June 03, 2022

Wu-Tang Clan "Wu-Tang Forever" (25th Anniversary, 1997)

Why buy an album that's obnoxiously too long and too expensive, half of which could be lost forever with no harm done? Because it's the Wu, and for all the Pocahontas tie-in hype surrounding the group, you still get a dizzying number of fruitcake-dense, Möbius-strip rhymes. Creating a style with no definite precedent, playing major labels against each other--and winning--Wu-Tang Clan are basically selling avant-garde music as pop to the world. In a rare display of connectedness, group leader RZA addresses that world with his "intro" to the second disc of the two-disc set: "This ain't no [wack] R&B, all that playa dressing up.... This is lyrics, MCing." Raekwon clarifies further on "The Closing": "This is for certain people, certain fans." In other words, heads, not crossover hopefuls. Which is disappointing. Method Man and Mary J. Blige's duet was so great because it was both indelibly Wu and still pop, a pleasurable friction. But this album is for hip-hop junkies, rhyme followers who want to hear their favorite sword-swallowers drop unusually good styles over unusually good beats. There are no overall mindf#cks on Wu-Tang Forever as potent as "Sub-Crazy," "Glaciers of Ice," "Daytona 500," but the Wu-Tang style still beats Puffy's Versace cliches hands down. For starters, the Wu have Method Man. Somnolent, slurpy, and brief, his rhymes splatter all around the bar line, but never divide neatly. "We at odds till we even," from the hot "Duck Seazon" is a pretty awesome use of six words. Ol' Dirty Bastard is still group's id, reaching out to touch you with couplets like, "I'ma rub your ass in the moonshine / Let's take it back to '79," while Raekwon remains the desk sergeant of street verse, speed-folding words like origami, advancing the Wu style of reducing an entire sentence to one or two words. And the RZA is still the RZA: "Reunited" gets nice with a violin that would make Henry Threadgill jealous; "Older Gods" seems to be a duet between a dry-cleaning store and an automatic stapler; and "For Heavens Sake" has a sped-up, chipmunk-vocal chorus that only Lee Perry would be brave enough to use. The RZA burns the rule book between your headphones. For some Wu-like reason, most of the good tracks are on disc two: "Triumph" is the tag-team puzzle you were thirsting for; "Hellz Wind Staff" is just relentless; "Impossible" boasts Ghostface Killah's emotional, you-are-there narrative and the RZA's lyrical Unabombs. None of which change the fact that half of this album is kinda sketchy (I won't argue that point)... but "I don't really care." You want brevity and classique form, buy the Wallflowers. I'm spending quality time with the number-one-employee-theft-album-of-the-year, all 897 chambers of it. It beats drunken monkey every time. - Spin (9/97). This album has crazy sentimental value (to me)!

One of the greatest albums (especially 2CDs) of all-time. Wu-Tang Forever...