WU TANG CLAN: A BETTER TOMORROW
LABEL | WARNER BROTHERS RECORDS
GENRE | SHAOLIN REUNION RAP
RELEASE DATE | AVAILABLE NOW
The Wu Tang Clan’s new album, A Better Tomorrow, jumps off with RZA’s bold assertion that “After all these years…The Shaolin and the Wu-Tang is very dangerous.” But in seeking a hopeful future, the lyrical swordsmen find mixed results. Take the ebullient thrill of having ODB, and nine Wu members (I see you, Cappadonna) assembled on opening track “Rukus in B Minor,” then trying not to grimace as Method Man urges the youth of 2014 to “pull their pants up.”
Back in August, when Wu Tang Clan held a round table meeting with Jon Stewart, and debuting a new song, “Ron O’Neal,” hopes soared for a Wu-renaissance. Yet, even surrounded by some mediocre tracks, this song offers a template for how Wu Tang Clan can keep relevant 20 years past Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). First, eliminate the sing-y hooks, like on “Keep Watch.” But forget this advice if getting back to Junior Reid samples. Secondly, drums. Use them densely. Wu Tang never worked well as art rap, and this album veers dangerously close to instrumentation à la The Roots as on “Miracle.” Thirdly, stick to Wu foundations. Why does “Ron O’Neal” bump so hard? The line-up: Method, Deck, Ghost, RZA. That’s how you win games, not with U-God pinch-hitting for Raekwon.
Still, there is hope. With the just released video for “A Better Tomorrow” layering footage from demonstrations in Ferguson that have loudly echoed around the United States, these wizened elders do have much to offer. Method Man redeems himself through this cut: “My ambition won’t let me live in this poor condition/That doesn’t care about color, creed, or your religion/Priests, politicians gotta listen to opposition.” Through two decades of documenting struggling under repressive regimes of crime and politics, Wu Tang is well equipped to comment on 2014. Just save some verses for the Chef.