You know, there was a while back there where I thought I was sick of the Wu, but any time I dip into the Wu-Tang Manual I end up being convinced by the RZA's rhetoric all over again.
Forget some of the less-compelling solo albums, and think of that first rush of material the Wu released. I'm talking about the line of group albums and solo joints that goes something like Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), Tical, Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version, Liquid Swords, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Iron Man, a wave of sheer fucking greatness that crashes with the glorious mess of Wu-Tang Forever.
Listen to those albums (all of which were released between 1993 and 1997), and it's hard not to believe that the Wu-Tang Clan are everything they say they are. They're damaged street heroes, a super powered pantheon of trickster gods, kung-fu masters, ice-cold soul singers, austere formalists, angry young men, fiendish comedians and more. Of the seven albums I mentioned above, Tical is the only one I don't listen to much anymore (Forever is patchy, but it's got some of their best group cuts so I still play that one all the time).
And... yeah, sure, the group haven't kept that level of consistency up over the years, but I can't think of any other band I love who had such a strong opening run of albums.
Reading The Wu-Tang Manual, I almost find myself believing that this run of great records never ended. The RZA juggles the various pieces of the Wu mythos with such confidence that you forget you ever saw them touch the ground.
But forget all this backward looking nonsense -- the 21st century Wu still ain't nothing to fuck with. The W is as bleak and fragmented as Iron Flag is boldly unified, and Ghostface looks pretty unstoppable these days, artistically if not commercially. Hell, even Masta Killa has released a couple of solid albums in the past three or four years.
8 Diagrams then: I'm in. Who knows how good it'll be, but pessimism... that's not for me. Not where the remaining Wu-Tang Clan members are involved, and expecially not when they're making songs like 'The Heart Gently Weeps'.
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