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The album meant to celebrate the Wu-Tang Clan’s 20th anniversary has finally come out a year after they wanted it to. A Better Tomorrow had a lot of weight on its shoulders, as the Clan had to make up for their previous subpar album, 2007’s 8 Diagrams, and the media spotlight was on them as they struggled to get all of their members onboard for the project. They finally made it work though, and it’s honestly just good to see them all making music together again. RZA and Method Man are movie stars. Ghostface Killah has been moving steady with his solo career. Raekwon is juggling his solo career while trying to run a record label. GZA is doing research with NASA and giving lectures at universities. Meanwhile, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Masta Killa and Cappadonna all seem ready to rap on command. You could imagine how hard it was to get everyone together again.
The album starts off with the epic “Ruckus in B Minor”, with all ten members (including the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard) appearing on the track in one way or another, complete with kung-fu samples. The creativity from the Clan then proceeds to spew, as they arrange their raps around the beat on “Felt”, and the beat changes around their verses on “Mistaken Identity”. After a few dope, traditional hip-hop bangers though, we start to see some questionable experimentation. Halfway through the album, we get “Miracle” which has some thought-provoking verses but a corny, Disney-sounding sung chorus, and “Preacher’s Daughter” which features RZA karaoke-singing the tune of “Son of a Preacher Man” (from Pulp Fiction). We get another weird hook on “Necklace”, but the album finishes strongly with important, inspiring lyrics on “A Better Tomorrow” and more heartfelt rhymes on the closer, “Wu-Tang Reunion”.
The Wu-Tang Clan is able to deliver a solid album, despite throwing fans off with out-of-place choruses and some overall vibes they haven’t touched before as a group. Some of these songs are so large-scale and meaningful that it’s almost weird to see them coming from Wu-Tang, even though they’ve been preaching about the greater good for years. Each Clan member’s individual journeys show in their growth on this album. Inspectah Deck and Method Man have kept their swords sharp as they slay every track they appear on. RZA’s Hollywood influence is apparent in his grander production. GZA’s lyrics almost all have a scientific context to them. Ghostface Killah remains adaptable, bringing aggression, passion, and/or emotion when the music calls for it. U-God and Masta Killa have both improved as emcees, while Raekwon and Cappadonna came in and did what they’re known to do. Also, Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s vocals were sampled tastefully throughout the album. Overall, A Better Tomorrow has its flaws, but I’m just happy to see it happen in the first place.
My Grade: B+
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