Album Released 10/13/17
Throughout the years, Wu-Tang Clan has thrived on similarities between the kung-fu world and the hip-hop world. Earlier on, they admitted that the core of competition is the desire to be the best in the game. However, I think after this release, it’s clear that that they’re no longer the warriors of the rap world that they once were. This record only confirmed what everyone has already thought of them as: dads. It’s clear that these guys don’t do a whole lot of “fighting” anymore.
The Wu-Tang Clan has grown a considerable amount since the days of “cheese-boxing,” and this is the first album since their 2014 release, A Better Tomorrow. After receiving mixed reviews, it was revealed that Raekwon and RZA were feuding because Raekwon was taking longer to send in his verse while everyone else was ready. From the get-go, it’s already pretty clear that the group wasn’t all on the same page while making this album.
Following the intro, is “Lesson Learn’d”, which features Inspectah Deck and Redman, where they immediately begin to fire shots at Martin Shkreli. The rappers not only call out high prescription prices, but also the fact that he owned the only a copy of their album, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, which he acquired for $2 million and recently sold on eBay for $1 million. If I had to take a guess, I’d say that the Killa Beez did not approve of this transaction. However, I’m sure that many fans are glad the Tang finally came forward with how they feel regarding the situation.
“Fast and Furious” is Raekwon’s first appearance on the album, but it’s nothing too special. Similar to the movie franchise, the two lyricists are trying to be just that- fast and furious. While “Fast and Furious” could have been considered somewhat of a forgettable track (with what seems like the main objective being to just give Hugh Hef a spot on the album) I was more than ready to hear the next track, “If Time Is Money” featuring Method Man.
Historically, Method Man has always been better at rapping solo, and this is the first of five tracks on the album that Meth appears on. A plethora of anti-police references and modern issues sprinkled in only confirmed for me, that Method Man had a much different set of expectations for the album than the rest of the group, but we’ll get to that a little later.
Following “If Time Is Money”, the track, “Frozen”, and possibly one of my favorite songs on the album features five different rappers (including Method Man). As expected from his solo work, I knew Ghostface Killa was going to put on a great performance, and he did, but it was certainly no different from anything that he has released in the past. I’m a huge fan of his collaborative album, Sour Soul with BadBadNotGood, and if the rest of the album had been more like this (i.e. actually included the rest of the group) it may have been better.
When the song “Why Why Why” came on, I was convinced that RZA and Method Man were on a completely different wavelength from everyone else on the album. While the rest of the members were just trying to prove their dominance in the rap game, RZA and Method Man are desperately trying to get things across that actually matter. I’m not going to call anyone in particular out (*cough cough Ghostface cough*) but the listeners are already well aware of how dominant the group is in the rap game, and that’s why they’re listening. As a matter of fact, that point was made pretty clear in the last album, and the last album, and also the one before that, and of course, the three albums that were released prior to those. I feel like certain members of the group are having trouble evolving with the genre. Hip-Hop isn’t just about money and material possessions anymore; it’s about real issues. Because of this, it’s clear that there are certain members who understand this, and others that just aren’t willing to budge with how they do things. Understandably, it’s hard to knock them, because you really can’t beat the classics. However, trying new things can be risky, and it’s clear that the group was looking to play this album rather safe.
Later on is a song that I couldn’t help but feel was comprised of everyone that had originally been left out. If What You “Say Is True” included Cappadonna, GZA, and Masta Killa for the first time on the record, but surprisingly enough, the hottest lines weren’t rapped by any of them. An unexpected, posthumous cameo by the Ol’ Dirty Bastard was what caused me to pause the song and immediately get on Google. Apparently, the Clan had decided to take previously unreleased vocals by Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and include them in the song, which to me, was incredibly clever. Even thirteen years after the member’s death, I was amazed that the ‘bastard’ was still relevant. Rest in peace, ODB.
By the time I had gotten to “My Only One” feat. Cappadonna, RZA, Ghostface, and Steven Latorre, I was getting a little tired of the album. As is the case with most Wu-Tang albums, this one was not exactly condensed, and I personally believe that making a shorter record would have probably gone over better in this case. This song is nothing like anything else on the album, and is by far, the most different from anything they’ve done thus far. It has an almost Frank Ocean feel to it, that caused me to check to see if I was still listening to the same artist or not. Going into the track, I assumed it would be about a girl, but it was actually about RZA’s take on religion. This isn’t really that surprising since RZA is known to be a spiritual guy. As a matter of fact, he mentioned a few months ago that, “Religion is personal to a man. I believe that it matters less which form one’s spirituality takes, as long as you’re on a spiritual path,” which to me adds a unique, different approach to the ending of the album.
After listening to The Saga Continues, I didn’t feel like the entire group was on the same page as far as the development of the album goes. While it wasn’t horrible, I felt like it could have been a great opportunity for Method Man or Raekwon to either drop something separate or just release their own solo materials. It was like a handful of the members wanted to follow this whole “superhero” theme, but the rest never quite got the memo. It’s always going to be hard to compete with the group’s bestselling album, Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers (1993), but due to the lack of organization, I scored the album 4/7. Though, I still believe it is a requirement for any Wu-Tang fan to give an ear to.