The Wu-Tang Clan’s sixth studio album, A Better Tomorrow, seemed like it was never going to come out. In 2013, the Staten Island crew announced they were celebrating the 20th anniversary of their debut Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers by dropping another LP. Hardcore Wu fans haven’t seen the collective back together since 2007’s 8 Diagrams, so the promise of brand new tracks brought a lot of excitement. Still, the project was on shaky ground from the beginning, as RZA spoke publicly about Ghostface Killah and Raekwon’s involvement and whether they would meet a middle ground given their demands and performances during the studio sessions. Now, with two more months left in 2014, Wu-Tang have smoothed things over, announcing A Better Tomorrow is dropping Dec. 2 via Warner Bros. Records.

Last night (Nov. 3), RZA, Masta Killa and U-God invited members of the press for an early listen of A Better Tomorrow. With The Abbott describing the album’s sonic direction, he stated that its a lyrical project and more mature, with every member from the Clan making an appearance. He started with “Ruckus In B Minor,” a powerful opening that instantly captures the energy found in their debut. Spliced with kung-fu samples, the soul and rap record contains their signature New York grime. It’s also a subtle reminder that after seven years, these guys are still “number one,” as the chorus suggests.

RZA continued to let the album play, even giving his own quick lines on what each song is about:

"Mistaken Identity" - "A lot of our homeboys are in jail for shit they didn’t do. We wanted to touch upon that."

"Felt" - "We don’t give a fuck about what motherfuckers feel anymore, naw mean?"

"40th Street Black / We Will Fight" - "That’s a song that was named after an old ‘70s film. Also a song that’s meant to inspire sporting events. When you come together, its one and you fight for one."

The second part of the record follows closely to the classic Wu-Tang formula. Every member’s personality is on display for the gritty “Hold The Heater,” and the downtempo “Crushed Egos” is defiant. Near the end, the emotional “Miracle” carries a deep message about how a “miracle could save us from the travesty that we’ve become.” Some important lyrics to note is that Ghostface is rapping about the ongoing Ebola crisis in the world. Backed by tribal drums that complement their piercing deliveries, there’s a sense of urgency for the listener to pay attention.

The album wraps up with some key tracks such as “Preacher’s Daughter,” “A Better Tomorrow” and “Wu-Tang Reunion.” On the country tune “Preacher’s Daughter,” the Wu’s storytelling abilities about chasing a love interest prove how influential they are to master narrators in hip-hop today. There are also hidden lyrical gems paying homage to Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Sean Bell throughout the title track, where light piano keys provide the perfect backdrop for their buoyant verses and intensity. The song samples Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes’ “Wake Up Everybody.”

A Better Tomorrow ends with “Wu-Tang Reunion." It's RZA's attempt of gathering the clan like Voltron one more time. And he succeeds in his mission because their chemistry really shines. After the last track, he simply left the room with this: “It’s a family reunion. We are a rare breed on planet Earth … It’s a mindset, a mind frame. Wu-Tang forever.”—Eric Diep

Tracklist:

1. Ruckus In B Minor
2. Felt
3. 40th Street Black / We Will Fight
4. Mistaken Identity
5. Hold The Heater
6. Crushed Egos
7. Keep Watch
8. Miracle
9. Preacher's Daughter
10. Pioneer The Frontier
11. Necklace
12. Ron O'Neal
13. A Better Tomorrow
14. Never Let Go
15. Wu-Tang Reunion

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