Wu-Tang Clan - The Saga Continues Review
The Wu-Tang Clan are one of the most influential groups in hip-hop, and despite a general decline in the quality of their group work (solo albums are still some of the best each year), I was excited to see another group effort. Interestingly, instead of the usual leadership of RZA, long-time collaborator Mathematics handles the production on this, and it creates a very true and classic Wu-Tang sound.
The album is extremely reminiscent of the original Wu-Tang musicality, and 90s New York hip-hop in general. The beats are simple but effective, with the usual heavy bass drum layered with some piano, sound effects and samples thrown in for good measure. For new listeners to the Clan, it may be a simplistic change from the current norm of complex, loud beats, but it works so well coupled with their rap style. As always, each member comes through with verses that make you wonder if they’re actually still in their 20s, not their 40s and 50s! Highlights include Inspectah Deck coming through with two cracking verses on 'Lesson Learn’d' and 'People Say (the latter could be the best verse on the album), Method Man (who appears by far the most) tearing up every verse, and features by Redman arguing his case for a spot in the official Wu lineup. Tracks such as 'Pearl Harbor', 'Frozen' and 'People Say' demonstrate that even over 20 years on from their debut, as a group they can put out some phenomenal tracks.
Production wise, as stated previously, the album goes back to the roots of the group. Sure, it’s far less dusty than back in the basement-recorded 90s, but the way instruments are layered simply and uncomplicated brings back that distinct Wu-Tang sound. The polish is noticeable - everything sounds clean and crisp, which is something in some respects I would’ve liked to have seen toned down. Mathematics could have easily played around with more experimental and lo-fi sounds, but I respect the decision to keep it simple and let the verses take control.
There are some drawbacks - it is VERY skit heavy, which in modern hip-hop is something that will put people off. There are also a few dud tracks like 'Why Why Why', and I wish 'Hood Go Bang!' was much longer. There’s also the noticeable absence of U-God - not to say that he’s one of the best in the group, however I always enjoy his unique voice and interesting flows. On top of this, there is only one appearance from GZA, who in my eyes is one of the best the group has to offer, however he has a lot going on outside music now so this can be excused somewhat.
None of those negatives, however, can change the undeniable fact that this is a very welcome return to form for the Wu-Tang Clan as a collective. Separately, the members are putting out fantastic albums consistently, but you have to go back to the mid-2000s to find the last genuinely great group effort. The Saga Continues turns a group tired with the control of RZA into a rejuvenated force, sticking to the tried and tested sound that garnered their immense fame. I think what is most impressive is that even in the current state of hip-hop, this album doesn’t sound out of place, and I hope new listeners will go back after hearing this, and see just how influential the Clan is - Wu-Tang forever!