The Wu-Tang Clan has always used its martial arts motif as a metaphor for survival, whether it be in the rap game, the drug game, or life in general. Their approach will likely never change, even when their music is being used in service of an actual martial arts film. Though the milieu of The Man with the Iron Fists is ancient China instead of crack era Staten Island, the modus operandi remains the same. The clan will never deviate from course. Neither will Pusha T, who happens to be the main feature of the latest offering from the Iron Fists soundtrack “Tick, Tock.”
As with “Built for This,” “Tick Tock” maintains sonic fidelity with the films setting. Throughout the song, producers Frank Dukes and S-1 make heavy use of a Chinese guqin. During the hook, they use the instrument to strum the chords from the intro to Southside Movement’s “I’ve Been Watching You.” Triangle strikes are added to offset the stark tone. In accordance with the song’s title, everything plays out over the incessant ticking of a clock, giving the impression that time is running out. The drums are suited to the sensibilities of southern Hip-Hop, particularly of the trap music variety. Understated 808’s are accompanied by stuttering snares and hand claps. Altogether, it’s hauntingly effective.
Push-T’s opening verse is awash in religious imagery. It also covers the usual drug related themes of betrayal and revenge. Clichés aside, it’s pretty solid, mostly due to its cautionary tone. Raekwon’s verse revels in the metaphorical rebirth of the clan that will possibly result from the release of RZA’s film:
The chambers is 36
New and improved
Make a move
These guns whistle
Sizzle up dudes
Those bars are a reminder of the state of things as Raekwon sees them, as well as a warning to all challengers. At the end, he characterizes the iconic Wu-Tang symbol as having redemptive powers.
Joell Ortiz continues the cautionary tone set by Pusha T. He addresses how the drug game operates with regularity, and in the most ideal cases, precision. Hence the old saying “like clockwork,” which also relates to the song’s title. To close things out, Pusha-T provides an opposite bookend to his opening verse. He boldly accepts his fate. Everyone must ultimately pay for their sins. However, the most skillful and ruthless hustlers will make sure that sinning pays handsomely.
The presence of Satan hangs over “Tick, Tock.” Though I would have preferred a song that directly relates to the film’s story, I cannot deny the inherent dopeness of this offering. Both songs that have been released from the Iron Fists soundtrack have renewed my faith in the Clan. Let’s hope they can keep that streak going. Let’s also hope that the movie is worthy of the music that will accompany it.