|Studio album by|
|Released||December 18, 2001|
|Producer||RZA, True Master, Mathematics, Nick Fury, Trackmasters|
|Wu-Tang Clan chronology|
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. It has sold 500,000 copies in the United States, & certified Gold by the RIAA on January 29, 2002. Rapper Ol' Dirty Bastard is completely absent from the album.
A gap of four years separated both the first and second albums; and three years between 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).
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; which in the year separating The W and Iron Flag had only gotten worse. Consequently, Ol' Dirty Bastard 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 who 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. Whatever the case, he only appears once on the album in a bridge for the hidden song, "The Glock". 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.
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:
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:
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).
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 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.
|The A.V. Club||(favorable) 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|
|Rolling Stone||2002 at the Wayback Machine (archived June 18, 2008)|
|1||"In the Hood"||Elgin Turner, Robert Diggs, Jason Hunter, Patrick Charles||RZA||
||Dennis Coles, Corey Woods, Elgin Turner, Jason Hunter, Clifford Smith, Ronald Bean, Patrick Charles||Mathematics||
|3||"Chrome Wheels"||Corey Woods, Elgin Turner, Robert Diggs, Vergil Ruff||RZA||4:14|
|4||"Soul Power (Black Jungle)" (featuring Flavor Flav)||
||Lamont Hawkins, Dennis Coles, Robert Diggs, Corey Woods, Elgin Turner, Jason Hunter, Clifford Smith||RZA||4:52|
|5||"Uzi (Pinky Ring)"||
||Lamont Hawkins, Dennis Coles, Robert Diggs, Corey Woods, Elgin Turner, Jason Hunter, Clifford Smith, Gary Grice, Clarence Reid, Russel Jones||RZA||5:20|
|6||"One of These Days"||
||Lamont Hawkins, Nick Loftin, Corey Woods, Jason Hunter, Patrick Charles||Nick "Fury" Loftin||4:13|
|7||"Ya'll Been Warned"||
||Robert Diggs, Corey Woods, Elgin Turner, Jason Hunter, Clifford Smith, Derek Harris, Patrick Charles||True Master||
||Dennis Coles, Robert Diggs, Corey Woods, Jason Hunter, Gary Grice||RZA||
|9||"Radioactive (Four Assassins)"||
||Robert Diggs, Corey Woods, Elgin Turner, Gary Grice, Clifford Smith||RZA||3:30|
|10||"Back in the Game" (featuring Ron Isley)||
||Dennis Coles, Corey Woods, Gary Grice, Jason Hunter, Clifford Smith, Samuel Barnes, Jean-Claude Olivier||Trackmasters||4:34|
||Lamont Hawkins, Robert Diggs, Corey Woods, Elgin Turner, Jason Hunter, Dennis Coles, Darryl Hill||RZA||
||Robert Diggs, Jason Hunter, Gary Grice||RZA||4:45|
|13||"The W" (Bonus track)||
||Robert Diggs, Lamont Hawkins, Jason Hunter, Gary Grice||RZA|
|"Uzi (Pinky Ring)"
|"Back in the Game"
|Billboard 200||Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums|
|Billboard Hot 100||Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks||Hot Rap Singles|
|2002||"Uzi (Pinky Ring)"||–||93||16|