Wu-Tang Clan, the legendary once nine-piece rap collective shook Hip Hop with their rough and rugged style. Cut with Kung fu movie samples over gritty low fi beats, their lyrical talents flourished and shined bright. Their debut "36 Chambers" became a classic and follow up "Wu-Tang Forever" established them as a dominant force in hip hop. The release of this album was a complete surprise to me. The last I heard of the Wu-Tang they were working on a double album that only one copy would be produced and sold. The record would go on a tour around the world for fans to listen too before being sold of to the highest bidder, leaving the future of the album in their hands to do as they please. Its was a interesting idea, and an fascinating way to earn money in the changing landscape of record sales. I've since learned that they recorded that 31 track album alongside this new record "A Better Tomorrow" which suggests a return to form. It arrives 13 years after "Iron Flag", and 7 since the disappointing "8 Diagrams".
The album opens with "Ruckus In B Minor", including samples from the late ODB who's inclusion in this record feels fitting and respectful. He pops up throughout this album which as a whole feels patchy and inconsistent. There are some terrific beats, samples and verses throughout and a variety of themes but conceptually it feels like a few ideas and concepts have been thrown into the mix. There are some darker, grittier tracks "Necklace", steady movers "We Will Fight" / "Keep Watch" and positive uplifting tracks "A Better Tomorrow". The progression feels scattered as these tracks jump from one mood to another. The start and end feel like the better parts of the record, the middle includes the cover track "Preachers Daughter" that felt unnecessary and was soured by RZA's "singing" in the chorus, I'm a little mystified as to how they thought it worked, because it didn't, it was flat.
Inconsistency may be the theme so far, but should not undermine the quality on display. The beats are sharp, creative and on point, and at times capturing that classic Wu sound. The rapping may not but as classic and memorable as those endless recite-able verses on "36 Chambers" and tracks like "Triumph", but its a return to form, and there are decent verses scattered throughout, with everyone sounding there usual selfs. Method Man was most notably a notch above everyone else, always sounding fresh and energetic with his charismatic flow, dropping a great verse wherever he went. Overall this album could of been a mark or two better, what we want from the Wu-Tang is here, the group are just not as in sync as they could be. Theres great verses, beats, but rarely all in the same track. Ironically I felt the best tracks were "A Better Tomorrow" and "Wu-Tang Reunion", two soulful movers with great vocal leads, a contrast to their usual style, but two where they came together for the idea. A great album for fans, but leaves a taste that something better was possible.
Favorite Tracks: Mistaken Identity, Hold The Heater, Pioneer The Frontier, A Better Tomorrow, Wu-Tang Reunion