Review of A Better Tomorrow by Wu-Tang Clan
Wu-Tang Clan were without a shadow of doubt one of the soundtracks to my formative years. Everything about them seemed real to me and influenced a lot of my musical tastes at the time. I couldn’t get enough of those off key piano tones, those movie cut backdrops used to help tell the album story and obviously the mix of rappers and their different styles was groundbreaking.
Then you have the immense production, the well constructed lyrics, the obvious chemistry within “Da Clan” and the bonus of the unique Ol’ Dirty Bastard. To this day, still the most inappropriate name of any rapper. (Anybody remember Tity Boi? You thought we forgot didn’t you 2Chainz?) Well sadly ODB, as you will obviously be aware, is no longer with us.
So it was with a sense of real intrigue I had my first listen of A Better Tomorrow the first official new music as a collective since 2007. Is the magic still there? Has the replicated format tired? Is ODB to big a void to fill?
Well if you listen to their first track on the album, the Wu proudly boast “still number one” While that is a hell of a boast considering the amount of time they have been out of the game and the way the genre has evolved.
The craft in the production of A Better Tomorrow is still there. The album is now by a nine-piece clan, but is heavily dominated by the legend Rza and (debatable) the two best lyricists in Raekwon and Ghostface. Whilst it may not be as dark as their early stuff, there still seems to be an edge in comparison to some of today’s cookie cutter hip hop. They have softened a little bit to try to appeal to today’s music buying audience, or perhaps its maturity.
The one track that will really split opinion is Wu-Tang Reunion. It uses the O’Jays Family Reunion as its inspiration. Whilst it is a little self-indulgent, the Hip Hop treatment of old classics such as this, is what underpinned the very foundation of the genre. Yes it edges towards a bit too much towards commercialality which probably isn’t right for today’s market, but it does stay true to itself.
The main feel of the album is a cross between a confused movie soundtrack and some breaks in to retro jam sessions. But while some critics will slam this, its that simplicity and feeling of the boys back together doing something they enjoy that is part of the charm of A Better Tomorrow. I actually imagine them just getting along down the pub one day and coming up with some tracks. Then Rza standing up and saying “what the f*@K we just done, lets make this in to an album”. Method Man probably went “you crazy fool sit down”. Raekwon then went “yeah I want in, lets do this” The rest is history.
OK, that probably never happened, after all, who can picture the Wu-Tang Clan down the Dog and Duck pub waxing lyrical. But in my mind that is a nice vision.
Hold the Heater for me is the champion track of the album. This has real power and endorses my view of the Wu being comfortable as a collective again. The raw beats and easy nature of the rhymes they spit, just show that if anybody is capable of bringing back the golden years of Hip Hop, the Wu can.
I for one am grateful that the Wu-Tang are back. Now bring some more back. KRS One where are you? We need you. Even if Wu-Tang Clan just show the current crop of rappers what the genre is about and influence them a little that will be enough for me. Lets break the current lull that Hip Hop finds itself in and become the dominant genre once more.