Earlier this week, the long awaited new release from one of the most, if not thee most, powerful and dynamic rap crew in the history of the art form finally hit the shelves. It’s been 7 years since Wu Tang Clan released their last official group studio effort, 8 Diagrams, and as recently as Spring, it seemed very possible that knocking out this new LP may not actually ever be accomplished. Most notably among the reasons for the delays was Raekwon‘s refusal to commit to the project and lay down any verses for it until a contract was settled on, resulting in Wu mastermind/producer, RZA, being incredibly vocal in numerous interviews that, if Rae didn’t come through, whatever material they had worked on was likely to be shelved indefinitely. However that scenario was eventually solved, I don’t know, but it was and the result is the 15 track, A Better Tomorrow.
At the end of August, I saw the full group perform together — minus Method Man and, of course, the late Old Dirty Bastard — at the Bumbershoot Music & Arts Festival here in Seattle, and their set was impeccable. Since then, I’ve already caught GZA performing his classic 1995 release, Liquid Swords, while being backed by a full live band, twice. Meanwhile, in conjunction with this latest WU album, the most consistent solo member of the Clan, Ghostface Killah has a brand new graphic novel-themed release of his own set to drop next week. The first and most obvious question regarding this new WU Tang project was if they’d be “all in together now,” but once that was answered, it felt like a natural progression into considering how much of themselves each one would actually be investing.
Those that have listened to the new release can make their own speculations about what degree each member may have been invested, as well as if this once monolithic outfit comprised of such an unprecedented level of talent and vision has been able to recapture even a glimpse of their former glories as a unit, and/or make it worth distracting themselves from their endless solo ventures and outside responsibilities. The early reviews that I’ve heard have been less than stellar. I myself, still haven’t bothered to delve into it and one of the primary reasons for that deals with political chaos that I, originally, had hoped to remain distanced from, but quickly found impossible. The Michael Brown shooting and grand jury’s decision was mind boggling to me, not to mention the point-blank shooting and murder of 12-year-old, Tamir Rice committed by Cleveland Police only days prior to the announcement that Brown‘s death would not result in an indictment of the officer who shot the unarmed teen to death in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. Then, there are the multiple other similar situations occurring all over the country and the subsequent protests and general unrest that they have been the catalysts for. It’s true that I haven’t been focusing too hard on the new WU Tang Clan musical release in the light of such distressful and chaotic realities, but when the news hit that not one officer involved in the death of 43-year-old, Eric Garner — a result of what the New York City examiner’s office office ruled a “homicide” due to a banned chokehold being utilized on the victim by the NYPD — would be indicted, I wondered how long it would be before the group addressed these recent events; it seemed like something that they would have to chime in on, eventually. The Eric Garner murder, after all, took place in Staten Island (aka Shaolin), homebase for the Wu themselves.
This brand new video for the title track of A Better Tomorrow incorporates footage pertaining to these terrible scenarios, which seem to occur more each and every day — or, at the very least, are receiving more of the spotlight than they ever have before — and the uprisings that follow, specifically those related to Ferguson, MO/Michael Brown and Garner. And whether or not the rest of the album is gold or not, in my opinion, the opening verse that Method Man lays out here on this new track, in itself, makes this video absolutely worth posting.