Wu-Tang Clan
The Saga Continues


4.0
excellent

Review

by Rowan5215 STAFF
October 19th, 2017 | 59 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: the wave burst, split the megahertz

As it turns out, all that was needed for the Wu-Tang Clan to make a comeback was to not make a Wu-Tang Clan album. The Saga Continues, like previous 'Wu-Tang-but-not-Clan' records Chamber Music and Legendary Weapons, sidesteps those lofty expectations via a slight rebranding, as technically a compilation of songs featuring Wu members. Freed from that hefty baggage, and with RZA behind the mic rather than the mixing board, The Saga Continues sees the group at their most uninhibited in years.

It seems appropriate that the guy who originally designed the W symbol is behind the desk for their most convincing throwback; Mathematics weaves grimy bass and drums around lilting piano and string cues like an accomplished student of the RZA style. After years of albums dictated by RZA following his own muses down various foxholes, Mathematics prioritises the good of the group and takes a backseat in the best way. There's nothing insincere about his love for those early classics, either: Method Man's rubbery bars bounce over the top of "If Time Is Money" like a lost cut from Tical, "Pearl Harbor" boasts a massive Ghostface hook over glittery slo-mo glory a la Supreme Clientele, and "People Say" employs a soul vocal sample in deference to Wu-Tang Forever. Martial arts movie samples dominate, even taking over the entirety of "Famous Fighters" – this is Mathematics' love letter to the 90s Wu-Tang, after all, and the man knows as well as anyone those cheesy samples should be a lead character alongside any of the original nine rappers. Uniformly, these beats are fantastic, paying respect to RZA's many styles without aping them or cynically looking for the next big hit.

Mathematics' role as producer leaves us with the somewhat unique situation of RZA being free to just rap, with Saga allowing him more verses than any album since Wu-Tang Forever. His gravelly growl is all over the album, including a three-part solo song – all named "The Saga Continues", get it" – which spans the tracklist to provide a note of consistency. Yes, he still spits in blatant refusal of the rules of tempo, cramming together a flurry of important-sounding words like "should we just leave our homes like the prophet Muhammad left Mecca for Medina"", but his palpable passion and worldly wisdom more than make up for the occasional "we cross more streets than Frogger" bar. RZA is our guide throughout, opening and closing the album and providing a steady hand on the group cuts, but it's Method Man who quickly takes the lead with barely a glance backwards. Meth has not lost a single step since his prime, and his performance here sees bars and flow as good as they've ever been, the perfect hybrid of 36 Chambers' sing-songy crooner and the rugged, monotone spitter of Tical and "Shadowboxin'". Every highlight here has Meth front and centre, between the superb wall-to-wall bars of "If Time Is Money", the keys-heavy bop "Frozen", or the (fingers crossed) Blackout! 3 prelude "Hood Go Bang!".

Ultimately, what keeps The Saga Continues from its full potential is a confusing desire to be both sage, wizened adviser and fun banger-loving uncle. "Family" and "Message" skits clumsily insert motivational speeches on family life, racism and inter-generational relationships where they don't belong; undeniably important subjects handled so lazily they're screaming to be skipped. It's a shame, because the late-album cuts allow the rappers to explore some fascinating shades on their own without the heavy-handed messages: RZA's "look me in my eyes and lie to me again/tell me I'm your only lover, your only friend" on "My Only One" is powerful enough to overcome the cheesiest of R&B choruses and a terrible Cappadonna verse (also known as just a Cappadonna verse), while Ghostface's only verse sees him forego his usual violent antics for a flirty tale. Okay, maybe this would never have passed the litmus test as a full Wu-Tang Clan release: GZA appears for about 20 seconds (closing out a track with a metaphorical verse about writing a verse, surprising no-one); Deck and Raekwon drop in for two quick and dirty verses as good as they are short; and not a single song is stamped with RZA's increasingly messy production watermark. But if the price of making a full Clan album these days is stuffing it full of Masta Killa and Cappadonna verses until it reaches 80 minutes, well, we're better off with the lean 50 of The Saga Continues. It's regrettable, but also fitting, because freed from the obligations a full album would have entailed, Wu-Tang are free to make their best music in over ten years.



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user ratings (54)
Chart.
3.3
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
October 19th 2017


39414 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

under the radar or underwhelming? you decide

Digging: The Used - The Canyon

DoofusWainwright
Contributing Reviewer
October 19th 2017


16404 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Bit of a return to form just lacking any real life changing bangers

Digging: Cathal Coughlan - The Sky's Awful Blue

zakalwe
October 19th 2017


23373 Comments


Nice one Colin Kaepernick

Gyromania
October 19th 2017


23437 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Oh shit Jack. I had no idea this was even coming out

Voltimand
October 19th 2017


703 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Their samples are always so awesome. "There's something strange happening in the martial arts world..."

Digging: Gasoline - Journey Into Abstract Hip Hop

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
October 19th 2017


39414 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

flew under a lot of people's radars Gyro because it's not technically a Clan release. although how People Say didn't make waves I have no idea



@volt terrific duel! best I've ever seen!

SandwichBubble
October 19th 2017


4802 Comments


Gotta check this

Digging: Friction - Friction

BlushfulHippocrene
October 19th 2017


2013 Comments


Love your work, Rowan. :3 I should probably listen to 36 Chambers some more first.

Digging: Julien Baker - Turn Out The Lights

bloc
October 19th 2017


44292 Comments


Seen some of the music vids they've released recently and they sound great.

Digging: Beastmilk - Climax

Gyromania
October 19th 2017


23437 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Gonna be picking this one up for sure.



Good rev

Gyromania
October 19th 2017


23437 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

That album art is badass

Voltimand
October 19th 2017


703 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Should this be moved to the compilations section?

Evokaphile
October 19th 2017


5881 Comments


Yes and it has been taken care of :]

Digging: Slowdive - Slowdive

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
October 19th 2017


39414 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

it was there at some point, now it's back in albums, god knows why



EDIT: nvm, evoka has black magic

Evokaphile
October 19th 2017


5881 Comments


I fixed it but yeah, some people really have no idea how to catalogue apparently

PumpBoffBag
October 19th 2017


882 Comments


cool review. lesson learn'd is class

minimus123
October 19th 2017


76 Comments


From what I've listened to so far it's deffo better than A Better Tommorrow, need to give it a proper spin tho.

Also, nothing wrong with a Masta Killah verse, that guy is so underrated

MyCarandMyGuitar
October 19th 2017


2337 Comments


need to check, great work as always row

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
October 19th 2017


39414 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Masta Killa is lyrically skilled - to the extent that he's clearly trying his best to be GZA, and succeeding now and then - but his delivery has been god-awful for a long long time now. dude sounds like he's been mummified for 20 years every time he tries to spit. but credit where credit's due, he still knows how to actually stay on beat unlike Cappadonna lmao

MoosechriS
October 19th 2017


6137 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Picked this up last week, pleasantly surprised by it.



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