Wu-Tang Clan: A Better Tomorrow

A requiem for rappers passing in the night

Wu-Tang Clan: A Better Tomorrow

Being an admirer of Staten Island rap collective Wu-Tang Clan feels analogous to the constant rekindling of a relationship. Friends remind you that your time together has long passed expiration, but you fall back into it anyway. Of course, it doesn’t work. Really, what did you expect? Welcome to A Better Tomorrow.

Rick Rubin-assisted “Ruckus in B Minor” begins the Dec. 2 release with the bang of a pump-action pellet gun, GZA’s scientific verse cutting through during the first beat switch. It sets up the listener for RZA’s sonic theme of love action production, better suited to a film soundtrack. Discouragement starts on the very next track, “Felt,” an uninspired faux drum & bass blend.

“40th Street Black/We Will Fight” plays like a high quality demo RZA and Mathematics decided to stop pondering over and left as is. Method Man’s voice, a constant on the album, shines on “Mistaken Identity,” which evolves into an instrumental jam of septic proportions. Raekwon’s solo cut, “Crushing Egos,” appears to be RZA’s peace offering following years of contention over money and production quality.

In fact, Raekwon only appears on cuts fitting of his personal sound. The other members try snapping off on everything with varying degrees of success. Then there’s the general inability of everyone involved to suspend disbelief, as is the case on “Hold the Heater,” wherein RZA laughably claims the group can still keep “rugged” and “raw” over softer-than-Charmin production.

Worst offender, “Preacher’s Daughter” suffers from horrible execution in all directions. That’s in addition to containing the weakest hook on any Wu album after the atrocity of the preceding “Miracle.” Worse still, as with any doomed relationship, some good times are sprinkled in.

The last third of the album, starting with schizophrenic 4th Disciple production “Pioneer the Frontier,” offers what the album should’ve been. Standouts “Necklace” and “Ron O’Neal” would’ve been outstanding support tracks on prior efforts.

Troubles reappear on the title track, with its gross over use of the Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes sample, and continue through the end. The saccharine sweet positivity, for both their longevity and hopeful resolutions of world ills, remain exhibit A in the gruesome wreckage presented the listener. The most appalling attribute of the project, aside from the obvious dysfunction, is that RZA has lost his previously uncanny ear.

Once unstoppable, he’s become rap’s version of cruiserweight Roy Jones Jr., the slower, hittable version of an all-time great. General, and perhaps inevitable, decline also shows on the rest of the clan. In the cases of Ghost and Rae, their disinterest is palpable.

While making the album, Raekwon went public on both RZA’s control issues and the severe lack of production quality, even occasionally boycotting sessions. The outcome proves his apprehension was based in tark reality. Wu-Tang is broken.

A Better Tomorrow isn’t only the sound of people grown apart. It’s the soundtrack for ships passing in the night – from opposite sides of an ocean.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Wu-Tang Clan
SXSW Music Live: Erykah Badu, Thievery Corp, Wu-Tang
SXSW Music Live: Erykah Badu, Thievery Corp, Wu-Tang
Some go-go, some Baduizm, even Shaolin mastery

Thomas Fawcett, March 15, 2017

Fun Fun Fun Fest: Wu-Tang Clan
Wu-Tang Clan FFFF Review
Fear the Reaper

Kahron Spearman, Nov. 8, 2015

More by Kahron Spearman
Austin's Hip-Hop Pioneers, in Their Own Words
Austin's Hip-Hop Pioneers, in Their Own Words
The Austin History Center-archived rappers and industry innovators share stories

Sept. 15, 2023

The Prodigal Producer: Austin’s Malik Baptiste Comes Home
The Prodigal Producer: Austin’s Malik Baptiste Comes Home
Alchemical rapper returns from L.A. with 24-karat solo tracks

Sept. 8, 2023


Wu-Tang Clan, RZA, GZA, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle