Let’s revisit an album that came out last weekend that needs some more attention. The new RZA joint that is a collaboration with musician and singer from band Interpol, Paul Banks, titled Anything But Words (Aug 26, Warner Bros) is a very good combination of rap and rock that does not dilute its hip-hop content really at all. Banks and RZA’s relationship goes back to 2011 when they started recording together, and in fishing for new project-ideas later on, RZA could think of no one better to join forces with than Paul. The two, who draw their duo name from Paul Banks’ surname obviously with the last name of RZA’s Bobby Steels moniker, have gone all in here. As it is a mix of genres but easily considered either hip-hop or alternative rock, Anything But Words might recall memories from the flavor-experimenting days of Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit, but this is better, more mature music, less loud and less in-your-face with better emcee craft and messages on RZA’s part and strong enjoyable new-rock by Paul Banks, mastered and executive produced by both artists.
Paul provides most of the chorus vocals and main music production, but of course RZA probably helped enormously with the mixing and overall direction since he’s such a talented established beatmaker himself. Through the lyrics and instrumental compositions, the two express their inner concerns, get out their worries and vent their grievances, as the guitars and drums screech out their battle cries and RZA vomits (in well made, well delivered rhyme lines) colorful streams of real world testaments and other testy talk. Bobby discusses growing up and deciding to become a better man in “Wild Season,” serves up one of his specialties, relationship struggles, in “Love And War” and gifts us with several inspirational moments and lines sprinkled elsewhere. Despite the fact that Anything But Words comes off the table of the major Warner Music Group, RZA has surprisingly been allowed to make more than a few statements that challenge the current establishment. These allowances he has fought for in the truth-spitting department are a bit astonishing but chalk it up to the RZArector’s clout, experience and bargaining power when it comes to him getting his freedom of speech on these records.
The rock music is powerful and explosive and so is the rapping and singing. RZA is striking and Paul Banks is inspired and heartfelt. This pure product is a real powerhouse built by two impenetrable strongholds in the industry, two camps that can withstand any attack on them. For a more or less mainstream project of this nature, it is refreshing that Bobby Digital imparts all the knowledge and wisdom he does. The guy cannot make a poor project. He’s proven again that he is a true emcee and producer who has come such a very long way since his basic, early 1990s Prince Rakeem days. In proper form, it’s got Wu-Tang backing too, featuring Ghostface Killah, Method Man and Masta Killa as guests, the two other features being singer/songwriter Florence Welch and the highly credentialed Kool Keith. Big big props too go to Paul Banks, who has opened himself up to working outside of his usual mold and for sharing his skills and sounds with the hip-hop universe. Anything But Words: just a dope album by masters of their styles. Thank you guys.
4 out of 5 stars
Want to see Banks & Steelz live? See them perform at the #LifeIsBeautifulFest in Las Vegas, Sept 23-25. For tickets, visit the fest’s website here.