Category Archives: Group

Wu-Tang Clan – Wu-Tang Forever

Wu-Tang Clan
Wu-Tang Forever
June 3, 1997
Loud RecordsRCA Records/ BMG Music Group/ SME
080/100
WuTangForever
DISC I
1. Wu-Revolution (performed by Popa Wu & Uncle Pete) // 2. Reunited (feat. Ms. Roxy) // 3. For Heaven’s Sake (feat. Cappadonna) // 4. Cash Still Rules/Scary Hours (Still Don’t Nothing Move But The Money) // 5. Visionz // 6. As High As Wu-Tang Get // 7. Severe Punishment // 8. Older Gods // 9. Maria (feat. Cappadonna) // 10. A Better Tomorrow // 11. It’s Yourz
DISC II
1. Intro // 2. Triumph (feat. Cappadonna) // 3. Impossible (feat . Tekitha) // 4. Little Ghetto Boys (feat. Cappadonna) // 5. Deadly Melody (feat. Streetlife & Dreddy Kruger) // 6. The City // 7. The Projects (feat. Shyheim) // 8. Bells of War // 9. The M.G.M. // 10. Dog Shit //11. Duck Seazon // 12. Hellz Wind Staff (feat. Streetlife) // 13. Heaterz (feat. Cappadonna) // 14. Black Shampoo // 15. Second Coming (performed by Tekitha) // 16. The Closing // 17. Sunshower // 18. Projects [International Remix] (feat. Shyheim)

Double-disc albums were a hype in the late ’90s urban music world and if an act didn’t have one it wasn’t considered whole. Tupac Shakur started the trend with his diamond-selling All Eyez On Me in ’96 and plenty of R&B/hip-hop artists would soon follow in his tracks, including arch rival the Notorious B.I.G., R. Kelly and several others. These albums, though some were well-received and have reached what one would call ‘classic status’, generally represent a bloated mess of imperial overstretch in these artists’ respective career. Shakur’s album All Eyez on Me, the project that kickstarted the trend, was the worst offender. It sounded like he recorded it all in one go and completely ran out of ideas after the first few songs or so and only regaining his momentum very sporadically over the course of the rest of the album and nevertheless released it to the masses without ever looking back. What we are digging into today however is its polar opposite when it’s the overall quality that is concerned, probably because Shakur was filling two discs of original material by his self (with lots of help of his untalented weed carriers Tha Outlawz and to a lesser degree his labelmates Snoop, Dre, Daz, Kurupt and whoever accidentally walked into the wrong studio, but still. All Eyez on Me was essentially 2pac headlining two full CD’s of material.) and the Wu-Tang Clan has nine official members who all get equal billing and are all to varying degrees main attractions.

Wu-Tang Forever marks the end of RZA’s famed and mysterious five year plan. Not even Method Man claims to know just what that plan might have been, but it had something to do with dropping a trail of classic solo albums by individual members between the group’s debut album and their sophomoric one. It goes TicalReturn to the 36 ChambersOnly Built 4 Cuban Linx…Liquid Swords and Ironman.
(Also there was supposed to be a Inspectah Deck album released somewhere between Liquid Swords and Ironman but RZA’s basement which contained all of his equipment and prerecorded beats that were intended for that one, and apparently Ironman was higher on RZA’s list of priorities.)

Wu-Tang Forever extensively features Cappadonna, a Wu-affiliate who would’ve been one of the original nine members but went to prison before having been able to make any contribution to Enter the Wu-Tang and was replaced by Method Man in stead. The man had resurfaced on Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… and contributed to Ghostface Killah’s Ironman. Even though he is credited as a featured guest on Wu-Tang Forever whenever he pops up, and he pops up quite often, he was more or less considered the Clan’s tenth member when it was released. RZA would later disown Cappadonna as an official Clan affiliate because Cappa completely lost his rapping mojo of an alleged financial conflict between the two where Cappachino claimed RZA owed him money and RZA claimed he was full of it.

Wu-svengali RZA had for the most part abandoned the gruff, dusty and minimalistic sound that made Enter the Wu-Tang such a notable success. Having produced a stack of classic albums since his instrumentals became increasingly rich and cinematic over the course of discs that went from Tical to Ironman. On Wu-Tang Forever he added a new element to his bag of tricks. He took vocal samples from old soul records and changed the pitch to make them sound high and quirky, possibly to save money on background singers which he could then spend on honey-dipped blunts and pointy rings. He then proceeded to incorporate them into his beats. This is a hip-hop production technique many people think Kanye West invented. RZA, who previously did pretty much all the work behind the boards on anything released by any of the Clansmen stepped aside for eight of the album’s twenty nine tracks which he left to his cronies True Master, 4th Disciple and for some reason Inspectah Deck whose instrumental contrubutions aren’t very good but also not that numerous. Whether this was done for variation’s sake or simply because RZA couldn’t come up with twenty nine instrumentals of consistently good quality on his own (It happens to the best of us) is unknown to me, but it is what it is.

The album’s first disc is off to a meh start with its bullshit intro on which two non-Clan members get to rant for nearly seven minutes about five percent islam, a religion that apparently every member of the Clan was practicing at the time. Nothing against taking pride in one’s religion but this track couldn’t have been more tedious and pretentious if they followed it with a full recital of each and every scripture of every religion known to mankind ever while keeping the same beat on for the entire duration.
Following that is a somewhat uneven collection of music which is to be expected from an album that consist of the combined efforts of ten rappers and four producers divided by twenty eleven tracks. The disc sounds good for the most part. The majority of the songs are highlights. The tense the Wu-noir opening cut Reunited which has the three cousins GZA, ODB and RZA + Method Man ripping shit up and setting the mood for what is to come.
For Heaven’s Sake has Deck outrap Masta Killa and Cappadonna over a quintessential chipmunk-soul beat.
It’s Yourz blends RZA’s typical dusty sound with something akin to old school disco rap. Rae, U-God, RZA, Deck all get to rock it but GFK walks away with the track.
OB4L reprise Older Gods (that doesn’t appear to be complimentary to Shyheim’s Young Gods) and the ode to positive thinking that is A Better Tomorrow and the grimy but catchy are all prime Wu posse cuts as well.
Low points are the unsexy sex rap Maria, the Deck-produced Visionz and the shitty Cash Rules sequel Cash Still Rules Everything Around Me.

The second disc opens with a dismissal of Rap ‘n’ Bullshit R&B-rap artists by RZA & GZA, presumably P. Daddy & Ma$e. I wonder if RZA remembered that You’re All I Need to Get By song that got Method Man, Mary J. Blige and P. Daddy a grammy, or that Babyface Remix that had Ghostface Killah rhyme the exact same verse he performed on this album’s Visionz. (I’m also curious what RZA had to say when he first heard that Justin Bieber song that had Raekwon and Kanye West on it, if he ever hear it at all.)
Obviously there’s more posse cuts on this disc. Triumph is arguably the best thing on the entire project with its cinematic instrumental and all the official Wu-tang plus Cappadonna rocking over it. The only complaint about this one is that Ol Dirtly Bastard is severely underused by not being allowed to spit a verse of his own and being relegated to shit-talking on the intro and in between verses in stead. I suppose you can’t have it all. The song is still really, really good anyway.
Impossible has the most eerie, spaced out instrumental so far and has among others Ghostface Killah tear it to shreds.
Little Ghetto Boys is a fairly nice word of advice to its titular subjects about not choosing the wrong path although reusing that Donny Hathaway sample for the hook was then and still is a surefire way of getting your song unfavourably compared to a classic songs by Dr. Dre featuring Snoop Dogg and P. Daddy with Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z.
Fans of the debut album’s production sound get thrown another bone by way of Deadly Melody, a showcase for mostly Method Man and his apprentice Street Life.
Bells of War is a good listen too and the Rae-Ghost duet The M.G.M. Wu-Tang Forever is as good a showcase of their usual on-record Chemistry as anything off OB4C or Ironman.
The Projects finally puts Shyheim in the same room as most of the clan members so good for him that he’s finally proven to be a true Wu-B-teamer. It’s not good for anyone or anything else though because it’s beat sounds like RZA was only half finished creating it before his pizza was delivered or something.The ODB gets a solo offering with Dog Shit and it sucks balls, the man always was a hit or miss individual. The part at the end where he tell his fellow clansmen that they remind him of the backup dancers of En Vogue though almost makes it worth sitting through.
Speaking of horrible solo-efforts: U-God, a rapper who was incarcerated during most of the recording of 36 Chambers and is considered by many to be the worst rapper in the group gets a solo-showcase of his own in the form of Black Shampoo, a hilariously unsettling sex rap with an instrumental that sounds like it was made by Barry White on acid, over which the man invites the listener to let him clip his or her toenails, among a diverse range of other odd sexy business.
The City is Inspectah Deck’s chance to fly solo. It’s good enough to make one desperately want to hear his aborted flushed solo debut, so listen to it at your own risk.
RZA, Raekwon and oddly enough Tekhita, one of the Clan’s go-to studio songstresses, get fairly decent solo-offerings as well

Overall Wu-Tang Forever, like any non-greatest hits double disc album this reviewer is aware of, would’ve benefited if it had been edited down to a single disc. That however would have meant that the guys weren’t competing with Biggie and 2pac for best double disc album of the late ’90s which hardly would’ve been an option worth considering. And it’s still a really good album in the incarnation in which it was released. Bar Dog ShitMaria and Black Shampoo most of the lesser tracks are entertaining filler rather than bad songs. Wu-Tang Forever retains enough of the old to keep the fans happy but introduces enough new to justify having a sophomore album in the first place. The album is a great showcase for one of hip-hop’s greatest franchises at the peak of its powers.

Best tracks
Reunited
Severe Punishment
It’s Yourz
For Heaven’s Sake
Older Godz
A Better Tomorrow
Triumph
Impossible
Deadly Melody
Bells of War
The City
Black Shampoo

Recommendations
Pick this one up.


Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

Wu-Tang Clan
Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
November 9, 1993
Loud Records/ UMG
090/100
Wu-Tang Clan - Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

1. Bring the Ruckus // 2. Shame on a Nigga // 3. Clan In da Front // 4. Wu-Tang 7th Chamber // 5. Can It All Be So Simple // 6. Da Mystery of Chessboxin’ // 7. Wu Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta Fuck With // 8. C.R.E.A.M. // 9. Method Man // 10. Protect Ya Neck // 11. Tearz // 12. Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber [Part II]

The Staten-Island, New York-based hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan is the stuff legends are made of. Not only is there their reputation as one of the best groups to have ever passed around a microphone, with this album oft brought up as supporting evidence of this claim,  but the nine official members in the group (RZA, GZA, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Masta Killa) have all enjoyed solo-success to varying degrees. Then there are the two unofficial tenth members (Cappadonna and Redman) and countless other affiliates and subordinates who form a legitimate empire of a hip-hop franchise. And their work is acclaimed by hip-hop heads, hipsters, critics and music fans alike.

Part of their strength definitely lies in their numbers, after all with nine official members the chances of everyone’s career going bust simultaneously are nihil and there’s always someone keeping the Wu name alive putting out something someone will care about. At the same time you have something to contribute to that will demand fans attention in the form of Wu-group projects, whenever your last solo-album is gathering dust in record-stores worldNew York-wide. (The shadow side to having this many members is that begining Wu-enthousiasts will have a hard time telling the various members apart. For those amongst DITC-readers there is Mark(TM) Prindle(R) Wu-Tang Clan Voice(TM) Teller-Aparter(R) Guide(TMR) )

Size isn’t everything though. Luckily besides there being many people in and around the Clan, more importantly it is fact that each and everyone of them brings something to the table. Besides everyone included being a nice MC in their own right it is also so that their many flavours compliment one another very well. From ODB’s high-pitched insanity to Method Man’s chronic-sandpapered husk, and everyone in between. Each puts in their unique two cents, making a Wu-Tang album one of the more varied hip-hop listening experiences around. And RZA’s leadership of the group unites everyone under one beat.

RZA’s production consist mostly of dusty drums and other percussions, enriched with minimal melodies in the form of piano keys throughout the album, tea-pot esque whistles on Protect Ya Neck, a funky, brassy horn loop on the ODB-showcase Shame on a Nigga and even what sounds like a proto-Neptunes synth-organ melody on Tearz. The mood is eerie and cinematic. The tracks are sown together with silly skits and lo-fi samples of Kung-fu movie dialogue. (The group itself was named after the kung-fu movie Wu-Tang vs. Shaolin.)

Lyrically the Clan touches on typical gangsta rap subjects such as promiscuous sex, drug- use and selling, and inner city violence via pop-culture references. Not unlike Dr. Dre’s merry band of potholders the various Wu members separate themselves from the pack through the sheer tightness of their flows, rhymes and beats, as well as a goofy, over-the-top sense of humour.

Highlights include the rowdy album-opener Bring da RuckusGZA solo-offering Clan in da Front, the ode to currency-gathering C.R.E.A.M., the proclamation of dominance over hip-hop Protect Ya Neck, and (my personal favourite) the catchy ODB showcase of oddness that is Shame on a Nigga. But with twelve tracks (with the efforts of nine MCs put-in.) there’s no room for filler. This album is consistant as well as varied.

There’s only so much one can say about a classic such as this that does it any justice. Like Mark Prindle did in his review of this album I’ll end with some choice quotables.

Throw your shitty drawers in the hamper.
Next time come strapped with a fuckin Pamper
GZA – Clan in da Front

Ten times ten men committing mad sin.
Turn the other cheek and I’ll break your fuckin’ chin!
RZA – Protect Ya Neck

Burn me, I get into shit, I let it out like diarrhea
Got burnt once, but that was only gonorrhea.
ODB – Shame On a Nigga

Best tracks
Shame on a Nigga
Bring da Ruckus
Clan in da Front
C.R.E.A.M.
Wu-Tang Ain’t Nuthing…
Protect Ya Neck

Recommendations
Buy this album, now!