RELEASE: OCTOBER 13, 2017, EOne Music, Review by Michael Grant, C.E.O. of RePPiN4U & member of Wu Worldwide DJ Coalition
THE STORY SO FAR:
“If you have a good day, you want A Better Tomorrow, if you had a bad day, you NEED A Better Tomorrow…” (RZA, 2014)
Sounds like RZA had a bad day at the office with the last LP. We all have a bad day at the office at some point or another. He needed A Better Tomorrow… so he told Ghostface, if we gonna form like Voltron again, I want you at the helm. Even at the press conferences for A Better Tomorrow album, when asked if this was the last Clan album, Method Man was the first to pipe up and say emphatically – NO….
…but in August of 2017, the Wu-Tang Clan adopted the Killarmy like approach and emerged like Camouflage Ninjas with a new single – People Say… and took Hip Hop by surprise. Just like that, like an RKO outta nowhere, RZA & DJ Allah Mathematics announce a new album, took to all major radio outlets for interviews where the creator of the Wu logo publicly put his own neck on the line by saying “he studied the 36 Chambers album & Dr Dre’s 2001 and crafted the album based on those two releases.” …and just like that, fans expectations are raised to the highest.
With Mathematics now behind the boards for this one, he starts the album the right way with the Shaw Brothers introduction. Kung fu heads know that when they hear that, they are in for a quality film, and that was Mathematics approach here. Great science behind the kung fu sample chosen as well. To Mathematics, this is a test, he knows the consequences should he fails in this social media driven era, and the clan are out to kill the game on this go round. The Abbott still overseeing the project but keeping his hands away from the boards.
With that said, is it a Lesson Learned? Who better to kick off the album with the Rebel INS? Nice to hear the evil Skhreli himself get a mention in the track and it feels great to have Redman jump in the track with a clan member other than Method Man and share that synergy. It’s a refreshing dynamic. The track flows nicely into ‘Fast & Furious’ with Raekwon and Hue Hef which sees them on the good ol’ Cuban Linx style storytelling tip.
In the hook of Lesson Learned, Redman states that his people don’t play, particularly his tag team partner Method Man who keeps his new curse-less rhyming style ferocious over a smooth beat in ‘If Time Is Money’. It’s almost like a two-part series as Meth continues in ‘Frozen’. His Wu-Massacre brothers jump in the hook, Killah Priest & Chris Rivers go in unfazed. Can’t help feeling that Ghostface’s vocals didn’t sound fresh though, slightly out-of-place but hey – it’s a minor right?
He more than makes up for it in the skit ‘Berto and the Fiend’ which its soulful vibe sounds like it was originally going to make Supreme Clientele 2…
As we enter one of the album’s many highlights: Pearl Harbour where we see yet another Boot Camp Clik appearance in Sean Price who ‘f**ks with Wu-Tang and a couple of new n!&&@$’… the track is so epic that it makes you wish Wu Camp Clik came with an album a few years ago instead of Wu-Block… or is it still possible in the next year? Calling Bernadette Price/Rockness & RZA/Mathematics! Said before in the Sean Price Imperius Rex review and again here – MAKE IT HAPPEN! Rockness himself would have been great on this track too…
…the same could be said for Ghostface Killah on the track that started it all in August 2017! Every MC went in, Mathematics lost his mind with the beat, and when it was released initially, turns out Mathematics still wasn’t satisfied, he went back and made some minor changes as Redman went in! You can hear all the signature sounds Mathematics does here especially when Masta Killa steps in to finish the track.
Big shout out to Shahrazad Ali who drops jewels in the ‘Family’ skit about the importance of the black man in families. I may not be an American Citizen, but going by what’s happening as of late, I say impeach Trump and elect this woman for president.
Then in ‘Why Why Why,’ another album highlight, we see a more hungry RZA rather than the somewhat ‘lazy’ flow we have seen RZA do as of late, here he’s sounding more like ‘The Cure RZA’ rather than the ‘Bobby Digital RZA’. Big up to Swnkah, putting a nice reggae riddim touch on the track.
In G’d Up, Method Man is throwing shots at wannabe Killa Bees… there they are, all over social media claiming they are a Wu-Tang affiliation. It’s a desperate and embarrassing sight… “You ain’t my people, I don’t care if you know RZA/‘Cause at the end of the day
I’m a problem boy, stay out of my way/if you see me in the streets, you better give me my space/And if I beat you to the punch I punch you dead in your face…” With Mzee Jones on the hook, you can hear the Dr Dre 2001 influence Mathematics was talking about.
Ol Dirty Bastard continues to prove he was light years ahead of everybody. at the end of the banger ‘If What You Say Is True’ which also shuts down speculations of GZA’s appearance on the album, Dirty tells the people how the media are trying to bring about a race war. RZA & Mathematics continue their teasing techniques on the Saga skit, wishing a full version of the song exists somewhere in 36 Chambers studios, then this is how it sounds when the Hood Go Bang…a track that makes you wish Red & Meth went in a bit longer.
Finally, with assistance from Steven Lattore, Ghostface encourages RZA & Cappadonna to channel their inner Pretty Toney in ‘My Only One’… directing their attention to the ladies, who probably wish Method Man jumped in on this one.
The album closes out with a great message addressing the young artists doing their thing in music and the older generation who have their constant qualms about their music.
Sometimes in mathematics, you don’t find the correct answer straight away, and in this album, it will take quite a few listens for you to absorb everything, and once you have done that, you realise that Allah Mathematics has done a great job here. He has stayed closer to the Wu-Tang sound, and it is a vast improvement over the last LP (A Better Tomorrow) but here’s the twist: To those who had high expectations and were disappointed in this surprise project, on one hand I don’t blame you, because of the way this album has been promoted. This is in actual fact a glorified sequel to Wu-Tang: Chamber Music and Wu-Tang: Legendary Weapons. If Mathematics put this out with little promotion like he did with his previous projects – (Love, Hell & Right, The Problem and The Answer), the album may have been better received. But because it was promoted like it was a new Wu album of the bat, and because Allah Math modeled off 36 Chambers & Dr Dre’s 2001 in interviews, I can sympathise with you to an extent. Here we realise that fans actually care about U-God who is absent from this project, maybe due to legal reasons at the top of 2017, but this album felt like U-God’s face would have been replaced by Redman via Photoshop in the Wu-Tang Forever album cover. The album also suffers from a not having a full posse cut which has been on every major Wu album. After you get over U-God’s absence, this is a very enjoyable album that will get regular spins alongside Masta Killa’s Loyalty Is Royalty, until the next solo or group project surfaces.