A Better Tomorrow (album)

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A Better Tomorrow
Studio album by Wu-Tang Clan
Released December 2, 2014
Recorded 2011–14
Genre Hip hop
Length 66:39
Label Warner Bros. Records
Producer
Wu-Tang Clan chronology
8 Diagrams
(2007)
A Better Tomorrow
(2014)
Wu-Tang Clan solo chronology
U-God:
The Keynote Speaker
(2014)
A Better Tomorrow
(2014)
Ghostface Killah:
36 Seasons
(2014)
Singles from A Better Tomorrow
  1. "Keep Watch"
    Released: March 18, 2014
  2. "Ron O'Neal"
    Released: August 7, 2014
  3. "Ruckus in B Minor"
    Released: November 4, 2014

A Better Tomorrow is the sixth studio album by American hip hop group Wu-Tang Clan. The album was released on December 2, 2014, by Warner Bros. Records. The album was supported by the singles "Keep Watch", "Ron O'Neal" and "Ruckus in B Minor". Upon its release, A Better Tomorrow received generally mixed reviews from music critics. The album debuted at number 29 on the Billboard 200 chart, selling 24,386 copies in its first week of release.

Background[edit]

On June 29, 2011, Raekwon announced that the group were working on a new studio album, still in its early stages, saying: "It's kind of early to announce a new album right now. We've been working on some things, though. As far as Wu-Tang goes, it's something that we really got to get together first for."[1] In July 2011, Ghostface Killah said that the album should be released in May 2012.[2] In April 2012, GZA hinted that a new album was unlikely, saying: "We haven't been on the same page in years. It is what it is. Sometimes that match burns out... I don't feel bad about it. It's good. I'm grateful for everything we have done throughout our careers and if there's nothing else to put out, then there's nothing to put out."[3] In October 2012, RZA said a new Wu-Tang Clan album might happen after all, on the occasion of the group's 20th anniversary, saying: "Well, what I can say about that Sway is next year, November 2013 – I’m going back from 1993 to 2013, that’s our 20-year anniversary. So I told the brothers we should definitely come together and maybe do something to close the book. So we’ve been building about it. If life permits and the energy is proper maybe next year on the same date or the same time we put out 36 Chambers we’ll put out a final chapter of recorded music."[4]

In November 2012, Raekwon doubted a new album would happen, saying: "We've been talking about it and it's a lot of discussion about it, but it's not consolidated yet. We know as a group that 20 years in the business is something serious, so there was a couple of conversations going on about it...you know, everyone's so nonchalant about shit, like they don't know if it's going to happen. For me, it's like I don't respect that because it should happen. It should happen in a way where it can help us from all the shit we've been through together. We've made a lot of money, of course, and we've lost a lot of money, and it kinda put certain cats in situations where this can help [them] right now - at the end of the day, it can help all of us, but it can help the ones that really need to be helped and it can put us back where we need to be financially, back in the game as one of the iconic groups in the game, but it takes a lot of loyalty, it takes a lot of love, it takes a lot of respect. I want to see it happen, but more importantly, I want to see it done the right way."[5] On January 9, 2013, work on the sixth Wu-Tang Clan album was announced via the group's official Facebook page.[6] In March 2013, Method Man announced that the Clan was working on a sixth studio album and it would be released during 2013 in celebration of their 20-year anniversary since 36 Chambers.[7]

Development[edit]

In March 2013, Cappadonna said the album was in the recording process, taking place in New York, Los Angeles and the Wu mansion in New Jersey, saying: "I already spoke to the RZA. We’ve been texting each other. We’re definitely concentrating on more positivity and teachings and trying to put that back into the original recipe for this next Wu-Tang album. The recording has begun. It’s all being done in the secret Wu-Tang bat chamber. RZA has all the tracks lined up. There are recordings taking place in New York, L.A., and perhaps at the Wu mansion in New Jersey.”[8] In April 2013, RZA said he had talked to Adrian Younge about working on a song for the album.[9] On April 11, 2013, it was announced via a press release that their upcoming sixth studio album would be titled, A Better Tomorrow and was set to be released in July, 2013.[10] In April 2013, the Clan reunited to perform at the 2013 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.[11] On May 17, 2013, a unreleased Wu-Tang song titled "Execution in Autumn" was released for purchase through RZA's record label Soul Temple Records.[12] In June 2013, they performed at the 2013 HOT 97 Summer Jam at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, twenty years after they performed at the first annual Summer Jam concert.[13]

In June 2013, RZA spoke about the song "Family Reunion" and the album's progress, saying: "The song "Family Reunion" was recorded in my old studio, the same studio we recorded Wu-Tang Forever, which is the Wu-Tang mansion in south [New] Jersey—which I still own. I recently remodeled it and rebuilt the studio. I invited the brothers to come back to this place where we have such great memories. We recorded that song "Family Reunion." To me, it's time for a family reunion, not only as us—just Wu-Tang Clan, but all our fans. We strive and have a better tomorrow. We had some good times; we had some bad times. But if tomorrow can be better than today [that is a good thing]. If things go right...you know, it's hard to get a Wu-Tang album, 'cause we all have such big careers and big families that we have to maintain, of our own, to bring that energy back is not so easy. It's looking real promising. Method Man did a lot of verses already. [Ghostface Killah] is writing some verses. U-God came over last week and took some music to write his verses. Masta Killa's been very on-point with his verses. Inspectah Deck, myself [have been working too]."[14]

He also stated he was hoping to release the album in November 2013, saying: "If things go right and we finish this album, I think that we'll try to put it out in November, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of [Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)]. That's my goal."[14] In July 2013, Inspectah Deck stated that unreleased verses from Ol' Dirty Bastard would be featured on the album, saying: "RZA has a bunch of Ol’ Dirty tracks and verses that for years nobody’s heard and, from my last conversation [with RZA], we’re supposed to have an Ol’ Dirty track on there. I”t may be by itself or we might join it on to another song. But Ol’ Dirty is going to be part of this album, that’s a fact.".[15] In July 2013 Cappadonna indicated the album was half way finished.[16] In November 2013, RZA gave an update on the album, saying: "I got optimism off the summer tour we did in Europe. It was so healthy. We got a lot of time on the bus to talk, to argue, to laugh, to hug, to see fans loving us. And to see the potential of what we can do. To see the potential of the legacy of what we did. We got a lot of work done [recording in Europe]. I feel like we have enough material on the album. I just need Raekwon to come onboard fully. I need some more energy from Ghost and GZA. If they give that energy, I will give us a great last album. If they don’t give us the energy, I gotta figure out a plan B."[17] In November 2013, Method Man stated that Raekwon had not worked on the album at all, and Ghostface had only recorded two songs for the album so far.[18] In late November 2013, RZA suggested that the album was approximately six weeks from completion.[19] In January 2014, the group posted a message on their Facebook page, saying: "The new Wu album A Better Tomorrow coming soon."[20]

In March 2014, Raekwon said he didn't want RZA in charge of the album, saying: "I would be the first one to say that we cannot leave everything in RZA’s hand no more,. He has done his job to the greatest of his ability when we were younger, but now every man plays an imperative role in this situation. His plan was to do a more humble album. We was like, Nah. You can’t do that with the hardest group in the game."[21]

In 2014, RZA and Raekwon had a public dispute over the direction of the album.

In April 2014, RZA spoke about Raekwon's hesitation to record on the album, saying: "I haven’t had a chance to really talk to him about why not. All I see is the press going back and forth. But I would say that maybe creatively we on different paths. I’m creatively different than I was in the ‘90s."[22] In an April 2014, interview with Rolling Stone Raekwon responded saying: "I don’t know why he said he didn’t speak to me, because he did speak to me. We spoke about two weeks ago. It was me, him, his brother and business partner Devine and we talked about why I’m not there right now. They know where I’m at and at the end of the day, him saying he didn’t speak to me is a bold-faced lie. And yeah, we are at creative differences because at the end of the day, I want to win. I’m used to being a winner. Being that I feel the team is being compromised by his so-called "logic" of making music, I have a problem with that because I love my fans. I would never want to give my fans anything other than the best. So when we’re sitting there discussing the creative process of making a great album for the fans, I’m not going to never settle for less. I’m not the only one [in the group] that feels this way too."[23] He elaborated on the album, saying: "The bottom line: I’m not happy with that. I’m not happy with the direction of the music and I’m not happy with how dudes is treating dudes’ business. What are we giving the fans? What are we giving the people that help us be here? If it don’t feel right, I can’t be fake. And I’m not the only one who feels like that. Fans want the best and I have to sit here and work that hard to give them the best. Period."[23] RZA responded, saying: "When you form Voltron, you need every piece. We need him there. I want him there. I asked him over and over to be there."[24]

In May 2014, after several disputes between Raekwon and RZA about the direction of the group and album, they reconciled, with the former agreeing to record verses for A Better Tomorrow.[25] On October 3, 2014, it was announced that the album would be released on December 2, 2014, courtesy of a new deal with Warner Bros. Records.[26] In October 2014, Raekwon spoke about recording the album without Ol' Dirty Bastard, saying: "Its real deep bro, because we miss that energy. When he come in the room and be like, ‘What is this? What’s going on?' Or if he didn't like something, he would let you know he didn't like it. If he loved it, he came in the room and was overjoyed with love from his side. So I kind of just miss the energy of him being around, him just being there, or just spotting him from across the room like, 'Look at this dude over there.' But at the end of the day, once you miss a member out of your family B, it’s never the same. All due praises to Ol' Dirty, though."[27]

Singles[edit]

On June 5, 2013, the album's first promotional single "Family Reunion" featuring Masta Killa, Method Man, Ghostface Killah and RZA was released via the Soul Temple Records website.[28] On March 19, 2014, the album's first single "Keep Watch" featuring Nathaniel, GZA, Method Man, Cappadonna, and Inspectah Deck was released.[29] On August 6, 2014, the whole group appeared on The Daily Show to premiere the album's second single "Ron O'Neal".[30] On November 4, 2014, the album's third single "Ruckus In B Minor" was released.[31]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[32]
The A.V. Club D[33]
Robert Christgau A–[34]
The Guardian 3/5 stars[35]
The Independent 4/5 stars[36]
NME 7/10[37]
Pitchfork Media 5.9/10[38]
Rolling Stone 2.5/5 stars[39]
Slant Magazine 3/5 stars[40]
Spin 6/10[41]

A Better Tomorrow received generally mixed reviews from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from critics, the album received an average score of 59, based on 21 reviews.[42] Del F. Cowie of Exclaim! said, "On paper, all the collaborators (including Rick Rubin, whose fingerprints are somewhere on "Ruckus in B Minor,") are indisputably established in their own right, but for some reason, A Better Tomorrow never really coalesces into a satisfying whole."[43] Jesse Cataldo of Slant Magazine said, "A Better Tomorrow mostly proves that, no matter what conflicts may be simmering, there's enough sustained talent at work here to keep the usual material feeling fresh. It's forays outside that established template that make for the worst moments, including a few missteps that are arguably the worst in the entire Wu-Tang catalogue."[40] Martín Caballero of USA Today stated, "Tomorrow feels engineered to please fans who remember those good old days, and the result is a low-risk finale for one of hip-hop's most daring crews. The outright bad tracks are few (mainly the Dusty Springfield-sampling "Preacher's Daughter"), but middling cuts like "Felt" and "Keep Watch" are staunchly mediocre by their own high standards."[44] Martin Douglas of Spin said, "Something is definitely missing on A Better Tomorrow: not necessarily the cryptic slang and mythology, but that RZA and the other members haven't found something to replace what stood them apart from the crowd. They haven't found a new, unexpected musical avenue. Back in 2007, 8 Diagrams suggested a psychedelic reinvention that didn't exactly come. Here they're distracted by trying to do something "more adult," which is a dubious way of saying "less weird," as most hip-hop artists who don't don a metal mask."[41]

Homer Johnsen of HipHopDX stated, "The album achieves a successful yin and yang between the long-time Wu sound and RZA's overall, progressive vision. All in all, the Wu remains palatable. They each have their own skillset they bring to the table, and all of them do so with varying degrees of grit on the album."[45] Andy Gill of The Independent said, "It’s a pretty decent album, with their trademark melange of rap stylings at their most spikily effective, each track switching between self-promotion, street-crime narrative, social commentary and cosmological speculation as different members take the mic."[36] David Jeffries of AllMusic said, "RZA executive produces to perfection, and somehow, orders this diverse, 15-song track list into a sensible flow. Don't call it a comeback, call it a collective, or a compilation from solo artists who sound enthused to be back with an especially inspired RZA as ringleader."[32] Sam Moore of Drowned in Sound stated, "Fifteen new tracks make the cut on A Better Tomorrow, with the oft-masterful RZA handling production on ten of the offerings. But the record doesn’t successfully break new ground as much as it reassuringly treads familiar paths: samples of dialogue and fighting sequences from old martial-arts films, cut-and-paste instrumentals that numerous members of the Clan take turns to go in over, and a plethora of references to those halcyon ’93 days. You know, classic Wu-Tang stuff."[46]

Commercial performance[edit]

The album debuted at number 29 on the Billboard 200 chart, with first-week sales of 24,386 copies in the United States.[47]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Producer(s) Length
1. "Ruckus in B Minor"   RZA, Rick Rubin 5:25
2. "Felt"   RZA 3:51
3. "40th Street Black / We Will Fight"   Mathematics, RZA (co-prod) 4:26
4. "Mistaken Identity" (featuring Streetlife) RZA 5:44
5. "Hold the Heater"   RZA 4:08
6. "Crushed Egos"   RZA, Adrian Younge (co-prod) 2:26
7. "Keep Watch" (featuring Nathaniel) Mathematics 4:25
8. "Miracle"   4th Disciple, RZA (co-prod) 5:03
9. "Preacher's Daughter"   RZA 5:13
10. "Pioneer the Frontier"   RZA 3:59
11. "Necklace"   4th Disciple 4:11
12. "Ron O'Neal" (featuring Nathaniel) RZA 4:28
13. "A Better Tomorrow" (featuring Tekitha) RZA 4:24
14. "Never Let Go"   RZA 5:22
15. "Wu-Tang Reunion"   RZA 3:34
Total length:
66:39

Charts[edit]

Chart (2014) Peak
position
Australian Albums (ARIA)[49] 49
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders)[50] 173
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Wallonia)[51] 199
French Albums (SNEP)[52] 104
German Albums (Official Top 100)[53] 64
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[54] 66
UK Albums (OCC)[55] 74
US Billboard 200[56] 29
US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums (Billboard)[57] 3
Canadian Albums (Billboard)[58] 24

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format Label Edition(s)
Germany[59] November 28, 2014 CD, digital download Warner Bros. Records Standard, deluxe
France[60] December 1, 2014
United Kingdom[61]
United States[62] December 2, 2014

References[edit]

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