With signature dark atmospheric Wu beats, sharp rhymes consisting of witty wordplay and conscious content, intertwined with vintage kung fu samples, modern pop culture references and socioeconomic commentary, it almost sounds like an audio revolution. Current yet somewhat nostalgic, the intro to some tracks made me reminisce on the beginning of older tracks as did some of the lines such as, ‘flee with the lottery’, I had an instant flashback to ‘Triumph’!
There was surprisingly little word on the street about the release of, The Saga Continues’ by Wu Tang, perhaps because it’s not perceived as a full clan album (missing members GZA and U-God) or maybe, just maybe it is that these men need no introduction or hype. High expectations seems to have left some ‘fans’ critiquing wanting something harder, nevertheless these beats are clearly rooted from something nurtured in the 90’s and not of this era. For me the slight change of sound I think may be confusion in accepting these emcees have now grown into wiser men, with over 25 years in the game do you really think they will be sounding exactly the same? The slightly more chilled vibe of this album reflects being older and looking at life from a different perspective, I respect that, and I’m nothing but grateful for another gem from the generals of Wu to whom I have grown with myself.
Produced by DJ Mathematics a long time Wu affiliate and family member, I have fond memories of seeing him open for the Wu Tang Clan many years ago and I vividly remember thinking he was the best DJ I had ever heard, and I haven’t felt like that ever since. For this reason, hearing him getting shown love for everything he has done, including designing the iconic ‘W’ symbol was something sentimental for me, he did a great job on the production. This album has that comic book feel, you won’t find any auto tune or trap beats here. Some hooks are a bit more melodious compared to what the hardcore fan might expect but they aren’t overdone and work very well.
Redman brings his wild energy as the first voice we hear, with all his collaborations with Meth it’s no surprise, he’s not out of place and gets the airtime he deserves. I would never have put Redman and Inspectah Deck together but they complement each other well on ‘Lesson Learn’d’. Deck murders his verse it was probably my favorite from the whole album with lines like, ‘I splash bravado, fast cash aficionado’. He also drops a mention of what has caused The Wu so much drama recently, ‘my price hiking like the pills Martin Shkreli sells’ of course a reference to the man who infuriated many by increasing the price of Daraprim — a drug for a rare parasitic infection called toxoplasmosis by over 5000%. Did Redman also take a stab at him in the same track? ‘When I drop something, you like Martin, all ears’ who knows…
I respect Wu as a collective but also as individual artists in their own right, each one is strong and has their own unique style, so when they come together it’s always a treat. One of the more well known members Method man has a strong presence on this album, his wordplay had me giggling like a schoolgirl at times just because they were so sitty, ‘Sometimes I leave the R out of Brother, why bother’ clever line play. I love his attitude to life, accept me as I am like me or don’t. His punchline on, ‘People Say’ may have gone unnoticed, ‘Warriors come out and play-yayyyy’, which is reference to where the sample is from, ‘I got the kind of love’ by The Diplomats, which is featured on the cult New York movie, ‘The Warriors’. It’s these little details that I live for. Personally I think there is a lot of wit on this album, you just have to appreciate it. One of my favorite lines was by R-Mean, ‘Homie we focused, my camp Auschwitz with concentration’, which is referring to the concentration camp during the Holocaust.
Another dominating presence on this album for me is RZA, he comes across as a wise monk, only wiser with age, he stands out for me in the way only RZA can, I feel like he is teaching me about life and death, I have images of him standing on mountain tops embarking on a spiritual journey (which he actually describes). I picked up on a lot of references to the FBI and police brutality. RZA addresses civil rights on, ‘Equal opportunities to uplift our communities, instead your shot to the head a black man’s life worth less than a loaf of bread’ talks about the craziness of having to fight for civil rights in this day and age in America and addresses police brutality, the hook asks, ‘why why why’.
Conscious skit’s one thing I love dearly about Wu, snippets addressing the role of the black man and his importance in family touching more on the traditional roles in family, which again I think is very reminiscent of 90’s hip hop.
References to the Five percent nation may have fallen on deaf ears but for me these rekindle my love affair with seeking knowledge during hip hop in the 90’s, many lines to make us think about being woke in this day and age. Another reason why this album was a breath of fresh air for me, it’s not about living in the past but it’s about keeping that consciousness throughout the evolution of society.
To those who are not feeling this album I would say give it a few more listens, it’s the kind of album you feel more the more you listen to it. On that note, with the outro by RZA talking meditation, Islam and pick pocketing Bruce Wayne that is all the components of a real life superhero empowered by self disciple, faith, imagination and no limits. For these reasons, this album for me is just a reminder why — Wu Tang is Forever.
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