RZA + DJ Scratch, “Saturday Afternoon Kung Fu Theater”

RZA pens a rapier-fast love letter to his heart’s obsession while giving Scratch space to run his jazz.
Reviews

RZA + DJ Scratch, Saturday Afternoon Kung Fu Theater

RZA pens a rapier-fast love letter to his heart’s obsession while giving Scratch space to run his jazz.

Words: AD Amorosi

March 14, 2022

RZA + DJ Scratch
Saturday Afternoon Kung Fu Theater
36 CHAMBERS ALC/MNRK MUSIC GROUP

God bless RZA for never giving up the ghost of his youth’s primary influence—the kung fu films of Bruce Lee and King Hu, and, of course, Chia-Liang Liu’s The 36th Chamber of Shaolin of 1978 that gave the Queens producer-songwriter-rapper and his fam in the Wu-Tang Clan their lives’ mission. Together with friend and old-school incendiary hip-hop producer DJ Scratch—a man beloved for his hot mixes for Busta Rhymes, Q-Tip, DMX, and Beanie Sigel, in addition to Wu-Tang—RZA pens a rapier-fast love letter to his heart’s obsession while giving Scratch space to run his jazz and truly create/ornate a roomy Shaolin-worthy vibe.

To call Scratch’s atmosphere-heavy production and orchestration “cinematic” is to miss the potency and directness of his karate-chop rhythms and smoky melodic tones. The beatmaker plays to RZA’s strengths and themes as a rapper, while trademark-scratching up a storm on Wu-esque tracks such as “Pugilism” and “Kaiju.” The pair even strip away their scoring on a cut such as “Fate of the World,” which, after several listens, feels like RZA simply creating a spontaneous rhyme set up over Scratch’s deep, minimal throb. 

Along with a frisky bit of vintage R&B on the funk-frantic “Never Love Again,” RZA welcomes his hip-hop alter ego Bobby Digital to the stage just for fun, which is a welcome relief within underground hip-hop at present (does anyone in this realm remember what fun sounds like?). All this to say that it's hard not to be just a little bit angry at Scratch and RZA: this release from the most dynamic of musical pairings is only seven songs long, with the first track being little more than an intro. We need RZA and Scratch’s Saturday Afternoon to extend throughout the entire week.