Wu-Tang Clan "A Better Tomorrow" (Warner Bros.)
Old Dirty Bastard once proclaimed: Wu-Tang is for the children. On their sixth album, "A Better Tomorrow," U-God reinforces the sentiment: We "construct these jewels so they can live through my descendants." On "Never Let Go," Method Man echoes the feeling, but reminds listeners: "The hood is what made me."
Looking to the future by remembering the past is a feeling that pervades the album. It's been 20-plus years since The Wu entered the stage with "36 Chambers," and they have stayed true to the foundation.
The family affair is only part of the tale. This is still protect-your-neck, chase C.R.E.A.M. chess boxing. Masta Killa is "like Justin Tuck how they ducking the rush," while INS bombs "like he "No. 81 from Detroit." Ghostface Killah tabs himself Dragonfly Tone, sports karate slippers and rhymes "scarier" with "Syria." Chef Raekwon lays in the cut "drinking scotch with the Muscle Milk."
RZA is still the unifying center, and the production is massive. On "Ruckus in B Minor," he seamlessly flips the underlying script for every rapper, delivering each MC a personalized cinematic backdrop. In other spots he bum-rushes the hook, deploys darting strings and digs up a choice O'Jays sample. The sure shots are "40th Street Black/We Will Fight" with its marching-band momentum and "Crushed Egos" with its classic break and filthy organ loop.
GZA, the Clan's resident sage, encapsulates the Wu-Tang evolution: "The emergence of the earliest atoms/Transform to a level that is hard to fathom." And the saga continues.