Music review: Hip-hop: A better tomorrow

First up, this is not the fabled, secret album/art project that Wu-Tang Clan made only one copy of, has Cher on it and reportedly costs US$5 million (S$6.6 million).

Whether that album will ever be made public, the Staten Island hip-hop icons drop their sixth proper album.

It doesn't break new ground.

Long gone are the days when their stunning 1993 debut changed the landscape of hip-hop with its grimey productions, adoption of Oriental martial arts mythology and multi-character narratives from all nine members.

Despite its optimistic and forward looking title, A Better Tomorrow is a 15-track work that harks back to the clan's distinctive traits from more than two decades worth of game-changing hip-hop.

There is a stereo-sound crispness to the production. Soul and funk samples are used liberally throughout the album, and sampled dialogue from old, dubbed gongfu movies are peppered everywhere.

Lyrics reference contemporary pop culture including television shows Breaking Bad and Sons Of Anarchy but, thematically, the songs tread familiar ground.

Rowdy opening track Ruckus In B Minor, where Method Man lays claim to the throne ("And I don't care who runs the city when the summer come/ Your summer's done, Wu forever, and we're still No. 1"), is a nod to Bring Da Ruckus, their debut album opener from 1993.

There is an unmistakable emphasis on family and homecoming, most notably in album closer Wu-Tang Reunion, which samples the chorus from The O'Jays' 1975 soul classic Family Reunion.

It is perhaps a nod to the public drama among the nine members that held back the release of this album, especially the feuds between de facto head RZA and Raekwon.

But like with past Wu-Tang efforts, despite their own prolific outputs and creative disagreements, they always reconcile.

A Better Tomorrow sees all the members get back into the fold - even Ol' Dirty Bastard contributes lines posthumously.

This article was first published on December 25, 2014.
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