As of late, Wu-Tang Clan leader RZA has been acting with a single-minded purpose: making a new Wu-Tang album happen, against all odds. He's already titled it A Better Tomorrow and dropped a couple of singles to promote the album; even as projected release dates have come and gone, he's admitted that he's struggled to get the other eight members in a room together.
Nominally, this would be get me excited. Even though Wu-Tang's last few collaborative efforts have been mixed affairs, the individual members involved have been firing on all cylinders for several years now. However, there are some really good reasons this album should not happen at all.
Raekwon's Comments Raekwon is one of the most talented members of Wu-Tang, so his opinion carries some serious weight when it comes to recording an album. Both he and Ghostface Killah have expressed reluctance to record a new record piloted by RZA, as well as stating their personal dissatisfaction with his recent production work, especially on Wu-Tang's last album 8 Diagrams.
While Ghost seems to have softened his stance, the Chef remains unmoved. In a recent interview, he put his foot down and said flat out that he wouldn't do an album with RZA completely shaping the direction of the product.
RZA is unbending on his role as the leader of Wu-Tang and the architect of the Wu's sound. It seems unlikely he would bend to Rae's will on this, which means it's unlikely we'd hear much of the Chef on a new record. Ghost's contributions to A Better Tomorrow have also been described as very minimal.
Without Ghostface or Raekwon completely on board, what's the point? I would never want to hear a Wu-Tang album without the two of them.
GZA's Comments While GZA apparently has no issues contributing, it's obvious his heart is not in it. His contributions to the recent Wu-Tang singles were weak and unmotivated. His focus has been on his own Dark Matter project for years now, and he even copped to not being able to write given the rowdy environment of the recording sessions for A Better Tomorrow.
Wu-Tang should not do an album if their hearts aren't 100 percent in it. That was the issue with early-'00s releases like Iron Flag. Given GZA's importance to the project, why go through with the record if he cannot commit fully?
Story continues on the next page.
The Singles So far, Wu-Tang has released a few different songs that were supposed to be on the new album; "Family Reunion" and "Keep Watch" are your fairly standard latter-day RZA productions. That's fine, but does it make them special? No. They're the same level of songs the Wu used to toss off for mixtapes and compilations.
If these singles set the tone for a full record, we're looking at a product that is completely below the standards of the Clan's longstanding commitment to quality. As I've expressed before in regards to new albums from reunited bands like the Pixies, no new music is better than lackluster new music. If this is going to be done, it needs to be done right. These singles instill little faith in me.
Even worse, Raekwon also chimed in on this subject in the aforementioned interview and slammed "Family Reunion" as a choice for a single. This once again speaks to the lack of passion for this music on the part of the group.
They Have Nothing to Prove This is maybe the biggest reason not to do it. It's a situation where Wu-Tang has everything to lose and nothing to gain. While their collaborative recording output has spotty, it's been well received on the whole. The individual members have almost all staked huge claims for themselves. The group still regularly draws massive crowds, even when they can't get all nine members on stage together. No doubt their headlining set at this year's Free Press Summer Festival will be one of the best of the entire two day outing.
So what's the point? They've got nothing to prove. GZA has said as much, and he's right. It might be nice to hear some badass new Wu-Tang material, but given the various factors involved, that seems like a highly unlikely possibility.
More likely is the idea that they'll put out something fractured and mediocre. They'll denigrate themselves by releasing a weak product which will rapidly be forgotten in the context of their larger legacy. When you look at it that way, is there any reason to risk sullying themselves, or bothering to do this at all?
It's ultimately hard to tarnish a track record in the long run. No one is ever going to disrespect Jane's Addiction for those ultimately useless albums they released long after their prime. But in the case of Wu-Tang, it might be better to let it rest than to force something no one needs and, at the end of the day, probably won't even want once they hear it.
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.