Ol' Dirty Bastard is gone, but his spirit looms large over "The 8 Diagrams," the Wu-Tang Clan's first album since 2001. The set is due in October via SRC. "He left a piece of himself in each and every

Ol' Dirty Bastard is gone, but his spirit looms large over "The 8 Diagrams," the Wu-Tang Clan's first album since 2001. The set is due in October via SRC. "He left a piece of himself in each and every one of us," group member RZA tells Billboard. "Even in the performance of some of the lyrics, you'll hear a style or attitude that he injected."

Although the hip-hop collective has been active on the road since last year, its members didn't hit the studio until April. "Me personally, I wasn't ready until then," RZA admits. "I reached out when I knew I was 100% ready to do it, and everybody came to the table."

Beyond the ODB tribute "Life Changes," look for "The 8 Diagrams" to feature tracks like "You Can't Stop Me Now," "We Got This," "Campfire" and "Thug World," which features System Of A Down bassist Shavo Odadjian. Rapper Q-Tip appears on an as-yet-unnamed track that may wind up being the first single.

For a change, RZA yielded some of the production duties to a handful of major names he isn't quite ready to reveal. "You will hear some unique sounding stuff and a vintage hip-hop spirit," he promises.

RZA says he is also working with an ODB outtake that was originally recorded for the group's seminal album "Enter the 36 Chambers." "I lost it, because the DJ who handled my equipment back then, we just got disconnected," he says. "He actually found the tape about eight months ago and flew out to California with it. The problem is, it doesn't sound all that great, because this was 1992 or 1993 when it was recorded. But ODB's performance is f*ckin' immaculate. So maybe I can find some software to restore it and put it on as a bonus track."

Wu-Tang will be on the road this summer with the Rock the Bells tour, and despite its members' busy schedules, RZA is hopeful the group is now back together for good. "We're rekindling flames," he says. "There's a strong potential this could be a long campaign, so this will keep us on the road together, on TV together and keep us working together."

In related news, Wu-Tang member Raekwon will unveil the debut album from his Ice Water clique, "Icewater: Polluted Water" Aug. 28 via Babygrande. The Staten Island-based quartet is bolstered by cameos from Method Man, Busta Rhymes, Three 6 Mafia, Rick Ross, Remy Ma and Jagged Edge on the project.