Published on November 27th, 2013 | by Boman12l0
Wu-Tang’s Recent Troubles: A Momentary Weakness Or A Sign Of Things To Come?
Can’t it all be so simple? This was supposed to be the year of the Wu. Voltron was to be reformed. The Iron Flag was to be raised. Ruckas was to be brought! After a promising start, 2013 is looking to go down as another year of infighting and disappoint for the Clan. This was the year – the 20th anniversary of 36 Chambers. It was supposed to be a time of celebration and reunion. Instead it looks like 2007 again: a year filled will absences and disagreements. But how did we go from excellent releases and headlining festivals to broken performances and cease and desist letters?
By now you have most likely heard about the utter disaster that was the failed premiere of a new Ol’ Dirty Bastard documentary in Brooklyn last week. ODB Dirty: Platinum Edition was supposed to be the headlining film for the NuHo Online film festival. The film was to be screened on Dirty’s birthday at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, followed by at Q/A session with a few members of the Wu-Tang Clan and the film’s director. None of that happened. Stephon Turner, the film’s director, was jailed for probation violation and U-God and Masta Killa no showed. The events that followed were…sad to put frankly. More so, draw parallels to much of Wu’s 2013 — optimism fading away to disappointment.
This resurgence of Wu started in late 2012, thanks to some high profile features by Rae and Ghostface and RZA’s directorial debut at the box office. While Man With The Iron Fist was RZA’s thoroughly, the whole Clan got behind the film. In fact there are two new Wu-Tang tracks on the soundtrack. For a debut, RZA did alright and his film managed to break even. RZA, in turn, tried to use this new found success as a rallying cry for one last Wu-Tang album with him at the helm. The 20th anniversary of their landmark debut was quickly approaching and RZA wanted to cap off a yearlong celebration with a brand new Wu-Tang Album. It all seemed good. The timing was right. After all, it had been years since 8 Diagrams. Old wounds had healed and there was a new since of unity in the Clan spurred by the release of Iron Fist, its soundtrack and the anniversary.
It was not only RZA, but many in the Clan were calling for a new album. And for the first time, in a long time, there were numerous Wu-Clan related projects that fans could look forward to. Inpectah Deck’s collaboration with 7L & Esoteric. Czarface, was in high demand and critically praised early in the year. Ghostface Killah and Adrian Younge could not stop making headlines with each track released from their masterful 12 Reasons to Die. Even U-God had a solid release with his Keynote Speaker album. Many of these projects included glimpses of what a new Wu-Tang Clan album could sound like. “Murder Spee”, “Execution in Autumn” and “Family Reunion” were tracks that feature most of the clan and got many listeners excited for one more full album. It would not be long before new music was promised, as RZA would reveal the title of the last Wu-Tang Clan album – A Better Tomorrow.
It was clear the Clan was reenergized and much of that excitement was channeled into many of their performances throughout the summer festival session. Besides being headlining acts at Summer Jam, Coachella and Rock Bells, Wu-Tang was booked for 20th anniversary performances at numerous festivals across the globe. However these festivals would be the first real test for the clan. Summer Jam saw the Clan at full strength, serving as a semi homecoming for both Wu and Summer Jam celebrating 20th anniversaries. However it would be Coachella that would be the real show stealer. Back by a full orchestra, Wu closed out the first weekend of the festival with a bang. Not even high winds and sand storms could stop the Clan from Bringing the ruckus! Coachella was amazing and the night ended with the assurance that a new album would be coming before summer’s end. Unfortunately, things would not be so simple.
Rock The Bells was supposed to bookend Wu’s tour. The Clan and the festival have a storied history together; however, 2013 will go down as a misstep for both parties. The Rock the Bells performance was a disaster. Not only were there no shows by Ghost and Raekwon, the set was plagued with technical issues. DJ Mathematics’ laptop crashed neared the top of the set, causing sound problems throughout. While Method Man did his best to freestyle and adlib to buy time for the delays, he was the only one and soon became aggravated as the problems continued. Rae and Ghost’s absence only highlighted the weird and strange set. However there would be no redemption, as the East coast leg of Rock The Bells would soon be cancelled ending Wu-Tang’s amazing run on a sour note.
While some might see Rae and Ghost no-show at RTB as a onetime deal, longtime fans were left wondering if it was a sign of deeper troubles in the clan. Summer came and went, there was no sign of A Better Tomorrow. Outside of the initial announcement and tentative release time frame there was nothing, no single, no date, press release, no information. Until recently, RZA confirmed there was still an album. Everyone had submitted their vocals – except Raekwon. Why? Not sure. RZA explained that Rae was “just bullshitting,” the same reason be gave for Rae and Ghost’s absence at RTB. It does not help Raekwon has not said much to refute, confirm or deny RZA’s remarks, only tweeting “I love u rza, u know what it really is.” RZA has continued to say in interviews that the delay is related to Raekwon. He’s even contemplating the idea of finishing up the album without Raekwon’s contributions.
Once again fans are left in limbo and all this passive aggressive chirping could taint the reception of the new album. While Rae has not gone as far as calling RZA “a Hip-hop hippie” this time, his and Ghost’s disagreements with RZA probably contributed to the negative reception of 8 Diagrams (which isn’t as bad as people make it out to be.) Raekwon does have his own FILA album coming out. He could be putting the finishing touches on that, while at the same time continue to manage his ICE2O Records label. He very possibly well has had his hands full. However, saying nothing only leads to speculation and no one speculates positively; once again creating perceptions that could affect the reception of A Better Tomorrow if and when it comes out.
There was plenty of skepticism surrounding the new ODB Dirty: Platinum Edition Documentary. There was plenty of optimism surrounding it, at the same time. The disaster that was the premier highlights much of the dysfunction that has plagued the clan for the last decade. Still, events like Coachella and Summer Jam remind us the power of the clan, what it’s like when they are like in full force, why Wu-Tang is forever. We need more moments like those –Clan in the front, bullshit to the side. Only then can the 20th year anniversety end like how it started – triumphantly.