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​​Review: RZA “Bobby Digital in Stereo”

Every Sunday, we dig into the archives to review a classic album. This week, we are taking a look at Wu-Tang Clan leader RZA’s solo album “Bobby Digital in Stereo.”

This epic sci-fi sequel picks up right where the previous entry “Bobby Digital in Mono” ended with its dramatic cliffhanger. To recap: As the year 1930 comes to a close, precocious teen audio engineer Robert Bartholomew Digital, aka Bobby Digital, just slapped a dying Thomas Edison across the face while calling him a “bitch.” In that exact moment of palm-to-cheek contact, Bobby had a vision of music emanating from not just one speaker, but two in a left-right configuration to match the placement of each human ear. The vision overwhelms the boy and he faints.

After its brief intro, “Bobby Digital in Stereo” begins with a chapter titled “B.O.B.B.Y.” where some of Edison’s employees and maids are fanning Bobby, trying to rouse him. When he finally opens his eyes and begins making some coherent groans, the group asks him if he knows his own name. He is initially unresponsive but eventually is able to recall and even spell his own name. They have a massive sex orgy to celebrate. Afterward, Bobby runs out, ecstatic with his new idea.

The next few chapters drag a bit, as they detail Bobby’s process of attempting to devise a way to carry two separate audio signals on a vinyl record at the same time. There is a minor diversion with “Terrorist,” where a disillusioned Bobby quits the audio research field entirely to join a group of right-wing paramilitary fighters in pre-Franco Spain. Eventually, he returns and is able to get the new technology to work. The new technology shocks people. In a public demonstration at the World’s Fair, Mr. Digital plays the sound of a train moving left to right; many in attendance hit the floor, thinking they are about to get struck by a train. He sells his new technology to various companies, making millions in the process.

But unfortunately, an error on the patent application leads to Bobby Digital’s stereo creation becoming public domain. He quickly loses his money. When he is down to his final dollar in his pocket, he daydreams about what it means to have 1 dollar vs. 0 dollars. In this moment, he is struck with a vision. Can the entire world be represented with 1’s and 0’s?

The series concludes with Part 3: “Bobby Digital in Digital.”

SCORE: 6/7.1 Channels of Surround Sound