This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Wu-Tang Clan’s seminal debut album Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). More than reissues or re-hashing the past, the prolific collective sought to honor their legacy by reuniting to release a reunion album, A Better Tomorrow, the first to feature every group member since 2007’s 8 Diagrams. Their comeback seemingly began on a bright spot, with the release of the energizing track “Family Reunion” last June.
Then, just as they finally seemed to be gaining momentum, cracks in the Wu armor began to show. In November, RZA made several comments questioning the dedication of Raekwon, revealing he’d all but skipped most recording sessions. Raekwon responded by questioning the validity of RZA’s claims and implied that there were business issues they needed to hash out. Even now, just a day after they’ve returned with new single “Keep Watch”, the Shaolin monks still can’t seem to get it together. More than just merely Raekwon’s post-release diss Tweet, a new profile in Grantland paints a portrait of a group in utter disarray.
Problems surfaced rather early in the recording process. From day one, there were differences in opinion regarding the effectiveness of “Family Reunion” as lead single: RZA said the song gave him “optimism” for the entire project, while Raekwon countered that the whole of Wu “knew that wasn’t no single.”
The already fractured Clan endured further dissension when the album title was announced before it had been approved by each emcee. “It’s like getting the United Nations to all agree on one fucking thing,” Rae said of Wu’s current dynamic. “Italy ain’t having it. Japan is on some shit.”
So, who does Raekwon blame for the impediment? Naturally, RZA, who he says can no longer operate as the group’s sole creative mastermind. “He has done his job to the greatest of his ability when we were younger, but now every man plays an imperative role in this situation,” Rae added. “His (RZA) plan was to do a more humble album. We was like, ‘Nah. You can’t do that with the hardest group in the game.'”
RZA, meanwhile, has issues with Raekwon and Ghostface Killah. Not only did they miss out on several sessions for “Family Reunion”, they’ve been disapproving of RZA since he made use of live instrumentation on 8 Diagrams. Their condemnation of RZA’s “adult, progressive approach” actually caused him to miss much of the supporting tour and question any subsequent Wu plans.
“I felt really personally hurt after 8 Diagrams,” RZA said. “That was my brothers and they was shitting on it. I remember, it was all of us in a room, and I said, ‘I will never again step up and do business with you.’ Then the 20th anniversary came up. I said, ‘I gotta try it again. I’m pushing. I’m pushing.” RZA said he was so committed to the reunion LP, he spent thousands of dollars of his own money to reopen the Wu Mansion studio in New Jersey (where everything post-36 Chambers had been recorded.)
While other members, like U-God and Cappadonna, are ready to fight onward with A Better Tomorrow, GZA said the collective should simply go out on the legacy they’ve already established. “It’s kind of hard to grasp, or understand, the magnitude of this obsession,” he said of the attention surrounding the 20th anniversary. “It would be great to do another album, come back with a banger. But I don’t think we have anything to prove. We proved it already.”
More than just exploring the group’s possible swansong, the profile is an intriguing dissection of Wu’s collective history, their creative process, their group dynamic and interplay, and their sorted personal lives. Read it in full here.