also makes use of non-Wu artists well known in their own right: Flavor Flav of Public Enemy provides the chorus for "Soul Power (Black Jungle)", and "Back in the Game" features both pop-rap hitmakers Trackmasters and soul legend Ronald Isley. Nick "Fury" Loftin also produces "One of These Days", sampling Donny Hathaway's rendition of Ray Charles' "I Believe to My Soul" for its hook and using a fairly generic coupling of muffled horn stabs and soul guitar.

"Back in the Game" opens with the same vocal sample ("if what you say is true, the Shaolin and the Wu-Tang could be dangerous!") as 36 Chambers, but it sounds little like anything the Clan had done before; it also sounds little like well-known Trackmasters hits of the time, such as R. Kelly's "Fiesta" (apart from its use of bongos). A delicate piano melody is layered over a heavy organ vamp and a stumbling, complex rhythm.

A number of critics, such as the NME's Ted Kessler and The Onion A.V. Club's Nathan Rabin, saw Flavor Flav's appearance as a way to temporarily fill the clownish role of the absent Ol' Dirty Bastard. Flav sings the call-and-response chorus of "Soul Power (Black Jungle)" with U-God, and has a long conversation with Method Man in the song's outro about growing up in Long Island, where Flav hails from.

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic (69/100) link
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars link
The A.V. Club (favorable) link
Blender 4/5 stars link[dead link]
Entertainment Weekly (B+) link
The New York Times (favorable) link
LA Weekly (favorable) link at the Wayback Machine (archived August 23, 2002)
Pitchfork Media (7.5/10) link
Robert Christgau (3-star Honorable Mention)[3]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars 2002 at the Wayback Machine (archived June 18, 2008)
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars 2004
Stylus (A-) link

Track listing[edit]

# Title Performer(s) Songwriters Producer(s) Samples/Notes
1 "In the Hood"
  • Intro: RZA
  • First verse: Masta Killa
  • Second verse: Inspectah Deck
  • Third verse: Streetlife
  • Chorus: Suga Bang Bang
Elgin Turner, Robert Diggs, Jason Hunter, Patrick Charles RZA
  • Contains a sample from "In My Heart" as performed by Barbara and the Browns
  • Contains a sample from "Intro: Salute to Thames" by Dennis "Johnny" Hawksworth
2 "Rules"
  • Intro: RZA
  • First verse: Ghostface Killah
  • Second verse: Inspectah Deck
  • Third verse: Masta Killa
  • Fourth verse: Streetlife
  • Fifth verse: Raekwon
  • Chorus/sixth verse/outro: Method Man
Dennis Coles, Corey Woods, Elgin Turner, Jason Hunter, Clifford Smith, Ronald Bean, Patrick Charles Mathematics
  • Contains a sample from "You've Got the Papers (I've Got the Man)" as performed by Ann Peebles
3 "Chrome Wheels"
  • Intro: 12 O'Clock, RZA
  • First verse: 12 O'Clock
  • Second verse: RZA
  • Third verse: Raekwon
  • Fourth verse/outro: Prodigal Sunn
  • Chorus: Madame D
Corey Woods, Elgin Turner, Robert Diggs, Vergil Ruff RZA
4 "Soul Power (Black Jungle)"
  • Intro: Flavor Flav/Raekwon
  • First verse: Raekwon
  • Second verse: Masta Killa
  • Third verse: Ghostface Killah
  • Fourth verse: U-God
  • Chorus: Wu-Tang Clan/Flavor Flav
  • Outro: Method Man/Flavor Flav
Lamont Hawkins, Dennis Coles, Robert Diggs, Corey Woods, Elgin Turner, Jason Hunter, Clifford Smith RZA
5 "Uzi (Pinky Ring)"
  • Intro/first verse: U-God
  • Second verse: Raekwon
  • Third verse: Ghostface Killah
  • Fourth verse: RZA
  • Fifth verse: Method Man
  • Sixth verse: Inspectah Deck
  • Seventh verse: Masta Killa
  • Eighth verse: GZA
  • Chorus: Wu-Tang Clan
Lamont Hawkins, Dennis Coles, Robert Diggs, Corey Woods, Elgin Turner, Jason Hunter, Clifford Smith, Gary Grice, Clarence Reid, Russel Jones RZA
6 "One of These Days"
  • First verse: Inspectah Deck
  • Second verse: Raekwon
  • Third verse: U-God
  • Chorus: Inspectah Deck/Raekwon/U-God
Lamont Hawkins, Nick Loftin, Corey Woods, Jason Hunter, Patrick Charles Nick "Fury" Loftin
  • Contains a sample from "I Believe to My Soul" as performed by Donny Hathaway
  • Guitar: Eric "E.BASS" Johnson
7 "Y'all Been Warned"
  • Intro/first verse/chorus: Method Man
  • Second verse: RZA
  • Third verse: Inspectah Deck
  • Fourth verse: Raekwon/Masta Killa
Robert Diggs, Corey Woods, Elgin Turner, Jason Hunter, Clifford Smith, Derek Harris, Patrick Charles True Master
  • Contains a sample from "In My Heart" as performed by Barbara and the Browns
8 "Babies"
  • Intro/chorus: Madame D
  • First verse: Ghostface Killah
  • Second verse: Raekwon
  • Third verse: GZA
Dennis Coles, Robert Diggs, Corey Woods, Jason Hunter, Gary Grice RZA
9 "Radioactive (Four Assassins)"
  • First verse: GZA
  • Second verse: Raekwon
  • Third verse: Method Man
  • Fourth verse: Masta Killa
Robert Diggs, Corey Woods, Elgin Turner, Gary Grice, Clifford Smith RZA
10 "Back in the Game"
  • Intro/second verse: Method Man
  • First verse: Inspectah Deck
  • Third verse: GZA
  • Fourth verse: Raekwon
  • Fifth verse: Ghostface Killah
  • Chorus: Ron Isley
Dennis Coles, Corey Woods, Gary Grice, Jason Hunter, Clifford Smith, Samuel Barnes, Jean-Claude Olivier Trackmasters
11 "Iron Flag/The Glock"
  • Intro/first verse/chorus: Raekwon
  • Second verse: Masta Killa
  • Third verse: Inspectah Deck
  • Beat Switch
  • First verse: U-God
  • Second verse: Ghostface Killah
  • Third verse/chorus: RZA
  • Bridge: U-God, Cappadonna
  • Fourth verse: Masta Killa
  • Fifth verse: Raekwon
Lamont Hawkins, Robert Diggs, Corey Woods, Elgin Turner, Jason Hunter, Dennis Coles, Darryl Hill RZA
  • Contains a sample of "The Handwriting Is on the Wall" as performed by Ann Peebles
12 "Dashing (Reasons)"
  • Intro/first verse/chorus: Inspectah Deck
  • Second verse: GZA
Robert Diggs, Jason Hunter, Gary Grice RZA
13 "The W" (Bonus track)
  • First verse: GZA
  • Second verse: Method Man
  • Third verse/chorus: U-God
  • Fourth verse: Raekwon
Robert Diggs, Lamont Hawkins, Jason Hunter, Gary Grice RZA

Album singles[edit]

Single information
"Uzi (Pinky Ring)"
  • Released: December 18, 2001
  • B-side: "Y'all Been Warned"
"Rules"
  • Released: January 22, 2002
  • B-side: "In the Hood"
"Back in the Game"
  • Released: April 23, 2002

Album chart positions[edit]

Year Album Chart positions
Billboard 200 Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums
2002 Iron Flag 32 6

Singles chart positions[edit]

Year Song Chart positions
Billboard Hot 100 Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks Hot Rap Singles
2002 "Uzi (Pinky Ring)" - 93 16

References[edit]

  1. ^ Paul Grein (April 3, 2014). "New Wu-Tang Clan Album: The Case for the World's First $5 Million Album". Yahoo Music. 
  2. ^ Jennifer Vineyard (2000-05-26). "Wu-Tang Clan Fires Manager After Village Voice Expose". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 2007-03-14. Retrieved 2012-06-22. 
  3. ^ "CG: wu-tang clan". Robert Christgau. Retrieved 2012-02-25. 

External links[edit]