June 03, 2016

Wu-Tang Clan "Wu-Tang Forever" (New York Times, 1997)

Listening to ''Wu-Tang Forever'' by the Wu-Tang Clan as it has slowly infiltrated the city since -- blasting out of clubs, boomboxes and car stereos -- has offered clear evidence of why this group is probably the most important one in hip-hop today. The album effortlessly slices through the noise and music around it, thanks chiefly to its producer, known as the RZA, whose precision beats ring crisply and sharply in the air while the sound snippets he uses to back the raps propel them like slingshots... Even before listening to the album it is clear that the Wu-Tang Clan is a slick, innovative crew... Since its debut, ''Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)'' from 1993, the Wu-Tang Clan has turned from a group into a powerful virus, with five of its nine members having released successful solo records (each on a different record label) in the four years it has taken for this long-awaited follow-up. ''Wu-Tang Forever'' may not be as groundbreaking as the band's debut, but it does show an evolution. The band seems to be moving forward lyrically and acoustically while moving backward stylistically, taking less of a frenzied end-of-the-millennium approach and favoring simpler, old-school beats. Instead of flowing over the sides with skits, movie dialogue and foaming-at-the-mouth rapping, ''Wu-Tang Forever'' is a smooth, clean set of 25 songs with only a few throwaways... 

Violins are all over the album. They're used to reach for sentimentality in the positive-minded anthem ''A Better Tomorrow'' (named after the John Woo movie soundtrack it samples) and to add a fast, infectious lilt to the band's powerful comeback song, ''Reunited.'' At the same time, the album doesn't make a complete break from the past, offering a sequel to its hit ''C.R.E.A.M.'' in ''Cash Still Rules/ Scary Hours'' and using rhythms and sped-up samples that sound very close to those on ''Liquid Swords,'' the solo album by the Wu-Tang member Genius/GZA. ''We return like Jesus, when the whole world needs us,'' the RZA immodestly claims in ''Reunited.'' Probably the biggest similarity ''Wu-Tang Forever'' has to religion is that, like the Bible, the album was written by many different, often contradictory voices. Where Ol' Dirty Bastard breaks new ground in misogyny, bragging about adultery and gonorrhea, U-God gives a lesson on sensuality and respecting the body in ''Black Shampoo'' and Ghostface Killa tells a horror story of a broken condom in ''The Projects.'' Where the RZA blasts rappers trying to water down hip-hop with rhythm-and-blues on ''Intro,'' the song ''Second Coming'' is 90 percent rhythm-and-blues. - (NYT, June 10, 1997). Video from the Wu-Tang Forever Enhanced CD  (thanks to Unkut) is above and revisit the album below, released on 6/3/97.