|Studio album by|
|Released||June 3, 1997|
|Genre||Hardcore hip hop|
|Length||44:58 (disc 1)|
67:08 (disc 2–US)
77:53 (disc 2–international)
|Wu-Tang Clan chronology|
|Singles from Wu-Tang Forever|
Wu-Tang Forever is the second studio album of American hip hop group Wu-Tang Clan, released June 3, 1997, on Loud/RCA Records in the United States. Pressed as a double album, it was released after a long run of successful solo projects from various members of the group, and serves as the follow-up to their debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Forever features several guest appearances from Wu-Tang affiliates Cappadonna, Streetlife, 4th Disciple, True Master, and Tekitha. The original run of compact discs featured an "Enhanced CD" which allowed users to walk around the "Wu Mansion" and access additional content.
Despite limited radio/TV airplay, and a lead single that famously clocked at nearly six minutes with no chorus, Wu-Tang Forever debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 with 612,000 copies sold in its first week. The album was certified 4 times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on October 15, 1997 and has sold over 2 million copies in the United States. As a double disc release it earns a sales point per disc sold. It is the group's second highest selling album to date. Upon its release, Wu-Tang Forever received favorable reviews from most music critics, while it also earned the group a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rap Album at the 40th Annual Grammy Awards.
Music and lyrics
While the group's previous album is known for its minimalistic production style, producer RZA had been expanding the musical backdrop of each solo Wu-Tang album since then. Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx..., in particular, was praised for its cinematic feel. RZA earned accolades for his new dense style of production, incorporating strings, heavy synthesizers, and the kung-fu samples of old. The production of the record also pioneered RZA's technique of chopping up and speeding up soul samples so that it becomes unusually high-pitched; this style of production would later become influential on producers such as Just Blaze and Kanye West. Wu-Tang Forever marked the first group album in which RZA assigned some of the album's production to Wu-Tang protégés True Master and 4th Disciple, as well as Wu-Tang member Inspectah Deck.
The lyrics differed in many ways from those of 36 Chambers, with many verses written in stream-of-consciousness style, while being influenced by the teachings of the Five Percent Nation. The group showed mature depth, speaking on the pitfalls of life's vices ("A Better Tomorrow") and the harsh realities of inner city life. "Impossible", for instance, touches on the less-than-glamorous realities of the same violence that the group often raps about.
The Clan took advantage of the double-disc format, allowing each of the nine members a significant number of appearances, including four solo tracks. Several have been recognized as particularly strong performances.
Inspectah Deck raised his stock in the public eye with The Source's Hip-Hop Quotable for his performance on "Triumph". This verse is considered one of the greatest in hip-hop. Despite being one of the last members to release a solo album, Deck's contributions throughout Wu-Tang Forever led to him being a sought-after collaborator for other artists; he would appear on subsequent tracks with Gang Starr, Pete Rock and Big Pun, among others.
Ghostface Killah continued his rise to fame with a verse in "Impossible", hailed by RZA in the Wu-Tang Manual as "the greatest Wu-Tang verse ever written". It was also featured in The Source's Hip-Hop Quotable. "Cash Still Rules/Scary Hours" has also been noted as one of Ghostface’s more memorable verses on the album, notable for the way in which the verse cuts off, first popularizing the feel that he could "go on forever". Ghostface Killah would follow his work on Forever with Supreme Clientele, which is generally regarded as a classic.
"The sum of our parts is worth all the organizing," said Method Man. "It's like the Power Rangers where they come together to form that Megazord shit. Them guys are lethal but, when they come together, it's even more incredible. This album will destroy every hip-hop record made in the past ten years."
|Los Angeles Times|||
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
Upon its release, Wu-Tang Forever received positive reviews from music critics, who praised RZA's production work and the group members' lyricism. Matt Diehl from Entertainment Weekly commented, "Forever continues the group's artistic grand slam. Like their forebears in Public Enemy, Wu-Tang are musical revolutionaries, unafraid to bring the noise along with their trunk of funk. The RZA allows a few outside producers behind the board this time, but it's his gritty samples and numbing beats that get the party moving." Sasha Frere-Jones from Spin called it an album "for hip-hop junkies, rhyme followers who want to hear their favorite sword-swallowers drop unusually good styles over unusually good beats." Comparing some of the album's production to that of Wu-Tang member GZA's Liquid Swords (also produced by RZA), Neil Strauss from The New York Times wrote a favorable review of the album and stated "Wu-Tang Forever is a smooth, clean set of 25 songs and two speeches, with only a few throwaways on the second CD. The Wu-Tang Clan offers something for every kind of rap fan. More important, after a four-year wait, on Wu-Tang Forever the Clan retains its mantle as rap's standard bearers." Melody Maker gave Wu-Tang Forever a favorable review as well, stating "It had to be this big. It didn't have to be this good ... Every single track is a detonation of every single pop rule you thought sacrosanct ...Forever is one of the greatest hip hop LPs of all time." Stephen Thomas Erlewine from AllMusic stated:
Where contemporaries like 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G. issued double-discs cluttered with filler, Wu-Tang Forever is purposeful and surprisingly lean, illustrating the immense depth of producer RZA and the entire nine-piece crew ... The result is an intoxicating display of musical and lyrical virtuosity, one that reveals how bereft of imagination the Wu-Tang's contemporaries are.
Describing the album's lyrics as "hauntingly descriptive tales of ghetto hustlers and victims," Rolling Stone's Nathan Brackett stated "The whole of Wu-Tang Forever crackles with a shootout-at-midnight electricity that more than justifies the double-disc indulgence, while the back-and-forth wordfire of Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, etc. confirms the Clan's singular zing at the mic, and their ghetto-wise might as storytellers." Cheo Hodari Coker from the Los Angeles Times commented, "The Clan's beats push the limit between cutting-edge hip-hop and industrial feedback, with jugular-clutching rhymes following their own melodic dictates and insular messages running the gamut from ancient maxims of the art of war to spiritual knowledge, wisdom and understanding from the Islamic Five Percent Nation." Steve Jones from USA Today wrote, "Hip-hop's most anticipated album crackles with the nine-member clan's unique hard-core rhymes and beats. On this two-disc, 112-minute set, the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. The RZA avoids overproduction, using the beats to propel the lyrics, and keeps the music free of clichéd R&B loops." Robert Christgau of The Village Voice gave the album a two-star honorable mention rating and called the Wu-Tang Clan "the five per cent nation of Oscar aspirations". In 2018, the BBC included it in their list of "the acclaimed albums that nobody listens to any more."
Wu-Tang Forever was ranked as one of the best albums of the year by several notable publications, such as Spin, The Village Voice, NME and Melody Maker. Popular Belgium magazine HUMO, and popular German magazine Spex both ranked it number six on their albums of the year lists. In 1999, Ego Trip ranked Wu-Tang Forever number three on their Hip Hop's 25 Greatest Albums by Year 1980–98 list. In their March 2005 issue, Hip Hop Connection ranked the album number 57 on their 100 Greatest Rap Albums 1995–2005 list. Also in 2005, Blow Up magazine from Italy included Wu-Tang Forever in their 600 Essential Albums list.
Despite limited radio/TV airplay, and a lead single that famously clocked at nearly six minutes with no chorus, Wu-Tang Forever debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 with 612,000 copies sold in its first week. The album was certified 4× platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on October 15, 1997 (each disc in the double album counted as separate unit for certification purpose), and has sold over 2 million copies in the United States. It is the group's highest selling album to date.
|1.||"Wu-Revolution" (Featuring Poppa Wu and Uncle Pete)||6:46|
|3.||"For Heavens Sake" (Featuring CappaDonna)||4:13|
|4.||"Cash Still Rules/Scary Hours (still don't nothing move but the money)"||3:01|
|6.||"As High As Wu-Tang Get"||2:37|
|9.||"Maria" (Featuring CappaDonna)||2:55|
|10.||"A Better Tomorrow"||4:55|
|2.||"Triumph" (Featuring CappaDonna)||5:38|
|3.||"Impossible" (Featuring Tekitha)||4:28|
|4.||"Little Ghetto Boys" (Featuring CappaDonna)||4:49|
|5.||"Deadly Melody" (Featuring Street Life)||4:20|
|8.||"Bells Of War"||5:12|
|12.||"Hellz Wind Staff" (Featuring Street Life)||4:52|
|13.||"Heaterz" (Featuring CappaDonna)||5:26|
|15.||"Second Coming" (Featuring Tekitha)||4:38|
|18.||"Projects International Remix"||3:59|
- "Wu-Revolution" contains uncredited backing vocals by Blue Raspberry.
- "Reunited" contains backing vocals by Roxanne.
- "Projects" contains uncredited vocals by Shyheim.
- "Black Shampoo" contains uncredited vocals by P.R. Terrorist and Tekitha.
- "For Heavens Sake" contains a sample of "Don’t Leave Me Lonely" by King Floyd.
- "Cash Still Rules/Scary Hours (Still Don’t Nothing Move But the Money)" contains a sample of “The End of the World” by Skeeter Davis.
- "Severe Punishment" contains dialogue from ‘’The Master’’.
- "A Better Tomorrow" contains a sample of “The Love Theme” by Peter Nero.
- "It’s Yourz" contains a sample of “It’s Yours” by T La Rock & Jazzy Jay.
- "Little Ghetto Boy" contains a sample of "Little Ghetto Boy" by Donny Hathaway.
- "The City" contains a sample of “Living for the City” by Stevie Wonder.
- "The Projects" contains a sample of “Cry Together” by The O'Jays.
- "Hellz Wind Staff" contains dialogue from Unbeaten 28.
- "Second Coming" contains an interpolation of "MacArthur Park" by Jimmy Webb.
|Canada (Music Canada)||2× Platinum||200,000^|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Gold||100,000^|
|United States (RIAA)||4× Platinum||2,000,000^|
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
- List of Billboard 200 number-one albums of 1997
- List of Billboard number-one R&B albums of 1997
- Wu-Tang Forever (song)
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