Return Of The Savage :: Ghostface Killah f. Raekwon & RZA

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This record comes from Ghostface and producer Adrian Younge’s upcoming sequel to last year’s collaborative Twelve Reasons To Die.  Matching my complaint about the first album, this track seems to be just as overly dramatic to the point of eye-rolling but it’s always good to hear Rae and Ghost on a record together.  As for RZA’s input (a monologue), I have to wonder who keeps thinking it’s a good idea to have him do the narration on anything ever.  Ah, well.  Enjoy.

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[Review] A Better Tomorrow :: Wu-Tang Clan

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I wanted to like this album.  I wanted to love this album.  I wanted it to be the most important record of 2014.  Needless to say, judging by the intro to this review you just read, none of these things happened.  It was clear from the early turmoil that fans were made aware of, with Raekwon and RZA sparring in the press about creative differences.  Even judging from the singles that have dropped, it’s clear that RZA is more interested in giving Wu-Tang fans what he thinks they want as opposed to what we need, which is vintage Wu.  We live in a time where the rap game is positioned squarely in the lobby of a W hotel and what we need to see again is rap living in the pissy stairwell depicted in ODB’s “Brooklyn Zoo” visual.  That darkness and edge is missing for most of A Better Tomorrow, with zen master RZA presiding over the boards.

Surprisingly, it’s Cappadonna who, to me, comes with some of the most consistent verses, displaying the same kind of energy he did on his first few appearances with the Clan.  Similarly, Method Man, GFK and a noticeably absent Raekwon put in decent work. Even U-God holds his own alongside Deck and GZA, but it isn’t the rhymes that are a problem here, aside from having to endure hearing Method Man mention being “turnt up“, which made me nauseous.  The problem is the realization that RZA’s vision for the album got in the way of what could have been a solid album.  What Raekwon described as RZA wanting to do “a more humble album” led to Tomorrow being an album where tastemakers concede to trends set by upstarts, following a pattern designed to attract the young whippersnappers instead of making some authentic hip-hop and letting it feed whoever was willing to partake.

Unfortunately, more than half of the album has little to no replay value, even as a Wu fan.  The better portion of the album are mostly tracks that aren’t even produced by RZA (Adrian Younge’s “Crushed Egos” and 4th Disciple’s “Necklace”).  Other tracks are plagued with failed attempts at nuance.  While awkwardly sung vocals are a Wu staple, the choruses they tried to shoehorn onto Tomorrow are amazingly bad, making me wonder where the hell Tekitha, Blue Raspberry or even Popa Wu were for the recording of this album. For example, the vocals on “Miracle” seem like a joke.  It’s even worse on “Ron O’Neal”: “No matter what the weather, we be gettin’ that cheddar, so…”  SERIOUSLY?!?!  These rap vets really just gave us a hook rhyming weather and cheddar?!?  I don’t know if I can also explain how awful the singer is in words, so I’ll just say that if it was a smell, it would closely mimic that of used earring backs.

It’s hard to admit that we may not ever see another Wu-Tang Forever, but it’s true; at this point, there’s just too much of a disconnect between the artists involved to expect a beneficial chemistry to occur.  Despite the pre-release marketing ploys and the big talk, A Better Tomorrow is a forgettable album. Unfortunately, Wu-Tang may not be forever (but judging by 36 Seasons, Ghostface Killah is).

Album Reaction:

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Iyanla: Fix My Wu-Tang

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So I recently purchased a Wu-Tang hoodie online and I regret to say that I had to just sit it down in a corner and just kind of glare at it for about a week before finally putting it on today.  Had to put the Wu-Tang hoodie on punishment.  This was brought about by Ghostface Killah’s recent appearance on VH1’s Couples Therapy.  Now you’ve heard me discuss before how I feel about rappers on reality shows, but there’s a big difference between watching Consequence fall victim to the trappings of reality TV “stardom” and watching the special place that the Wu holds in my heart be diminished by having to watch key members acting a donkey on reality television.  This, mind you, is after a string of disappointments…moments I felt were obvious reaches for mainstream (read: the yute’dem) relevance years after the classic Wu-Tang Forever was released.

If you’re a regular reader of Front-Free, you don’t even have to ask me how I felt about Drake’s so-called ode to the Wu-Tang Clan, which to me seemed like a ploy to attract the ire of fans of the Wu who would naturally be averse to Aubrey’s style of rap-singering.  What was worse than that was the Wu’s support of the song, an obvious attempt to remain relevant and diplomatic within the current rap game, where most fans are too young to remember the significance of the classic purple tape, let alone “Protect Ya Neck”.  Nobody wants to be that old rapper who seems unreceptive to the new crop of rappers, but it’s admirable when you feel the authenticity in it, as opposed to Raekwon acting as if he plays Justin Beiber music in the whip when asked about his working with the pop star.  There aren’t enough woo blunts in the world to make me believe that was genuine props and not Rae trying to avoid burning any potentially lucrative bridges.

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It’s a common misconception that one cannot or should not knock the hustle.  I think it’s very important to knock the hustle when it conflicts with who a person or entity represents.  Keeps things honest.  Naturally, Wu-Tang’s first LP was a long, long time ago in hip-hop years and a group that large is certain to grow apart and begin to have their own individual goals and ways of thinking after years and years of success and experience.  Method Man, for example, has been his own separate brand apart from the Wu for years, to the point his caricature-of-himself persona exists almost completely independent of his contributions to the whole.  But Ghostface joining the ranks of Joe Budden, Consequence, Li’l Scrappy and Benzino on the washed-up-rapper cavalcade that is currently VH1’s prime-time programming is just the last straw…and a wake-up call to fans that the Wu will never be the same…and not in the “oh they’re evolving” sense.  It could have all been so simple: build an amazing brand in hip-hop (check).  Release classic group albums that are true to said brand (check).  Release classic solo efforts that are also true to said brand (check).  Continue on in your careers remaining true to the brand and staying true to the core fans who got you this far and other fans will come (now this is where it gets iffy).

In closing, the Wu-Tang Clan have a catalog so impressive collectively that I could never totally give up my Wu-fan roots.  Raekwon and Ghostface are still both in my top five MCs list, even if one is going the VH1 route and the other may do some questionable features here and there.  At the end of the day, though, a true fan doesn’t just eat up anything an artists serves them with a smile on their face.  As with hip-hop itself, you’ve got to be in love with the art-form/culture enough to want better for it.  I just want better for the Wu.

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A Rainy Day x Raekwon

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Raekwon drops a loosey from F.I.L.A. (Fly International Luxurious Art) which is scheduled to drop either the end of this year or in January.  The track uses a hook sampled from Ghostface’s “Rainy Dayz”.  In other more shameful Wu news, Ghostface Killah will apparently be on a new season of VH1’s Couples Therapy airing out his issues like he isn’t a veteran MC who doesn’t need to buy into the reality TV bullshit to remain relevant.  Dark day in hip-hop.

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