Last year, Wu-Tang Clan's classic debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers, celebrated its 20th anniversary. As part of the celebration, the group was slated to release a new and possibly final album, A Better Tomorrow. Despite one single, "Family Reunion," making its way out, nothing came of it, and the album was pushed back indefinitely. Yesterday, a new single, "Keep Watch," appeared suddenly, prompting new excitement. And today, Grantland published a 10-part profile covering each Wu-Tang member (including Cappadonna), going inside the story of the new album, and discussing the state of the multi-faceted group as it heads into its 21st year.
The full article is worth a read for both great portraits of each member's current life and essential Wu trivia (Cappadonna, on first meeting Method Man through a friend: “He was like, ‘This my man Clifford, he just moved around here, he rocks.’ I was like, Clifford? We don’t deal with nobody with the name Clifford.”). There are stories about how the members met each other, about Inspectah Deck's legendary verse on "Triumph," about Masta Killah's original role as the group's barber/driver, and about a ton of other historical elements.
But it also has a lot of thoughts from individual members on the possibility of A Better Tomorrow, which, like most Wu-Tang projects, seems to have been mostly the RZA's passion project and something that the rest of the members went along with to varying degrees. The project was mostly recorded in Europe while the group was on tour there last year, but Ghostface Killah and Raekwon were apparently minimally involved, and, according to Inspectah Deck, the chemistry of the classic sessions wasn't quite there:
He says recording the album overseas was “cool, but the vibe wasn’t what we needed. Brothers’ attention was scattered.” As much as Deck craves it still, that old in-house competition that catapulted “Triumph” to glory is gone.
He’s disheartened. But he says he has faith in RZA. “The nucleus has separated,” he says, speaking softly in dim, flickering light. “But it’s temporary. Once RZA throws up that Batman symbol, that Wu-Tang ‘W,’ it’s goin’ be on again. And I can’t wait.”
Raekwon, historically the most at odds with RZA publicly, sounded off on the effort a little more critically:
“I would be the first one to say that we cannot leave everything in RZA’s hand no more,” Rae says. “He has done his job to the greatest of his ability when we were younger, but now every man plays an imperative role in this situation. His plan was to do a more humble album. We was like, Nah. You can���t do that with the hardest group in the game.”
Of “Family Reunion,” Rae says, “We knew that wasn’t no single.” The anniversary album’s tentative title, A Better Tomorrow, wasn’t approved by the group before it was announced, which created dissension early in the process, something the fractious Clan could scarcely afford. “It’s like getting the United Nations to all agree on one fucking thing,” Rae sputters. “Italy ain’t having it. Japan is on some shit. You know what I mean? Now, here it is, the 20-year anniversary that’s so decoratedly respected that we might not even be on time for this shit.”
He did, however, note that he was sympathetic to the challenges of corralling the whole group. And he later added that his hesitation was based above all on a belief in the group:
Whatever happens with this album, some might see Rae as a villain. But he has dug in only because he still believes in the power of the W. “It’d be different if I felt like we was washed up,” he says. “But nah. These dudes — we like robots, man. I run with the crew that’s the eagle, you know what I mean? We was almost the Beatles. But we had more Beatles, though.”
GZA seemed a little ambivalent about the whole thing:
“It’s kind of hard to grasp, or understand, the magnitude of this obsession,” he says of the attention around the 20th anniversary. “It would be great to do another album, come back with a banger. But I don’t think we have anything to prove. We proved it already.”
Masta Killah is hoping the group doesn't embarrass itself too much with in-fighting:
“To tell you the truth, brotha, when we started doing this thing, it was fun. It was so much fun. And if me and the rest of the brothas are not gonna have fun, then I wouldn’t mind just closing the chapter. I’d rather go out like the gladiators we supposed to be, like the mighty Wu-Tang, than go out like the Little Rascals.”
And RZA is still trying his hardest to keep the group's magic alive:
“I felt really personally hurt after 8 Diagrams,” RZA says. “That was my brothers and they was shitting on it. I remember, it was all of us in a room, and I said, ‘I will never again step up and do business with you.’ Then the 20th anniversary came up. I said, ‘I gotta try it again.’ I’m pushing. I’m pushing.”
Meanwhile, Cappadonna just dropped a ton of gems, explaining, among other things, that he may have telekinetic powers: “One time I sat there and I convinced myself that I’m gonna make this door close. All I concentrated on was making that door close. Guess what? The door closed.”
Find out more about the legendary crew by checking out the full profile here.
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