Wu-Tang Clan Keep the Momentum Going on ‘The Saga Continues’ Album
Despite their highs and lows as a tight-knit unit, the Wu-Tang Clan have always delivered solid rap music, no matter the era. Their unwavering, stout rap style has stood the test of time, all the while making them one of the most commercially successful groups in music. Period. In the case of The Saga Continues, their seventh official studio album, all living members reunite to touch the mic with the exception of U-God. Still, the Wu members included on this project bring the exact same dexterous attitude that made them nothing to be messed with just like the moment they broke onto the scene back in 1993.
As is on every Wu-Tang album, there are a ton of different voices popping in and out, with varying personas sneaking up and letting off rapid-fire rhymes in every direction. Even as a distinguished listener, it can be hard to keep up with every punchline, metaphor and cadence. That’s why having Mathematics produce the entire album is perhaps the most strategic move the crew could have made.
Mathematics’ boisterous boom-bap production creates the perfect musical canvas for each Wu member to deliver their individual lyrical imagery on. The pulsing drum break remains rhythmically consistent through all 18 tracks, tying all 16 vocalists together in an amalgamating way. No MC ever breaches the confines of the head-nodding pocket, rendering the album a blissful 50 minutes of gritty rap goodness. This is likely due to RZA’s executive production. With RZA at the helm calling the majority of the assembly shots, it’s hard for Wu to lose. Ultimately, the sounds and shaping of this project are pleasantly derivative of the Golden Era with a bounce that still works in 2017.
There are a lot of great verses on this album but none stand out more than those supplied by Method Man. The 46-year-old rhymer delivers one of his best verses in recent memory on the Redman-assisted “People Say.” The soulful sample begs the Wu crew to step up and smash it, which they all do. Meth shines brightest by specifically declaring his current OG status with lines like, “Mayday mayday, but no charge, I'm nutty with the bars/That's a payday so bruh, this ain't even a bar/This is AA, back up in the trunk with the AK/Each line pack a Fabolous punch, no diss to Ray J/Nah, see I don't dab and I don't Nae Nae.” While Meth earns the MVP title for his verse, Inspectah Deck brings the best battle rhymes on “Lesson Learn’d” when he spits, “You know very well, bet he swell, you can tell he jeal'/My price hiking like the pills Martin Shkreli sell”—a nice jab at the former owner of the Wu’s most controversial album, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.
The men from Shoalin bring some pals along for the ride as well to help keep things fresh and fiercely competitive. Of course Redman makes a handful of appearances but it’s actually Chris Rivers that packs the biggest non-Wu punch. He pops up on the head-nodding, piano-driven track “Frozen,” delivering showstopping rhymes as if he was auditioning for an official Wu-Tang membership. “Like a Shaolin astoundin', pound grounds like mountains/Bouncin', be the largest nigga, pounds and ounces/Well-rounded like cursive, my verses birth inertia/Converge and surge, hurt and burn ya,” he delivers. Streetlife and a posthumous Sean Price verse also get added in, which rounds out the album with more voices that aren’t limited strictly to the Staten Island natives.
As a whole, it's hard to champion this album as the best from the Wu because in comparison to the rest of the lauded rap group's game-changing catalog, The Saga Continues falls hazily to the side. While the project's title indicates the "saga continues"—featuring solid rhymes from each member and sample-heavy beats from Mathematics—it's not the opus that will surpass the classics in Wu's already established legacy.
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