As professor Farnsworth would say, “Great news everyone!” – Wu-Tang’s new album A Better Tomorrow isn’t horrible. It’s an RZA-laced, heavily versed, Kung Fu dialogue dropping, unconventional long player like only the Wu can do. Frankly, it’s better than 8 Diagrams and Iron Flag and there are some great moments had by all members throughout the album.
“Mistaken Identity” is classic killer bees. The almost stereotypical RZA loop twists and turns as the Clan drops jewels. Cappadonna flips on an organ-sprinkled break that’ll instantly bring you back 10 years. That being said there is an inherent disconnect on the album. RZA’s soundscapes evolve and morph mid-song, but rely on mostly live drums that lack the snap of today’s synthetic sound. The more contemporary cuts like “Keep Watch” and to a lesser extent “Ron O’Neal” work well and evolve the Wu sound, but there are moments when the members sound downright antiquated.
They struggle through “40th Street Black/We Will Fight”. There are points where RZA sounds out of breath and the tempo causes problems for a few flows. “Miracle” features some of the best verses on the album, but the Sherman Brothers’ inspired hook is awkward. The soaring strings on “Wu-Tang Reunion” are corny and “Preacher’s Daughter” has one of the worst renditions of Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man” ever recorded.
Still it’s great to not hear a pop culture reference every few bars and even better to hear that the Wu-Tang can still put out viable work over 20 years later. However, the cohesion that made the Wu-Tang a unit has long changed and without a true bonding of the brothers, that spark cannot be rekindled. Someone get Kanye on the line for A Better Tomorrow 2.
Words By. Sean Watson + Photo Courtesy Of. Jonathan Weiner