That assessment, strangely enough, applied to all members releasing albums as well. Things had reached the point where the once-juggernaut had reached a stale point in their careers.
[Phlip note – all except for Ol Dirty and Ghostface to a lesser extent, but let us not go there on this post]
Anyway… What with Method Man’s digression, RZA’s realization that there was bigger money in television and movies (yes, even scoring them) than in rap, the deluge of wholly forgettable albums from literally EVERY member of the brood, be they “main” (the ones with names we care to remember) or satellite members/factions, Wu-Tang had become a laughable shell of what they once were. It was almost as if the album title “Wu-Tang Forever” was intended to be a cruel joke to remain as a kick in the nuts to the legions of Wu Stans the world over.
And God KNOWS there were – and still are – Wu Stans. They’re still out there, to be honest. No longer are they simply black kids who pretend to take seriously the message of the 5% nation that the music used to contain. Those fans were replaced with white kids who prattle on and on and fucking on about “real hip-hop” vs. “rap” and how much they miss good music and whatever bullshit cause they’ve chosen to take up this week. They were replaced with black “backpacker” rap fans, who ignored their chosen sect of Wu lyrics to complain about “diamonds/guns/cars” rap. The common bond was to bitch about “commercial” rap, and the tie that bound them was the hope on top of hope that Wu-Tang would somehow come back together and rise back to prominence.
They got along like blood kin at shows and the like.
If those groups had been holding their breath at the time in wait for a rise back to prominence, they’re all blue (or purple, dependent upon their original skin tone) in the fucking face right now.
To offer full disclosure; I was a huge fan of the Wu-Tang clan, but I was late to the party… In fact, I have a friend who is 4 years younger than me who was WAAAAAY into it at the time, I was 14 ane he was 10...
[Phlip note - and as that was almost 17 years ago, I feel kinda old typing that]
Despite his constant talk of them, it took me until that 3-4 months between The Gravediggaz (if you count that one -- I do) first album and Method Man’s debut solo joint to begin to get on board… The releases of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx and Ironman, though, were what sold me on the entire – and totally epic – first round of solo releases.
Being the dick that I am, though, I fucking REFUSED to mark the fuck out and become a Stan of them. In such, I was FULLY able to call a spade a spade and tell people when a release was fucking horrible and not at all worth a dime of my money (Immobilarity and The Lex Diamonds Story, for examples).
That being said, I was less than hurt when one bad/subpar release became a string of them that EASILY matched that above-discussed string of albums at the beginning. To me, as a critical listener of music, they’d become a lazy collective, throwing out shit (yes, literal fecal matter) without much of the effort once employed, because they knew they’re fans would lap that shit right up without question.
And it worked for a while…
Then hip-hop changed, and it changed WITHOUT them.
My opinion does not allow that I say that it changed for the better, just that it changed. During this time of change, Wu-Tang had become “old school” in a market where people who came in around the same time as them (give take a year or two) were motherfucking FLOURISHING! Given that fact, I would continue to refuse to think of them as “old school” or even “throwback” as so many seemed to want to describe them as. It seemed almost to be to ease the pain of seeing their old heroes being put out to pasture after a terribly protracted run, brought on by what I honestly view as their own arrogant-assed pretense.
Perhaps Wu-Tang Clan was something to fuck with all along?
Which brings me to the here and now…
Back in the original (say 1993-1998ish) days, we might have allowed ourselves to infer – based upon the lyrics contained in their albums – that things that have taken place in the last little while just would not have taken place, at least not the way they went down.
What do I mean, you ask?
- Diddy would not have executive produced Method Man’s wack album. He would be robbed and the money used to make a better one, produced by the RZA and ONLY the RZA.
- No member of the Clan would have considered signing to the label (aftermath) of an artist (50 Cent) that had publicly had issue with any other member.
- Raekwon would not have even gotten involved in Joe Budden’s little kerfuffle with Method Man. No other member of the Clan would have either, Joey would have just turned up shot the fuck up somewhere, not ustreaming about it.
- Kanye West? Beaten up and robbed on GP – or for dressing like a fruit If you need one reason.
- Justin Bieber? Robbed as well, reason not necessary.
[Phlip note – stick a pin in those last two, they’re coming back up]
Yes, mid-nineties hardcore hip-hop was ignorant, violent and robberous (if that is a word) in nature. Our “heroes” were believable in their aesthetic, they looked like filthy dudes who would actually carry out the acts that they described to us in a manner that led us to believe they actually had at some point before, perhaps even habitually.
Through Wu Tang’s Lyrics, we were led to believe that all things “pop” and “R&B” and the like were soft and somehow beneath them on one end, or at the very least just a lane they would not employ on the other…
Enter this gayly-coiffed void-of-facial hair individual:
Now throw in Kanye West, mix in a little bit of Raekwon on a remix to a song, then announce it via Twitter and you have what would cause EVERY Wu Stan to have committed Seppuku had it occurred in the summer of 1997.
This odd and wholly unlikely combination leaves me with some questions...
- Is is Justin Bieber -- and not Wu-Tang Clan -- who ain't nothin' to fuck wit?
- Were Wu Stans ignoring the writing on the wall when their heroes flatly repeated to them "Cash Rules Everything Around Me" all those years ago?
- No one of our favorite artists are as "pure" as they happily get their bread leading us to believe they are?
The favorite employed go-to excuse for the decline in Wu-Tang quality since the twilight years (damn, it feels weird to call the 8th year of a career "twilight" when that career is anything other than football) of their career was always "well, it's better than [this]" or "well, it's at least it's not [them]" or "blahblahblah [that]".
It is EXTRA funny to me to look at those same people as they bite their tongue in the realization that in such moves -- the involving themselves in childish petty beef, the collabo with pop queen divas such as Kanye and J. Bieber, the becoming the proverbial old men on their front lawn yelling at the neighborhood kids -- they have BECOME everything that those who love(d) them most love(d) them for NOT being.
Funny how those things turn out sometimes, no?
Things being as they are... To the average Wu Stan, ANY Wu member making a song with Justin Bieber is just like Hollywood Hogan on July 7th, 1996...
[Phlip note - click that link if you don't get that]
To that same Wu Stan, ANY Wu member on that same song is the equivalent to LeBron James' "Decision" on July 8th, 2010.
[Phlip note - no link necessary--... HOLY FUCK, THAT WAS ALMOST ON THE EXACT DAY!!!!]
Stick a fork in em, I hope the rest of them were smarter with their finances than Method Man was.