The Wu-Tang Clan have once again stumbled along to create another jejune, spasmodic album, consisting of little more than platitudinous repetitions, mundane lyrical content, and lazy, unremarkable instrumentals – courtesy of DJ mathematics – and the nonchalance of the once great producer RZA.
It pains me to say, as an overzealous Wu-Tang fan, that I feel as if I can no longer defend the omnishambles that is their music as of late. Wu-Tang have not only missed the mark on this album, they have in fact, ‘shot themselves in the foot and scored an own goal with it’.
People Say – the 9th track on the album - offers a nostalgic look at what Wu-Tang used to be, including impeccable sampling and Redman’s assisted cuts. However, this is unfortunately one of the only redeeming factors about the album.
To my despair, the making of the rest of the album feels like it consisted of little more than intra-clan scuffling and creative impotence. For quite some time now, the stench of the vacuity and inanity of popular, mumble rap has loomed over my head like a piss-filled Hindenburg, and I was sincerely hoping to find solace in The Saga Continues, but to no avail.
Maybe the others who have been as thoroughly unimpressed by the Saga Continues as I, can find solace in the fact that Wu-Tang, even after all of their collective shortcomings, have made an indelible mark on 90’s rap, and hip-hop as a whole.
Picks: People Say
Admitting that 2017 has been a disappointing year for mainstream rap music shouldn’t be especially controversial. Despite some alluring contributions from the likes of Injury Reserve and Loyle Carner, rap’s flagbearers certainly seem a step behind. Kendrick’s worst album yet soared to the top of critics’ lists, putting another nail in the coffin of journalistic iconoclasm. Vince Staples dropped his baffling sophomore effort, featuring mind-boggling beats produced by other people and third-rate raps written by himself, before excusing himself to engage in sophomoric arguments with Ronnie Radke on Twitter. Joey Bada$$ attempted to translate anger into high art and inadvertently created an LP of facile political platitudes, and J Hus dropped the worst album of the year so far.
In theory, we need Wu-Tang Clan more than ever.
In practice, we definitely don’t.
I didn’t expect to be comparing the new Wu-Tang Clan album to Ulysses or Seinfeld, but it really is a record about nothing. Despite being forerunners of the genre, Wu-Tang Clan seem to have forgotten that hip-hop was originally about storytelling. There’s nothing wrong with stylistic changes within a musical genre, but it’s worth noting that Wu-Tang Clan fans are usually the first to complain about them. They’re the most outspoken critics of mumble rap and autotune, and they’re certainly the same people who’ll fixate on the admittedly impressive linguistic gymnastics of The Saga Continues whilst ignoring the fact that it’s entirely incapable of finishing a thought. You can dress a song’s music in autotune or its sentiment in complex rhyme schemes, but ultimately, there’s not much to be done when music has nothing to say.
The instrumentals are equally regressive and painfully unremarkable - The Saga Continues is the first album not to benefit from the production of RZA, and it suffers for it. Mathematics has managed to scrape the bottom of the barrel to produce eighteen extraordinarily weak, repetitive instrumentals - some of which are bad to enough to actually warrant pulling out your headphones mid-track.
Listen to The Saga Continues at your own peril.
Picks: People Say, My Only One
First of all, let’s make something clear - this is not a pure Wu-Tang album. Much like 2009’s Chamber Music, The Saga Continues is a compilation album, led by long-time DJ and collaborator Mathematics. And despite this, it might be the Wu’s most complete and coherent record in many years.
One of the album’s great successes is its sound – the Wu is back to boom-bap, a series of excellent old-school Mathematics beats helping to ground the group’s rapping. Despite this, most of the beats sound relatively fresh, avoiding the dustiness that can come with trying to re-hash an old sound. Even the martial arts samples are back, adding a nice touch of flavour to the record.
With regards to rapping, this is undeniably a Wu album. With a few exceptions, most of the Wu is here, and they sound more energetic than they have in years. This is best seen on Frozen, a 4-minute banger featuring Method Man, Ghostface and Raekwon from the Clan and guest MCs Chris Rivers and Killa Priest. Every member brings their A game, with powerful verses flowing over a guitar-led beat. The chorus is fantastic too, with Rae and Ghost delivering a deadly duet – “I don’t sweat money, neck chills in the frost”.
Overall, the record is a success. Despite some weaker features (*ahem* My Only One), this compilation, whilst failing to come close to the heights of 36 Chambers or Liquid Swords, is a thoroughly great listen.
Picks: Frozen, Pearl Harbour, People Say