Virgin/EMI - 2003 - 66 minutes

As the production mastermind behind the Wu-Tang Clan, RZA has been responsible for some of the most vital records of the last ten years. The bad news is that he has also been responsible for some of the most pointless and dreary records as well. The Wu-Tang strategy of commercial domination through multiple albums means classics and duds were released side by side, and RZA's own personal alter ego, Bobby Digital was one of the worst offenders.

This tainted solo pedigree means you approach 'The World According To RZA' with a certain trepidation. Classic Wu-Tang or dodgy snippets from the studio floor? Neither is the answer. Instead, RZA has bought himself a lot of plane tickets to produce tracks for a selection of MCs from Germany, France, Sweden, Norway, Italy and the UK.

Black Star Line-Up's combination of a sample from Swan Lake and the "El Pueblo Unido" chant of international protest is a naggingly effective Wu-Tang style joint and 'Det E Sa Jagkanner' bangs along in a compelling, albeit dated fashion.

But RZA soon starts to lazily repeat himself, literally recycling a beat from the last Wu-Tang album on 'Ich Weiss (On My Mind)', or just tweaking them slightly, as on 'Mesmerise', a hairs breath away from 'Chrome Wheels' from the same album.

As a survey of international hip-hop, 'The World According To RZA' has its merits, (I don't think you'll hear Norwegian rappers anywhere else this year), but it veers towards lameness too often, particularly the brutal UK tracks that are totally unrepresentative of the current vitality of rap music across the water.

The biggest surprise must be Xavier Naidoo, Germany's answer to Luther Vandross, who drops a pair of smoochy soul ballads most unlike a Wu-Tang production. Ist gut, ja? Emmm, nein.

Luke McManus

Tracklisting: Intro - Mesmerize - Det E Sa Jagkanner - On Tha Ground - The North Sea - Saian Intro - Saian - Please, Tends L'Oreille - Warning - Dedicace - Seul face a Lui - Souls on Fire - Ich Weiss - Black Star Lineup - I've Never Seen - Boing Boing - Make Money, Money - Passaporto Per Resistere - Uzaktan Gelen Ses