It’s time for another twentieth-anniversary salute. With this piece, we will focus on one of the most impactful double albums in Hip Hop history, an album that officially and permanently put this unbelievable crew of emcees in the world’s consciousness. Released just after another gigantic double album – Biggie’s Life After Death – ,many wondered if this album would hold up to the standards set by Biggie in terms of potent double albums. The answer to that challenge was an emphatical ‘hell yeah’. This album became the group’s biggest seller and even earned them a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album. This album, ladies and gentlemen, was Wu-Tang Clan’s epic sophomore album, Wu-Tang Forever.
In ’93, nine sharp sworded emcees from Brooklyn and Staten Island came together like Voltron to become one of the most legendary groups, not just in Hip Hop but in music ever. Method Man, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Master Killa, U-God, GZA/Genius, Inspectah Deck, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and RZA were the Wu-Tang Clan and they dropped one of the game’s true masterpieces with Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Seen as one of the real cornerstones in the NYC renaissance in an era where the west coast was dominating with The Chronic, Doggystyle, and others, Enter The Wu-Tang was groundbreaking and signalled a changing of the guard. Afterwards, everyone ventured into their own solo projects, with debuts by Raekwon, Ghostface, Method Man, and GZA considered to be classics in their own right. The anticipation was growing greatly, as we were all wondering about the next Wu album.
In June of ’97, we got the first official taste of what was to come with the instant classic single “Triumph”. Considered one of the most quotable-filled Hip Hop cuts ever made, “Triumph” was an eight-minute lyrical tour de force, with Deck laying the insane groundwork with his highly memorable opening verse. If this was what we were in for with the new album, we were in for another Hip Hop monument. The anticipation was completely off the page, quickly becoming the second most anticipated Hip Hop album of the year behind the aforementioned Life After Death.
Wu-Tang Forever finally dropped, and within a week sold nearly seven hundred thousand units, ultimately selling upwards of four million units. Don’t think “Triumph” was the only sincere banger on this double album, as other cuts like “Reunited”, “For Heaven’s Sake”, “Bellz Of War”, and “Hell’z Wind Staff” were damn near as flames as “Triumph”. While they occasionally step out from their gritty scenes of the streets and hustling with cuts like the somewhat conscious “Lil Ghetto Boy” and the eerily seductive U-God solo cut “Black Shampoo”, ultimately it comes back to what the Wu is known for, and that was just fine with us.
Emcees like Ghostface really broke out on this album on cuts like “Impossible”, “Cash Still Rules”, and “The Projects”, while Rae showed his a** on cuts like “Older Gods” and “Visionz”. Also, Cappadonna, who was seen as an unofficial tenth member, earned more of his stripes on this album, blistering cuts like “Triumph”, “Maria” and the bananas “Heaterz”. Even the late, great Ol’ Dirty Bastard shined on his own solo cut “Dog S***” in very typical Dirt fashion.
We wouldn’t get another group album until The W, which hit three years later. Between that gap there were sophomore projects by Meth, Rae, and GZA, as well as debuts from RZA, Deck, and the CRIMINALLY underrated debut by Cappadonna, The Pillage. All were overall dope, especially Ghost’s Supreme Clientele.
The W, and later Wu-Tang group albums Iron Flag, 8 Diagrams and A Better Tomorrow were received with mixed reviews. A couple worked, a couple didn’t, and as a result, many feel Wu-Tang Forever was the last great Wu album. While we all knew about friction within the family, none of it could be heard on this crazy release where they all sounded as fresh as ever. Although not quite matching the standard bearer that Enter The Wu-Tang was, Wu-Tang Forever still was an incredible album that accentuated all their positives and hid most of their negatives.
Wu-Tang Forever turned out to be a prophetic album title, as we will never stop talking about the Wu and how much they meant to the game. Happy twentieth to WTF… that’s Wu-Tang Forever. Can I get a SUUUUUU!!!!!!