"The Keynote Speaker" is the fourth studio album from Wu-Tang Clan emcee U-God. The album features guest appearances from Method Man, GZA, Inspectah Deck, Styles P, Elzhi and others as well as production by RZA, DJ Homicide, Leaf Dog and others. The album was released on July 23, 2013 through Soul Temple Records.
1) Vortex Of My Mind (featuring Vivian Scarlett) - Skit.
2) Keynote Speaker - The first track on the album has a hard-hitting instrumental by Leaf Dog. The beat is full of aggression and energy, with some cinematic horns, epic strings and head-nodding drums. U-God (who has been spitting fire recently) murders the track, rapping in his unique voice and flow about how he is going to step out of the shadows and shine like some of his more popular Wu brethren. This shit is dope. If the rest of the album sounds this good then "Dopium" might have some competition for U-God's best album.
3) Heads Up (featuring Jackpot Scotty Wotty and GZA) - The beat on this track, provided by DJ Homicide, has a throwback feel reminiscent of some of Wu-Tang's older tracks. The beat is raw and all three emcees rip it. Scotty Wotty (who bodied his verses on "Dopium") sets it off nicely before U-God and GZA come in and shut it down. GZA sounds reinvigorated on here and spits with some of the authority that has been lacking in his last few guest appearances. Lyrically he is as sharp as ever, but lately his flow has been way too laid-back. That is not the case on this song as he spits
"This craft of trade with a sharp bladeThe last time these three emcees were on a track together was on the Wu-Banger "Stomp Da Roach" off of "Dopium", so its good to hear them share the mic again. This track is fire.
A double-edged sword gives light and dark fades
Turn murderous rap only means I killed it
Up close and personal, Wu-Tang we filled it
Mic masters, hip-hop's hallmark
The big bang of rap when the center was all dark
Then came the spark and we begin to rhyme
And shine light on the world in the form of art"
4) Inferno - Skit
5) Fire (featuring Jackpot Scotty Wotty and Method Man) - The instrumental on this track, courtesy of Steve Reaves, has a darker, boom-bap feel to it and its dope as hell. These are exactly the kind of instrumentals I want to hear U-God spitting over. Scotty Wotty sets off the track again and keeps up his track record of murdering his guest appearances. Golden Arms and Tical come next, with Method Man having the strongest verse on the song. I'm really feelin' this track. Definitely a Wu-Banger.
6) Fame (featuring Styles P) - Leaf Dog comes through with another cinematic instrumental that features epic strings, hard boom-bap drums and a vocal sample on the chorus. The beat is ill and both Baby U and The LOX's Styles P to rip it, spitting some braggadocio bars about their quest for fame.
"Let him speak, he's so misunderstoodLyrically it's nothing mind blowing, but his flow and mic presence sound better than they have in years. U-God is out to prove something with this album. This shit is fire.
Let him speak, the new voice of the hood
Never had the hype, always had the heart
Keep it simple and sharp 'til I land on the charts"
7) Skyscraper - The beat on this song, provided by DJ Homicide, is very energetic, with some ambient synths and driving drums. The beat feels similar to "Night The City Cried" (off U-God's "Golden Arms Redemption" album) in that it feels like something that should be played in darkness or in the heart of winter. Lyrically, U-God comes correct and raps about life in the big city. Another dope song.
8) Heavyweight - This track has a smooth instrumental, courtesy of Teddy Powell, that has a sort of throwback feel to it. It's got a funky, soulful vibe that should get your head noddin' a bit. U-God raps some more braggadocio rhymes about how he is a heavyweight in the rap industry. Once again, he isn't spitting anything insanely complex lyrically, but it sounds dope nonetheless.
9) Colossal Cosmos (featuring Vivian Scarlett) - Skit
10) Stars - This song has another energetic DJ Homicide instrumental, this time with some spacey synths and a sped up vocal sample during the chorus. It's not something you would expect to hear on a Wu-Tang Clan album, but it's pretty ill. Its nothing like the dubstep/club tracks U-God and Inspectah Deck have had on their albums in the past - its more along the lines of something Lupe Fiasco might rhyme over. Regardless, I'm feelin the beat and U-God is on point, rhyming about never giving up trying to achieve your dreams. Dope.
11) Golden Arms - There is a good chance some of the more hardcore Wu fans are going to hate this track, but I really like it. Similar to the previous song, the beat on here, by J Serbe and J Reynoso Jr, has some spaced-out keyboards and upbeat drums giving it a sort of trap music feel. Shit's dope though and U-God rips it. Too bad Raekwon and Ghostface are only sampled on the chorus because I would have loved to of heard them on the album. Anyways, I like this track, but I can see how others may not.
12) Room Keep Spinning - The beat on this song, provided by Wu-Tang Abbot the RZA, has some more ambient synths, acoustic guitars and upbeat drums. U-God spits a few story verses about partying too much and having to pay the consequences for it as well as mentioning his troubles with women. This song is pretty ill, but not the best on here.
13) Zilla - Now this is dope. The beat, courtesy of DJ Homicide, has an energetic, jazzy feel to it and U-God bodies it. His voice and flow sounds tailor-made for instrumentals like this. Very nice.
14) Get Mine - In a sharp turn from the rest of the album, the beat on this song is a very slow, atmospheric instrumental full of live instrumentation. The beat, by The RZA, sounds like something straight off of Ghostface Killah's "Twelve Reasons to Die" album, which is a good thing. The song almost has a bluesy feel to it as U-God slowly raps (and sings) the lyrics. I'm not feelin' U-Gods performance on this track as much as I'm feelin the instrumental, but its kinda nice to see him experiment with different styles. Still, this is pretty good.
15) Mt. Everest (featuring Inspectah Deck and Elzhi) - This track is fire. The beat, by Blastah Beatz, has some menacing piano keys, murky guitars and head-nodding drums. Inspectah Deck kicks it off first and spits some darts before U-God and former Slum Village member Elzhi come in rip it as well. I'm definitely diggin' this track. Another banger.
16) Tranzform - DJ Homicide comes through again with a guitar-heavy instrumental for U-God to get busy over. The beat is ill and Golden Arms does his thing. The only thing I'm not really feelin' on here is the chorus. It's ok, but it brings the song down a little bit in my opinion. Despite that, this song is still pretty good. Not the best on here, but good.
17) Journey (featuring Kool Keith) - The beat on this track, courtesy of Teddy Powell, has a strange, organic feel to it with some xylophones and organs, but its really dope. U-God comes correct, but I'm not really liking Kool Keith's verse that much. His lyrics are ok, but his flow is all over the place (which is usual for him, but I've never been a big fan of it). Once again, I'm not really diggin' the chorus too much, but its not that bad. Eh, this is just ok for me.
18) Be Right There (Bonus Track) - This song has a darker, synth-heavy RZA instrumental that is actually pretty dope despite not being the kind of RZA beat that I usually like. U-God raps in a faster than usual flow, rhyming about how you can always depend on him to lay it down.
"Fuck with my brother, gonna have to clap at yaNice.
Mess with my brother, goin back to Attica
He the nucleus, I'm the reactor
War scar, Battlestar Galactica
Solid gold, I'mma fold and package ya
Rap czar, nigga, I'm a rhythm trafficker"
19) Days Of Glory (Bonus Track) - The final track on the album has an upbeat instrumental, provided by Steve Reaves, with some sweeping strings and hard-hitting drums. Golden Arms comes correct, rapping about how good his current situation is and how it is the direct result of years of hard work. The only thing holding back this song is the chorus, which is just ok for me. Still, this is dope.
I'm going to rate the album
4 / 5
because there are a bunch of really great songs on here, but there is a little bit of filler as well. The beats on the album are really good and range from boom-bap bangers to more radio-friendly instrumentals. U-God steps it up a bit lyrically and his flow and mic presence are the best they have been in years. That being said, the album still has a few weaker tracks, some unnecessary skits and some iffy hooks. Still, the album is really dope. Is it better than "Dopium"? Maybe. I'll have to see how it stands up to the test of time, but as of now I think it is.