Wu-Tang Clan - A Better Tomorrow (Review)

Wu-Tang Clan - A Better Tomorrow (Review)

"A Better Tomorrow" is the sixth studio album from legendary hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan. The album features guest appearances from Streetlife and Nathaniel as well as production from 4th Disciple, Mathematics, Adrian Younge and Rick Rubin, but most of the tracks are produced by RZA himself. It is set to be released on December 2, 2014 via Warner Bros. Records.

1) Ruckus In B Minor - The album begins with one of the singles that was released in promotion of the album and it's definitely a banger. The song finds the entire Wu-Tang Clan (including O.D.B. in a few spots) doing their thing over an epic RZA/Rick Rubin collabo full of live instrumentation, kung-fu samples, ill scratching and a couple of beat changes. The production has an energetic stadium feel to it in some parts and a more subdued feel in others, with everyone coming correct with their rhymes and still sounding great after all these years. I'm really feelin' this shit. - 4.5/5

2) Felt - This song starts out kind of strangely, with RZA speaking over an instrumental that sounds like it may lead into some kind of pseudo-EDM/trance shit before the actual instrumental kicks in and ends up being pure Wu. The beat is haunting, with layers of strings and other live instrumentation over the rapid-fire drums, and it actually turns out really well. Lyrically the song is also really nice, with Masta Killa, Cappadonna, Ghostface Killah and Method Man all centering their rhymes around the word "felt" while flowing effortlessly over the unorthodox production. Dope - 3.75/5

3) 40th Street Black / We Will Fight - The beat on this cut, courtesy of longtime Wu-Tang DJ/producer Mathematics, has an almost old school, park jam type of vibe to it with some bright horns and stomping marching band drums. As far as the rhymes go, everyone featured on here sounds pretty good as well while kicking some braggadocios bars and such. The first few times I listened to this song I was kind of undecided about it, but the shit definitely grew on me. Not bad at all. - 3/5

4) Mistaken Identity (featuring Streetlife) - This joint starts off with an extended sung intro that is kind of bland to me, but the song really picks up once the beat fully kicks in and Deck starts his rhyming. The production is kind of dark and provides a nice soundscape for the story raps that follow, with Rebel INS, Meth, U-God, Cappa and Masta Killa all rhyming from the perspective of someone who has been setup or otherwise mistaken for someone else. Too bad Street is only on the hook since I haven't heard a verse from him in quite a while. Still, dope track. - 4.5/5

5) Hold the Heater - RZA comes through with another ill production on this cut, with some gloomy strings over drums that definitely got me nodding my head, but the synths on the chorus feel a little out of place. Actually, the entire chorus isn't quite up to par with the rest of the song and drags the track down a little bit. Luckily the rhymes are really nice on here, with U-God and Meth sounding especially good. This is pretty dope, but there are better songs on here. - 3/5

6) Crushed Egos - Like this one. Raekwon and RZA come together and just body a head nodding Adrian Younge production that has a classic Wu-Tang vibe to it. The beat is fire and Raekwon's verses are just as good, with RZA mainly holding down the chorus and bridge while adding his own unique touch to the song. This is one of the album standout cuts for me. Too bad it's so short since it left me wanting more. I actually think a tag team of Rae and Ghost on here would have been crazy. - 4.5/5

7) Keep Watch (featuring Nathaniel) - This track was released as a single back in March and it's grown on me quite a bit since I first heard it all those months ago. The beat, by Mathematics, is mainly centered around a chopped up vocal sample layered over stomping drums that actually sounds really nice as part of the album instead of as a track on it's own. Even the chorus, which I really disliked back in March, sounds better now than it did then. Oh and Meth kills it with his verse. - 3.75/5

8) Miracle (featuring Nathaniel) - The first time that I heard this song I thought that I had accidentally gotten one of my daughters Disney songs into my Wu-Tang playlist, but it turns out that intro was actually part of the song. You know what? I like that shit. A lot. Sure, it's different for Wu, but it's beautiful. Once the intro ends and the beat kicks in, the song gets even better. The instrumental is produced by 4th Disciple (who is one of my all-time favorite producers for his work with Sunz of Man, Killarmy, etc) and it's absolute fire. Lyrically the song is fire as well, with Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa, Raekwon and Ghostface (who has the standout verse in my opinion) all completely bodying the instrumental while rapping about miracles and overcoming the bullshit. This shit reminds me of "Babies" off of "Iron Flag" for some reason. Anyways, very, very dope track. - 4.5/5

9) Preacher’s Daughter - I was absolutely sure that I was going to hate this song after watching those "early listening session" videos that were released a few weeks back and then even more so after listening to the album snippets. Guess what. I was totally wrong. This shit is dope, with RZA replaying Dusty Springfields "Son of a Preacher Man" and Method Man, Masta Killa, Cappadonna and Ghost all keeping with the theme of the song and rapping about the preacher's daughter (who isn't quite as innocent as she seems). They are just having fun on here. Dope track. - 3.75/5

10) Pioneer the Frontier - This song is probably the most classic Wu sounding joint on here, with RZA channeling his inner "36 Chambers" sound and crafting a beat that seems like it was lifted straight from an old kung-fu movie. The beat bangs and the rhymes are just as strong, but I'm not really feelin' RZA's verse on here quite as much as I am the others. Still, very nice track. Oh and those O.D.B. vocals got me missing Old Dirt Dog even more. - 4.5/5

11) Necklace - 4th Disciple returns to production duties on this track, coming with another dark ass instrumental that is easily one of my favorite beats on the album. As on the previous song, the beat bangs and the rhymes are top notch, with Cappa, Raekwon, Ghostface and GZA all rapping about how rocking all that ice can lead to bad things. This is vintage Wu-Tang right here. - 4.5/5

12) Ron O’Neal (featuring Nathaniel) - This song was released back in August or so and it's pretty dope. The beat is nice, with some more horns, strings and ill drums, but the chorus is yet again the weakest part of the track. Outside of that, this is nice, even if it doesn't really standout in the overall scope of the album. - 3.25/5

13) A Better Tomorrow - The beat on this cut is quite dope, with a warm string and piano based instrumental centered around an uplifting chorus from Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes's "Wake Up Everybody". Lyrically the song is really great as well, with Method Man, Masta Killa, Cappadonna and Raekwon all rapping about bettering yourself in order to better the world (and with Rae having the standout verse in my opinion). It's kind of weird that Wu-Tang now has two songs with the exact same song title though (with the previous being on "Wu-Tang Forever", for those that don't know). - 4.25/5

14) Never Let Go - After a quick kung-fu and then a Martin Luther King sample, RZA delivers yet another dope instrumental with some subtle horns, organs and guitars over rolling live drums. The production is nice and everyone sounds pretty good over it as they rap about never giving up despite the obstacles you may face. I'm feelin' the beat and rhymes on here with the chorus once again being the songs only real weakness. - 3.5/5

15) Wu-Tang Reunion - The final song on the album was released back in June and it sounds even better as part of the album than it did as a single. The song has a real carefree, summery feel, with Masta Killah, Method Man and Ghostface kicking some lighthearted rhymes over a soulful O'Jay's sample. I'm especially feelin' Ghost's verse as he reminisces about Ol' Dirty Bastard. Very dope way to close out the album. - 4/5

I'm going to rate the album

4 / 5

because there is some really great material on here, but there are a few missteps as well. This album is a real change in direction for Wu-Tang, with RZA ditching the gritty soul samples and instead delivering production that is based more off of live instrumentation and beat changes. Sure there are a few darker tracks on here ("Necklace", "Pioneer the Frontier", etc), but the majority are much lighter in tone than usual and find Wu exploring many different sounds. A large number of these tracks work very nicely, but there are a few missteps here or there that drag down the album a little bit. My main complaint with the album is that some of the choruses just end up coming off as cheesy in an attempt to keep with the positive vibe of having "a better tomorrow". I dunno, they just don't work. Outside of that, though, the album is banging. The beats are mostly fire and the rhymes are just as strong, with each emcee attempting to put a positive spin on some of their rhymes to stick with the albums theme. Overall, I am pleasantly surprised with how good the album came out despite all the drama that originally surrounded it. I'm not sure how I would rank Wu-Tang's overall albums, but this one is probably on par with or just below "The W" for me.


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