A Better Tomorrow Indeed: Wu’s Still Got It.
Wu-Tang has released their 6th collaborative album, and what’s supposed to be their last, in a time when hip hop is thriving. Is there a place for Wu-Tang as a clan in today’s music landscape? Yes. Read on in my A Better Tomorrow review to understand why you should check this album out.
A Better Tomorrow has great song variety, delivers on lyrics and beats, and will have you vibing and thinking all day long. I don’t need to listen to it again immediately after it ends, though I will be listening to it again later today for sure. I give Wu-Tang’s latest (and maybe last) effort a:
From the beginning you know this is a Wu-Tang project, but you can also tell it ain’t 1995 anymore.
The album starts with a bang in Ruckus in B Minor. RZA’s beat sounds like what you’d expect it to sound like considering all the newer rap coming out: updated yet classic. Every member of Wu sounds older (except Method Man) — not in a skip the tour way, but in an earned maturity way.
Don’t worry — the skits are still here.
I know at least some of you reading this are wondering if the famous Wu Kung Fu B-movie skits are in the album. Well you can chill, they put that question to rest in between the first and second songs. Ruckus in B Minor is followed by Felt, a prototypical sleepy but dark RZA piano beat with a solid rap performance. Method Man kind of sounds like he’s having the most fun (as always) and it makes you wonder how much he pushed for this reunion/album.
40th Street Black/We Will Fight is kind of the opposite of felt. The beat is acceptable, but the rap is much better. I don’t love all of the beat, but the song is dope enough, it’s not like you’re gonna want to skip it or anything. The best thing I can say about it is that it does really give you that old Wu feel of a bunch of dope ass MCs taking turns spitting in the basement.
Mistaken Identity absolutely kills it.
Mistaken Identity is straight FIRE. The beat is incredible, grimy but catchy, oddly sounding like an Odd Future beat (which is funny because OF was influenced by Wu). Then the rap kills it too. Around this point of the album you’re going to be very happy that Wu-Tang came back together to release this album, because your ears needed it. I already know this’ll be stuck in my head all day.
Hold the Heater features the first beat that doesn’t exactly sound like Wu-Tang (at least at the beginning, you’ll see what I mean then it kind of catches up), but the trademarked Wu energy is there so it’s still dope. On the contrary, Crushed Ego follows with a beat that is so RZA you feel like you just spent a week in Staten Island making it with him. After this, Method Man kicks off Keep Watch, which might be the best song on the album. The beat and the vocal sample are just perfect, and from the beginning it’s clear Wu isn’t messing around. Keep Watch’s chorus will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day. You’ve been warned.
Yes, Wu still loves Martin Scorsese.
Miracle, starting with soft piano, nails down the concept, throwing the viewer in the middle of an idyllic landscape before beautifully tearing that up once the anticipated beat comes in. Miracle is also notable for having the first Scorsese reference of the album. Trust me, I checked. Halfway through the song, the beat slows in a way that absolutely blows my mind, and not long after the FDA is accused of holding back cures so they can get paid. Miracle is also one of the highlights of the album, with Mistaken Identity and Keep Watch.
Preacher’s Daughter sounds like it starts with the guitar from a Backstreet Boys song. It is, however, a play on Preacher Man (as you may have guessed), and by the time the horns come in it sounds more like it belongs in How High (or maybe that’s just Method Man), so don’t worry. The song isn’t incredible but it’s damn good. By the end it’s an absolute jam.
Necklace is perfectly placed to kick off the final 3rd of the album: complete with more slow and grimy beats, samples from a movie (or something), the Wu having fun and killing it on the track, and of course East Asian influence (musically.) Then comes Ron O’Neal, which is exactly the song you were hoping to hear on this album. The beat is perfect, and the only thing you can possibly think of when hearing it is the Wu. Few groups are so identifiable with a type of sound, but Wu-Tang shows with this album they completely deserve that level of recognition. And I don’t know about you, but just hearing Wu-Tang all jump on a classic-sounding beat of theirs I can’t help but smile. Ron O’Neal also name drops the album, so don’t get confused.
A Better Tomorrow?
A Better Tomorrow starts with Method Man (as most of the really good songs on the album do), but it’s a more reserved Method Man at first, then he works up to anger tipping over into a flame beat. The chorus sounds like Marvin Gaye was responsible for it (words and beat), and while this might not be the most enjoyable or fun song on the album, it’s probably the best. It even includes a reference to police slaying black youth, which could sadly be about so many people it’s not even worth speculating. By the end, Wu claims they’re gonna change the world. I’m not sure about that, but maybe they already have.
The album then slows it down before opening into another classic skit. Then Never Let Go opens with an MLK speech and a juxtaposed trumpet which perfectly matches the eventual rap. The MLK samples are intertwined throughout the song, and that gives you an idea of the tone. The track would fit right in on Liquid Sword or 12 Reasons to Die (which happen to be my favorite Wu solo albums).
Reminisce and reflect.
The album bows out with Wu-Tang Reunion, a track celebrating Wu’s friendship and collaboration, particularly considering they all have families and other people to worry about now. When you get to this end of the album, you’ll also be celebrating Wu’s reunion and the fact that “20 years later we still bang whatever now” (Method Man, of course.) It’s the perfect way to finish off the album, especially since the end has come too soon.
All in all, while the album starts just a bit slow, by the end the wait is well worth it and I guarantee you’ll be a little emotional about Wu’s (supposed) final album. The rap is there, the beats are there, and the Wu humor, skits, and edge are all there. The album probably won’t win any awards or anything, but if you love the Wu like I do, you need this album.