RZA as Bobby Digital - "You Can't Stop Me Now" (Digi Snacks)
Robert Diggs, who turns 39 this month, has recorded under more than a dozen names, but he’s known primarily as RZA, the genius behind the boards of the Wu Tang Clan. A close second is Bobby Digital, his (comparatively speaking) lackluster solo project/alter-ego. After a seven-year hiatus, Bobby has returned with his third album, Digi Snacks. As is the custom, it’s accompanied by an elaborate exposition chronicling the ongoing saga of our hero, RZA’s savior of the streets. It’s been a decade since the first Bobby Digital record, and while most rightly expect the superhero plot line to remain laughable and contrived, it’s a particular disappointment that it directly detracts from a lot of the production and lyrics on Digi Snacks.
At his best, RZA’s inventive production style can lead to unpredictable and rewarding directions, from the undisputed franchise producer of the Wu, to scoring Jim Jarmusch’s film, Ghost Dog - The Way of the Samurai. Moments on Digi Snacks exemplify this ability, like “You Can’t Stop Me Now” featuring Wu-Tang’s Inspectah Deck. Cleverly flipping a sample from the intro riff of the Whatnauts’ “Message from a Black Man,” the track captures both the timbre of vintage RZA and the maturity of an accomplished producer. Deck’s flow is also a welcome adornment, even if his verse seems a bit short.
Unfortunately, this high moment fades quickly. The album’s following track, “Straight Up the Block,” features a chopped-up cringe-worthy sample of Jay-Z’s verse from “Dirt off Your Shoulder.” This is just one of a series of bewildering production decisions on Snacks, and David Banner’s uninspired verse doesn’t help the situation. Even overlooking the generic programming, the point of this song is so murky, one can only assume RZA is hoping to flex his worldliness through badly pronounced French aphorisms. Lyrical disappointment continues with “Booby Trap,” an otherwise acceptable instrumental track ruined by its insipid chorus: “Stop / It’s a booby trap / would you rather have a digi / or a Scooby snack? / digi snack / yeap.” “Good Night” attempts to take a stab at a sexy slow jam – not only does it feel painfully out of place on this record, but Thea van Seijen’s vocals are distractingly similar to Erykah Badu.
For someone as prolific as the RZA, the latest Bobby Digital album is one of many things on his docket this year … and, unfortunately, that becomes obvious upon listening to Digi Snacks. The record never hits a stride that allows it to pull together as a cohesive album, save its fantastical, paper-thin theme. Snacks will likely be just another bullet point in RZA’s bio down the road. And this is particularly disappointing when he’s proved in years past that we have a right to expect so much more.