In a recent review of Wu tang’s “The Saga Continues” factmag’s Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy’s grievance with the album is that it”grips on the past”, and if the biggest complaint with the Saga Continues is that it sounds like old Wu Tang, we were sold before we even heard a bar. After the top-down debacle of “Once Upon A Time In Shaolin”, which saw the unprecedented sale of a one off album to pharma-douche Martin Shrkeli it sounded like Wu Tang had completely lost touch with reality and jumped off the deep end of their own heightened egos. Even if in the context of an “art” project “Once upon a Time…” was poorly conceptualised and badly executed and that’s before we even get into the person behind the purchase.
If “The Saga Continues” is Wu Tang in a repenting mood it, it is unequivocally a Wu Tang album, featuring a collage-like sampled palette and clever lyrical deliveries like Inspectah’s Deck “my price hiking like the pills Martin Shkreli sell”. Producers RZA and Mathematics is said to have referenced Dre’s 2001 and Enter the Wu for inspiration, and it shows, but what’s more significant is that this re-upholstered version of an old sound sounds, is far more interesting and engaging than any of the tropicalHouse, trap beat lethargic narcissism currently infecting Hip Hop. Going to back to a sound from earlier in their career Wu Tang and Mathematics are not merely acknowledging the past and their legacy, but also musing on how little has changed.
In the intro RZA even asks “is this 21st century and we still gotta ducking the fucking coppers“; a scathing comment on just how every little has changed through the course of Wu Tang’s existence and Mathematics and RZA’s cut-and-paste sampling collages do well to drive that point home. Accompanying the dusty arrangements are lyrics that show a maturity from the core Wu Tang affiliates and oft collaborators like Redman. Pushing well pass there forties now, these lyrics appear arrive from something more honest as the various artists try to make sense of the modern world. When Redman says the line “fuck rap, I divorced her, the bitch bore me” on Lesson Learnt it sounds like it comes from a real frustration of the current musical landscape. That aggression of youth has definitely been tamed and refined on the Saga Continues, but Wu-Tang’s sound and delivery still drives it forward with the clan’s unmistakeable social commitment in their lyrics and musical references at the fore of this album too.
Putting the Wu Tang sound through a contemporary viewfinder, Mathematics put them squarely in the contemporary and where Rap’s gotten incredibly lazy Where some might have seen the albums as dismantling the Wu Tang legacy, we see a Wu Tang album that makes up for the past Shaolin indiscretion, and in fact restores a little of that legacy they might have lost through that album. The saga does indeed continue.