Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Wu-Tang Clan Journey: "Wu-Tang Forever"

This portion of the journey comes verbatim, straight from my "Wu-Tang Forever" project posted on June 3, 2014, the 17th anniversary of the album!


Man, if there's one album that brings back SO many memories from the summer of 1997, still my best summer EVER, it's this one, and I just HAVE TO share some stories with you all!


Yes, your's truly is an 80s baby, so when this album was released, I was just finishing the 7th grade and my anticipation for this album was HIGH (and although I'm  pushing 30, don't let that fool you, I KNOW my hip hop and its history). A fellow classmate, whose name I cannot recall to save my life but I'll know him if I see him today, came into my class when first period was about to begin, and he was going crazy, lol, essentially saying "yo Kendall got the new joint man!!!!!!" Me being me, I rushed out to the hallway to see, and he sure did have the new Wu-Tang double CD. When I saw the cover, I was like "man, I can't wait to get this joint!" I wonder if my homie Kendall "Theunderpaiddj" Leach still has this album, lol. So, the next few weeks, I would see the "Triumph" video, as well as see cars on the road pass by, playing the album, and this would continue to build my anticipation more and more. I also recall watching an MTV special on the crew leading into this album, showing one of the local spots where fans (including Tracey Lee) were in line buying the album. My cousin Andre copped it before I did (we used to have a friendly competition going on to see who would get certain new albums first, and admittedly, some of those times he won, lol), and my long time friend Shaun called me on the phone a few days after school was over to tell me he bought it, the double cassette that is (his exact words were "I got Wu-Tang Forever kid!"). I wasn't mad, lol, I just couldn't wait to get my own!!!!!
So, on Saturday, June 28, 1997, a few days after my birthday, I was finally able to head to one of my local spots (then known as "Crockett's Records, Tapes, & CDs) to cop this album. I had some birthday money and I knew where it was going! My great aunt Barbara took me the store, and when I went in, the clerk said "what can I get for you today?" I excitedly told him "Wu-Tang Forever" and "the Camp Lo album" (Uptown Saturday Night, which I also still have today). $30.00 WELL spent. I was SO happy when I left the store and when I got back to Barbara's house, I couldn't wait to listen to both albums. After listening to the Camp Lo album, which was also great, I took the plastic off the the "Forever" CD, put disc 1 into the CD player and it was like I was in another world when I was listening to it, it was (and still is) just THAT great to me! I was simply amazed and I treated it like it was the greatest album I ever heard.


For the remainder of the summer of 97, this was an album that was frequently played and even when I play it today, it instantly takes me back to that moment and time in my life that I simply will NOT forget. Strong nostalgia indeed!!!!!

So with ALL of this being said, lol, it's time for another project of mine, "Wu-Tang Forever"!




Release date: June 3, 1997




DISC ONE


1. "Wu-Revolution"
Featuring Poppa Wu and Uncle Pop
Produced by The RZA

Clocking in at a whopping 6.46, this was a rather interesting way to begin the album, in a good way. Poppa Wu is kicking knowledge ("so all you fake ass niggas thinkin you gon survive out here without your black woman, you're wrong") while Uncle Pop sings in the background. All in all, this was great lead in to.....

2. "Reunited"
GZA, Ol Dirty Bastard, The RZA and Method Man
Produced by The RZA

"Reunited, double LP, world excited/Struck a match to the underground, industry ignited" -GZA

"Uncompleted missions, throwin your best known compositions/You couldn't add it up if you mastered addition" -GZA

"Just consider the unparallel advantage/Of a natural disaster that's impossible to manage" -GZA

"Grow like a fetus wit no hands and feet to complete us/Then we return like Jesus, when the whole world need us" -RZA

"On behalf of my crew, suuuuuuuuuuu/Enter the Wu, 36 more deadly chambers to take you through" -Meth


I remember just going completely crazy when I first played this, and I can't/couldn't picture any other song on disc 1 to follow "Wu-Revolution", respectively. All 4 MCs are just so dope and inspired throughout. Also, you would think that a song like this would have the whole clan, but GZA, ODB, RZA, and Meth all bring the goods as usual.
*5 out of 5*



3. "For Heavens Sake"
Inspectah Deck and Masta Killa
Featuring Cappadonna
Produced by The RZA

"Ay yo my rap style swing like Willie Mays/My eyes purple haze, my solar rays will burn through shades" -Inspectah Deck

"Murder rap, kill ya soft like Roberta Flack/Words attack like a British Bulldog, observe the stats" -Inspectah Deck

"Throw both fist for 97!!" -Cappadonna

Oh man, this has always been one of my favorite beats from RZA, and it still bangs like it did when I first played it, and yes I went crazy in the process, lol. Masta Killa and Cappa represent nicely, but Deck just kills this one with his opening verse. Dope stuff here.
*4 out of 5*

4. "Cash Still Rules/Scary Hours (still don't nothing move but the money)"
Raekwon, Method Man and Ghostface Killah
Produced by 4th Disciple

This was about as close to a sequel to the classic "C.R.E.A.M." that we were going to get, and it delivered in spades. Rae opens it nicely, Meth drops one of the most memorable verses on disc 1, and with Ghost closing it in an awesome fashion (probably the first time in hip hop that a verse ended as the MC was still rapping), this was a winning banger all around.
*5 out of 5*



5. "Visionz"
Method Man, Raekwon, Masta Killa, Inspectah Deck and Ghostface Killah
Produced by Inspectah Deck

5 different yet dope "visionz' connected with this fast paced banger. This was also the first time we got Deck behind the boards.
*5 out of 5*



6. "As High As Wu-Tang Get"
Ol Dirty Bastard, Method Man and GZA
Produced by The RZA

"Yo, too many songs, weak rhymes that's mad long/Make it brief son, half short and twice strong" -GZA


This is vintage Wu-Tang right here (again in a fast paced form), complete with a dope hook, dope rhymes, and a tight beat provided by RZA.
*4 out of 5 

 Updated rating: 5 out of 5

  

 
7. "Severe Punishment"
U-God, GZA, Raekwon, RZA and Masta Killa
Produced by The RZA

"So we attack this and grab all within reach/Throw the scrap at the niggas, perfect your own speech" -GZA


Then and now, it was something so innovative about RZA's beat and I still can't quite put my finger on it, lol. Although this one clocks in at 4:49, it's another dope, fast paced song without feeling rushed. 
*4 out of 5*

Updated rating: 5 out of 5 



8. "Older Gods"
Ghostface Killah, Raekwon and GZA
Produced by 4th Disciple

Ghost, Rae, and GZA ride 4th Disciple's beat so nicely, creating ANOTHER fast paced banger in the process. If "fast paced" is becoming a trend of sorts, it's no rush job let me tell you. They do what GZA mentioned in song 6: keeping it brief, half short & twice strong, and the quality of the music speaks for itself.
*4 out of 5*

9. "Maria"
The RZA and Ol Dirty Bastard
Featuring Cappadonna
Produced by The RZA

You could say that after the previous 7 songs, a "cool down moment" was needed, lol. This joint right here was strictly for laughs (yes, there was room for comedy on a Wu-Tang Clan album, lol), with hilarious verses from ODB and RZA, when the latter is talking about this chick Maria, he says "she been in more hotels than bibles", LOL. Some may have said this was filler and could've been left on the cutting room floor, but if you listen to it for what it is, it's not a bad song.
*3 out of 5*

10. "A Better Tomorrow"
Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa, U-God, The RZA and Method Man
Produced by 4th Disciple

"You can't party your life, drink your life away
Smoke your life away, fuck your life away
  Dream your life away, scheam your life away
Cause your seeds grow up the same way" 


That hook above sums up this excellent song perfectly and the message throughout is clear as day (your child or children will inherit your best and worst traits, watch your actions, be the best role model you can be), arguably the best song on disc 1.
*5 out of 5*



10. "It's Yourz"
Raekwon, U-God, The RZA, Inspectah Deck and Ghostface Killah
Produced by The RZA

"You couldn't punch your way out of a wet paper bag, wit scissors in ya hands!" -RZA

"It's only natural, actual facts are thrown at you/The impact will blow trees back and crack statues" -Inspectah Deck


This was a nice way to close the first disc, guaranteed to leave you wanting more, and what better way to begin disc 2.
*5 out of 5*




 DISC TWO

 


1. "Intro"
If I were to rate intros, this one by RZA would most certainly receive a "5 out of 5". RZA bluntly talks about the state of hip hop in 97. He says "for the last year, there's been a lot of music comin out and the shit been weak, a lot of niggas tryin to take hip hop and make that shit R&B, rap and bullshit, or make that funk, fuck that, this is hip hop right here". Bias aside, I agreed 100 percent with everything RZA then and now. While 1996 was a stacked, memorable year, on the flip side, there was a lot of wack material coming out, and some of it was receiving attention. GZA later says "all that playa bullshit", then RZA comes behind him and rightfully so, "this ain't no fashion show". It's interesting to hear this in 1997 and when you look at today's hip hop world, ALL of this is happening moreso today than 17 years ago. He also gives a message/warning to those who think that they would become MCs overnight (as well as to not bite his production style or the rhyming of the crew). When it comes to hip hop and the creation of the music, it takes time (even years) to be GOOD at your craft, and it's not easy. Wu-Tang has always brought strong hip hop for the masses, staying true to their sound. This intro, and the next song, is a testament to that.

2. "Triumph"
Featuring Cappadonna
Produced by The RZA
 
 

Wow, I still remember going absolutely crazy when I first heard this. For 5:38, this was nothing but straight lyrical heat over a dope beat with NO hook. ALL involved brought their best on this classic, especially Inspectah Deck (someone who was no stranger to slammin opening verses), who arguably has the song's most memorable verse. Overall, this is a classic in every sense of the word, also my 2nd favorite video of all time behind Eric B. & Rakim's "Follow The Leader". 
*5 out of 5*



3. "Impossible"
The RZA, U-God, and Ghostface Killah
Featuring Tekitha
Produced by 4th Disciple, Co-Produced by The RZA

While RZA and U-God drops serious knowledge/jewels in a pure Wu-Tang form, Ghostface comes through and in a verse voted in The Source magazine's "1997 Year In Review" issue as that year's best, delivers a chilling story (in ONE verse) witnessing the death of a close homie, with all the emotion you would expect from Ghost, from beginning to end. Another excellent, well  balanced song.
*5 out of 5*



4. "Little Ghetto Boys"
Raekwon
Featuring Cappadonna
Produced by The RZA

Songs like this have been done before, most notably by Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg on "Lil Ghetto Boy" from The Chronic. Rae and Cappa's version (2 minutes and some change on the mic and from there letting the beat ride out) is good, nothing more or less.

*3 out of 5*

5. "Deadly Melody"
All members of the Clan except ODB, Raekwon and Inspectah Deck
Featuring Street Life
Produced by The RZA   

Although the presence of Rae and Deck were missed on this one, make no mistake about it this is a banger and one of the best songs on disc 2. Street Life had made previous appearances with the Wu, but his verse here (and later on this disc) put his name out there a little more ("I be the great all pro, hangin MCs by they logo/My street journal reacts and blaze like an inferno"). Straight dopeness.
*5 out of 5*



6. "The City"
Inspectah Deck
Produced by 4th Disciple

Even as far back as 97, Inspectah Deck was often cited as one of the most underrated MCs in the Clan specifically and hip hop in general. This was one of his first appearances where he flexed his lyrical muscles solo style. Very good song.
*4 out of 5*

7. "The Projects"
Raekwon, Method Man, Ghostface Killah and U-God
Produced by The RZA

Lol, whenever I talked about this album back in the day and this song came up, I remember a guy named Cody who would often say he almost couldn't stand Ghostface because of his verse on this song, claiming it was "too damn perverted", lol. Well, I wouldn't go that far, lol, but Ghost's verse is different from Rae and Meth's, no doubt about it, plus his verse likely was meant for laughs more than anything else. Another good song here, with a beat I always liked a lot (and still do).
*4 out of 5* 

8. "Bells Of War"
U-God, Method Man, The RZA, Masta Killa and Ghostface Killah
Produced by The RZA  

I want to speak on what likely was a mistake. 2:42 seconds into the song, there's a clip played of Rae and Ghost talking about boxing (mentioning names like Pernell Whitaker, Mike Tyson, just to name two) and I feel this was supposed to have been at the beginning of the next song, because when you listen to "Bells Of War", that clip has literally nothing to do with the song at all. It doesn't hurt the flow of it, I just wanted to put it there because I don't think attention has ever been called to it. As far as this song goes, it's a fast paced, ruggedly mellow joint, which also sees RZA mention at the end that "the next Wu-Tang album ain't even coming out until 2000", and it did, resulting in their third album "The W".
*5 out of 5*



9. "The M.G.M."
Raekwon and Ghostface Killah
Produced by True Master

The undeniable chemistry between Rae and Ghost in on full display here as they flow about a night watching a fight at the M.G.M. Rematch scheduled on October 9th!
*4 out of 5*

10. "Dog Shit"
Ol Dirty Bastard
Produced by The RZA

LOL, oh man, this is one of the most hilarious songs I've ever heard. Now, quality wise it may be a step down from the other tight material on this entire album, but it's always been clear to me that ODB was really out to garner laughs here and he did that in spades. Here are some of the funniest lines from the song (with an accompanying link):
"Dip my dunkin between ya donut!"

"Bullet him, get him fast/Bitch I don't break out, pass to the next rash"

 "The dog piss on MCs like trees/Got mill's but still grill that ol good welfare cheese"

"Bitch, you walk around wit ya bra too tight/It's alright, YOU STILL GON GET FUCKED TONIGHT!" 

"..... That pussy there, couldn't satisfy a hair on my body/Treat me like a lolli (pop) and slob me down (licks, licks)/I'm DOO DOO BROWN (laughs)!"
 

LOL, and it doesn't end there. At the end, there's a skit with a guy (still not sure who it is, lol) cracking some serious jokes, mostly about what some guys are wearing, lol.

"...fuck is y'all niggas Soul II Soul, y'all look like some nasty backup dancers for En Vogue, lil nasty R&B niggas yo!" 

"Nigga what's up wit ya speaker spell shoes? Fisher Price, my first Timberlands. Them shits is old nigga, you gotta get some truckers, fucker! Nigga got on a Lamont Sanford dress shirt (what do you want ya big dummy)"

(He then tells another cat his shirt looks like a dishrag AND a curtain, LOL.)

For sheer comedy, this gets a 4 out of 5 rating.



11. "Duck Seazon"
Raekwon, The RZA and Method Man
Produced by The RZA

Rae, RZA, and Meth were the hunters and wack MCs were the hunted! RZA's beat was mind blowing to me at the time, likely because of how innovative it sounded to my ears in 97. All three MCs naturally come through with dope verses, which was not a surprise.
*5 out of 5*



12. "Hellz Wind Staff"
Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, Method Man, The RZA and Raekwon
Featuring Street Life
Produced by The RZA

 "Slave rap niggas get lynched" -Street Life


I'm sure if I was to throw this joint on for my long time friend Marcellous after all these years, he would lose his mind! EVERY time we bumped this joint, he would go crazy because of how DOPE the beat was. RZA was definitely on another level behind the boards at this point, and with himself, Ghostface, Street, Meth, Deck, and Rae supplying the lyrical heat, this was a bangin winner!
*5 out of 5*



13. "Heaterz"
Raekwon, Inspectah Deck, Ol Dirty Bastard (briefly) and U-God
Featuring Cappadonna
Produced by True Master

Initially it took me a while to warm up to this song for some reason, but it ended up winning me over (it didn't take long either). This is "Wu-Tang heat" to be sure.
*4 out of 5*

14. "Black Shampoo"
U-God
Produced by The RZA

Ok, I understand what U-God was going for here (obviously a joint for the ladies), but in my view that was about as out of place as they come on this album, plus considering that this was U-God's first real solo spot, it was a disappointment. It's not wack, it's not great, just SO out of place, even towards the end of the second disc.
*2 out of 5*

15. "The Second Coming"
Featuring Tekitha
Produced by The RZA

I never had a problem with Tekitha, but much like the song before it, this was a rather pointless addition to the album. Having her showcase her skills (also her first solo) is one commendable thing, but this was not the album for that.
*2 out of 5*

16. "The Closing"
As he "takes off" in a helicopter, Raekwon closes this incredible album in true Wu fashion, blatantly stating that the Clan did their thing for "certain fans, certain supporters, not just anyone". He also said "to go and pick up uniforms when you buy this album", lol, and my cousin Andre rightly pointed out he should've said "go and pick up uniforms after you listen to this album", but we got the points though.



Before I go into my final thoughts, I also want to mention that the "International version" of this album included a DOPE RZA solo track titled "Sunshower". To this day, I'm not sure why the U.S. version didn't have this song, because it EASILY could've replaced "Black Shampoo" and "The Second Coming". This album was also the second or third "Enhanced CD" to be released, which you could place into your computer and access special features and exclusives (I need to do this again and see if it works for this one, lol) and it was fairly innovative for its time. Now onto my my overall thoughts.

Over the years, I've often given this album a solid 4.5 star rating, but after a while I ended up going the full monty and awarding it the coveted 5 star rating. Now some may say songs like "Maria", "The Second Coming", and "Black Shampoo" disqualifies it from that rating, however, not only do I respectively disagree, but considering the strong quality of music surrounding those mishaps as well as the STRONG nostalgic vibe I have with this album, my rating is admittedly biased. You cannot deny how GREAT this album was (and still is). Production wise it was excellent, lyrically it's DAMN GOOD, featuring the same chemistry that was present on their classic debut. RZA even told the kids, "you don't even have to go to summer school, just pick up the new Wu-Tang double CD and you'll get all the education you need this year, know what I mean!" I also recall Raekwon advising the listeners in the album's insert to "play this loud as fuck if you have a bangin system", and you can believe that myself, family members, and friends did just that. This is a double album that more than justified its length, much like Biggie's "Life After Death" released the same year. The hype and buzz surrounding the album and the Clan in general PAID OFF very well, achieving a well deserved 4X platinum certification on October 15, 1997, plus it was also nominated for a "Best Rap Album" Grammy Award in 1998, which it sadly did not get (and that likely was the last time the Clan was ever nominated at the Grammys). This is my 11th favorite album of all time and as long as I live, it'll hold a special place in my heart for all of the memories and how WELL it has aged. And if there's a chance that you haven't heard this before, loyal reader, this is a STRONG recommendation on my end, essential listening, a must have for your collection (preferably the CDs)! Many thanks to all involved for this classic album! 



Next up, "The Pillage", Cappadonna's debut.

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