The Wu-Tang Clan are one of, if not the most influential and prolific rap groups ever. Releasing one of the best rap albums of all time with their debut Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) in 1993, the individual members of Wu-Tang Clan would go on to have careers with varying levels of defining success. In 2014, Wu-Tang released a comeback album, A Better Tomorrow, which received mediocre reviews, but was interestingly paired with a companion album, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, which was sold to now convicted felon, Martin Shkreli, for two million dollars. Fast forward a few years, and the Wu-Tang Clan would spontaneously begin releasing singles for their unannounced new album, The Saga Continues.
The Saga Continues, according to de facto leader RZA, was entirely crafted by DJ Mathematics, who also created the Wu-Tang logo and has been a behind the scenes brain for the group all these years and is recognized as such on the first song, “Lesson Learn’d”. Where Wu-Tang’s last album, A Better Tomorrow featured more contemporary jazz and hip hop production, this album The Saga Continues takes it back to the basics with smooth boom-bap beats that compliment the raps well, and don’t get in the way too much while still being produced with expertise detail. “If What You Say Is True” features, bigger, horn backed boom-bap production, and “Pearl Harbor” has an excellent organ beat, and sees Method Man dropping an incredible verse over the top of it.
The best aspects of The Saga Continues not only lie within the smooth boom-bap beats laid by Mathematics himself, but the raw, veteran rapping ability of the Wu-Tang Clan. Wu-Tang Clan’s consistency in excellent lyricism and flows feel like a savior from a lack of depth often experienced in the current era of rap music. On the intro skit, RZA immediately takes to the spicy wordplay, something there is no lack of on this album. “Why Why Why” features a smooth, soulful hook and beat, with pounding RZA raps and pleasantly soft vocals from Swnkah. The Saga Continues is almost all good, but maybe our least favorite song, “Hood Go Bang!” is just decent. It’s short, mainly hook, and sort of sounds like a rap song for people that don’t like rap that much.
On The Saga Continues, Wu-Tang Clan hardly rely on choruses to glue together their songs. Instead, hooks are tied into the verses and actually benefit the songs greatly. In fact, when Wu-Tang do utilize a chorus, it often results in a less favorable song. On “Fast and Furious”, the hook is just okay, and isn’t helped by overly clustered vocals. “G’d Up”, despite a smooth beat, bars, and flows, has a questionable use of autotune on the hook which breaks the immersion of the rawness laid down elsewhere on the album. Where Wu-Tang doesn’t go wrong, is with the atmosphere. “Famous Fighters” adds that classic atmosphere old school feeling Wu-Tang fans should love. One of our favorite moments on the record come on “If Time Is Money”, with the catchy beat and back and forth verses, or on “My Only One”, where Wu-Tang step slightly outside their lane with an R&B tinged song and hook, and still manage to deliver incredible production and raps. Another positive note for the album is that skits are put to really good use, placed both between and within tracks, always providing a message and space of atmosphere to break the album up.
Wu-Tang Clan are back in perhaps their best contemporary form possible. The Saga Continues is meaty, consistent, and goes back to basics with the beats. Assisted by well placed skits and furious flows of members RZA, Redman, Method Man, and Ghostface Killah to name a few, The Saga Continues is a highly authentic album and feels like a 90s rap album repurposed for 2017.