Albums like 1997’s Wu-Tang Forever don’t come around very often. No, not just because the group’s 923053 members managed to find verses for everybody. No, not because RZA and 4th Disciple put together some of their best work in the production room (though that can be debated, I would assume). No, not because it differed so heavily from 36 Chambers, its predecessor.
It wasn’t a masterpiece of an album because of one of those things. It was a masterpiece of an album because all of those elements came together on one album. The album never feels too in-your-face in terms of the instrumentation. His masterful use of simplicity made gave the album its defined sound, in a lot of ways. Instead of trying to make in your face beats with wild effects, RZA lets his group’s lyrics pack the punch.
This may be most evident in what became the 27-song (29 if you count the international tracks) double album’s first single, “Triumph”. It’s one of two songs (other being Deadly Melody) that involve all 9 members of the group (at the time), all of whom bring forth some of their best stuff. My personal favorite came from the song’s final verse from Raekwon, but there really isn’t a right or wrong answer for that.
This is a long album, so I’m going to throw on another track that never made it on as a single, but is a frequent visitor to my ear drums when I want to overplay this album.
The album may be long, but there isn’t filler. There are parts of the album that may give you a break from the sound’s usual raw emotion, along with its “we’re a rap group, nothing else” kind of feel, but nothing feels forced. It never feels as though you’re listening to something the group decided to throw onto the album in an “ahh, screw it” type of fashion.
Luckily for all of us, Forever wasn’t the end of Wu-Tang. They’re still very, very relevant in each other’s solo work, and are also working on a new album as a group, tentatively titled “A Better Tomorrow”.