June 11, 2007

Wu-Tang Clan - Wu-Tang Forever (June 3, 1997)


Some would say that, at this point, I'm avoiding certain things, like the elephant in the room analogy. I would defend myself by saying that I'm just choosing to ignore a certain something for now. But you can't say I'm not putting in any work.

After five successful solo albums by Method Man, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Raekwon, The Genius/Gza, and Ghostface Killah, the Wu-Tang Clan capped off The Rza's five-year plan by releasing, quite possibly, the only truly justified two-CD album in hip hop history.

Justified, because there are nine fucking people in the group, of course.

Wu-Tang Forever, released on the once-mighty Loud Records, built off of the success of the solo albums by prominently placing the previously mentioned five members on tracks built around their strengths. The Rza handled the bulk of the production duties here, but for the first time on a group effort, delegated some of the tracks to other producers in the Wu-Tang fold, such as True Master, 4th Disciple, and, in a most disappointing display, Inspectah Deck. Luckily, Deck overcompensates by bring his new and improved mic skills to the table, as does every other emcee here.

Well, except for U-God. He still sucks. But whatever.

The first CD of the double album is considerably shorter than the second, as the disc itself features an enhanced portion designed to waste your time by pretending to be something meaningful. There aren't any new songs or hidden information found on the CD that you can't find readily available on the Internet. But, it's not like you'd find the enhanced data on, I don't know, say, Ultimate Wu or anything, so that may be an incentive to buy the album right there. But, by all means, keep supporting Ultimate Wu (wink, wink).

I would wait until the end of the review to make that judgment, though.

DISC ONE

1. WU-REVOLUTION (FEAT POPPA WU & UNCLE PETE)
Pretentious, inaccessible, and boring. The worst rap album intro I've heard in a while. You're just chomping at the bit waiting for the kung-fu samples to start. Groan.

2. REUNITED
Now that's more like it! FIrst time I heard The Gza's verse on this, it was on a sampler tape for Forever that my friend got at Sam Goody or somewhere just for pre-ordering. This song is representative of the more polished Wu-Tang sound, kind of like crates that have been dusted off in a half-assed manner.

3. FOR HEAVENS SAKE (FEAT CAPPADONNA)
Some have considered Cappadonna to be the tenth member of the group. Thankfully, he's not. His appearances on Forever are his last ones before his rhymes took a turn for the ridiculously ineffective.

4. CASH STILL RULES/SCARY HOURS (STILL DON"T NOTHING MOVE BUT THE MONEY)
You wish the song was better, since they obviously spent a lot of time on the convoluted-ass title. Ostensibly a sequel to "C.R.E.A.M.", but the original song didn't suck.

5. VISIONZ
Inspectah Deck's production contribution. Proof positive that a good rap song is made up of quality rhymes and quality beats, but when one part is bland, the whole unit suffers.

6. AS HIGH AS WU-TANG GET
Way too fucking short, but I suppose that if it was longer, Gza's verse would be irrelevant, eh? Half short, twice strong.

7. SEVERE PUNISHMENT
The first real track with the kung-fu flick samples woven throughout. Fantastic track.

8. OLDER GODS
Ghostface and Raekwon bring their trademarked-at-this-point storytelling crime raps, with special guest...The Genius? Don't scoff; he more than holds his own.

9. MARIA (FEAT CAPPADONNA)
Is every rap song that talks about having sex with bitches misogynistic? In a word, yes. But Rza's verse is on fire like three baskets in a row.

10. A BETTER TOMORROW
Not bad, as it is their "serious" song (see: "Tearz", "Can It Be All So Simple"), but not as good as the John Woo movie it borrows its moniker from.

11. IT'S YOURZ
This second single doesn't actually sound like a Wu-Tang song. It's an experiment that works.

DISC TWO

1. INTRO
Remember how Disc One had that horrible intro? This is more along the lines of what I want to hear: The Rza and The Gza calling out that "rap & bullshit" that permeated the airwaves ever since Enter the Wu-Tang was released. Talking shit is fun; why else would DJ Premier keep doing those interludes on albums about sellout radio DJs?

2. TRIUMPH (FEAT CAPPADONNA)
The first single and video, directed by fucking Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, Rush Hour 2: The Rushening), of all people. Cost the Clan over one million dollars to create, but they couldn't afford a CGI Ol' Dirty? Oh, the song's still really good.

3. IMPOSSIBLE (FEAT TEKITHA)
Ghostface definitely has the standout verse here.

4. LITTLE GHETTO BOYS (FEAT CAPPADONNA)
Meh. Yeah, I said it, meh. Any track that names itself with this title can't help but be compared to that song off of Dr. Dre's The Chronic, even if it sounds completely different.

5. DEADLY MELODY (FEAT STREETLIFE)
As close to the beats from the first album as it gets here. Great song. Masta Killa really shines here.

6. THE CITY
Inspectah Deck's solo joint, and it's a pretty good offering.

7. THE PROJECTS
See, how they did with the title? Clever, eh? I always skipped this song before, and listening to it again, I'm reminded why.

8. BELLS OF WAR
The beat is kinda bland, but the song itself is decent. Weird interludes throughout, though.

9. THE M.G.M.
Ghost and Rae, together again. They should just do a joint album already. What do you mean, they already made two?

10. DOG SHIT
Ol' Dirty Bastard's solo joint. Sounds just as insane as the concept of naming your song with that title. The insults at the end of the track are still pretty funny, even today.

11. DUCK SEAZON
Rza's pretty good here, but something's bothering me: I'm looking in my dictionary, and I can't find the definition for "seazon". Any help would be appreciated; you know where the comments go.

12. HELLZ WIND STAFF (FEAT STREETLIFE)
I consider this song's title a running joke between the Wu and the listeners, since there was a song with this title promised on the back of the Liquid Swords album. To my two readers, just know it was worth the wait, as this song rocks.

13. HEATERZ (FEAT CAPPADONNA)
As does this song. A good one-two combination.

14. BLACK SHAMPOO
Saying this song sucks actually insults other sucky songs, it's truly that awful. U-God should never rap again, but then again, every crew has to have the guy who makes the rest of the group look like gods, right?

15. SECOND COMING (FEAT TEKITHA)
Not really what you want to hear on a Wu-Tang Clan double album. If I had to choose between a Tekitha solo and Blue Raspberry, I'd choose to listen to Liquid Swords, every time.

16. THE CLOSING
This outro makes me paranoid, for some reason. I think it's the helicopter at the end. Whenever I hear helicopters now, I think of Planet Terror. That's probably just me.

The version I have was a Japanese import (Jealous? Don't be, it cost me fucking fifty bucks), and it includes two bonus tracks after "The Closing".

17. SUNSHOWER
On the American release, it ends with the helicopter. For Japanese listeners, we fade into this song, which is a long ass Rza solo which serves as a teaser for that The Cure album that will never fucking happen.

18. PROJECTS INTERNATIONAL REMIX
I didn't like the original. Somehow, this version sounds worse. How is this possible?

FINAL THOUGHTS: Wu-Tang Forever is the only double album in hip hop history that makes sense. (I'm looking in your direction, Biggie and Pac.) However, just because there are two discs doesn't mean that every song knocks. As is to be expected on all rap albums these days, there's filler, but the good tracks outnumber the bad ones overwhelmingly.

BUY OR BURN? I wouldn't buy the Japanese import (why make my mistake?), but if you can find it for cheap, I'd rather you picked this one up. It's worth your money, and you can't beat that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you actually support artists that you like.

BEST TRACKS: "Triumph"; "Severe Punishment"; "Heaterz"; "Hellz Wind Staff"

(Disagree with the above review? Don't be shy! Leave comments below!)

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Ghostface Killah - Ironman
The Genius/Gza - Liquid Swords
Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...
Ol' Dirty Bastard - Return To The 36 Chambers (The Dirty Version)
Method Man - Tical
Wu-Tang Clan - Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

20 comments:

  1. You are one of those rare cats that make me laugh out loud! KNow this, you have more than 2 readers and as long as they can actually speak english they are feeling you too. Yep. I am on your jock. keep it up man!
    Pace

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  2. I was initially disappointed with this album. I can remember FIENDING for this to drop. The Sunday before it was supposed to drop, I was in a Blockbuster getting ready to rent a movie and saw it sitting there in a rack and grabbed it. I guess they fucked up and put out before they were supposed to.

    I said "fuck the movie" and grabbed a copy of it. I'll admit, I was pretty pissed with it for the first month or so. In those days, you didn't have 10 albums dropping every week to divert your attention, so you stuck with albums more. I eventually started liking it.

    Now I listen to it and realize it's pretty freakin' good, but I still say every double would sound better as a single album

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  3. ^I was also somewhat disappointed with the album. Still, there are just enough songs to pick out from to make it into my playlist and be on par with the amount of songs I have from Enter the 36, so it's all good.

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  4. i was disappointed with it, but if you dissect the "double CD" there is still a "whole CD" of fantastic lines and songs. So RZA must have known. He always does.

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  5. The Projects was a great song until ghostface dropped his terrible verse, methodman completely slaughters the track, like I said though... I skip it right as ghostface comes to ruin the track.

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  6. I really hated this album when I first bought it and it's been sitting in my "box" for almost 11 years. But I took the advice of Jeff over at passionweiss.com and decided to listen to it again yesterday. Something has definitely changed with me because it does sound better now than it did back in '97. I'd give it a 3.5out of 5 now since it does have some filler moments and I hate U-Kid (not god) as much as you do.

    Vincent
    thimk.wordpress.com

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  7. i always thought this album was a bit different from 36 chambers and i dont mean that in a bad way, no really, this is the only double disc album that I can listen to front and back. "Bells of War" and "Deadly Melody" are 2 of my all time favorite wu songs and just like the dude above me I DO NOT LIKE U-GOD. However, not as much as I HATE CAPPADONNA.

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  8. "every crew has to have the guy who makes the rest of the group look like gods, right?"
    It's funny, 'cause it's true!!
    Great album. I still have this album on heavy rotation. I like disc 2 more than disc 1 mainly because I believe True Master is an incredibly talented producer. (what ever happened with his debut album?) The two songs he produced, dare I say, were better than 3/4's of what RZA produced on this album.
    And that's saying something.

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  9. Max,
    I gotta dissagree with you here. I think you went too easy on this puppy.

    The intro is just godawful, and is probably the first sign of pretentiousness the RZA would display later.
    Reunited is OK, but that next track's stupid-high pitched vocal sample just doesn't sound any good. They never have and they never will.Cash still rules is piffle really, it is overproduced and just doesnt sound like old Wu or even more polished wu like the second track. I think visionz is better than you give it credit for, due to it's stripped down sound, but I understand what you mean about most of Deck's work being pretty boring i.e. Spazolla. As High as Wu Tang get is pretty standard level of quality I would expect from a project like this.
    I really, really wanted to enjoy Severe Punishment. But U-God, man...I just did not like his verse. Older Gods is pretty great as it leaves behind all the pretentiousness and jumps into some cinematic RZA beat featuring 3 of the Wu's greatest members. Both of the next two songs aren't particularly memorable to me. I guess it's yourz is OK, but still, it's not really the growth I expected since at this point the Wu were at the top of their game.

    Triumph was pretty incredible, but I didn't like Cappa or Uey's verses, and I thought masta Killa's was preachy and slowed down the proceedings significantly. Decks verse should prevent anyone skipping this, though. Impossible is great for the RZA's verse and obviously Ghostfaces, but the beat is a huge anticlimax from the previous track. In fact, the only really memorable tracks to me from disc 2 were Hellz wind staff, Triumph, MGM, Heaterz and deadly Melody.

    I would recommend buying the best tracks on iTunes, but nothing else.






    Blake

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  10. @ Blake: 4th Disciple produced 'Older Gods'.

    I feel kinda bad for this, but I didn't and still don't feel 'Heaterz' as much as most do. It's a good track, and the beat is majestic, but it's not in my "stand out" list (unlike 'Severe Punishment', 'Deadly Melody', 'Hellz Wind Staff' and of course 'Triumph'). I like 'It's Yourz' better, for example (put that one in my list too).

    Regardless, great double album. Though I will say that OB4CL and Ironman greatly helped maintain my fondness for it, if you know what I mean. If this had come out before the Purple Tape, I would probably have been a bit disappointed. Mid-'90s was a brilliant era for rap.

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  11. anonymous?March 04, 2010

    I never noticed before how much GZA is missing from the second disc. Apart from the shortest verse on Triumph and that bar or two on Deadly Melody (and a bit on the intro, I guess), he's absent. Kinda sad.

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    1. It's for this very reason I prefer the first disc over the second.

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  12. Stop hating on U-God, he kills every verse he spits on this album. Just like he killed it on 8 Diagrams. Stop hating, seriously. And stop laughing.

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  13. picked this up for 6 bucks, along with nas' illmatic. total for the two of them was 12 bucks

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  14. OK.

    Let me make this perfectly clear.

    I will never.

    EVER.

    Defend nor approve nor condone "Black Shampoo"....

    And I'm pretty meh about his solo albums, save some true gems on G.A.R. & Dopium (especially the Scotty Wotty joints)
    But other than that, I don't care what anybody thinks.


    I say this with a very clear conscience, Golden Arms STEALS THE FUCKING SHOW ON "A BETTER TOMORROW"!!!



    Hell, he was positively shining just as much as anybody else on this WHOLE album, which I like even more than 36 Chambers, of which I am unashamedly a stan.

    I treat this album as our proper introduction to Lucky Hands and Noodlez, as they stood out as much as His Highness The INS here.

    Yes.

    This over 36 Chambers.

    Even with the filler.

    Everyone's here. And they all capitalized off the fantastic experience of their classic 1st round of solo joints.

    Although, I could've done with some more ODB on the whole joint & more GZA on the 2nd disc.

    Also, I wholeheartedly agree with you about that horrendous 1st disc intro. And Tekitha on a full-blown Wu-Tang album? No fucking comment.

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  15. "not as good as the John Woo movie it borrows its moniker from."

    word. epic amazing film.

    hellz wind staff and high as wutang gets 100%.

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  16. Dude, I've never noticed how underrated "A Better Tomorrow" really is. Deck's verse made me fucking cry. Best song on the album.

    OK, Max, you fucking asshole. Stop hating on his production. He CAN make a good beat. He's no fucking RZA, but I'll be a hypocrite if I said Visionz wasn't my shit.

    Love your reviews by the way. I have NOT regretted buying Czarface based on your word.

    PS: FUCK SHAWN CARTER. ;P

    Keep up the good work!!!

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  17. Anybody fronting on Masta Killa, ESPECIALLY on his guest verses with the Wu, should have their heads checked.

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  18. Masta Killa is weak compared to the rest too; it's arguable who the worst rapper in the clan is him or U-God (but yes I probably would say U-God also, solely on the strength of Killa's solo debut). But Masta Killa absolutely ruined the song For Heaven's Sake which would have been a stone cold classic if only had a better verse from him or better verse from another clan member instead.

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