WU-TANG CLAN – THE SAGA CONTINUES LP & MASTA KILLA – LOYALTY IS ROYALTY LP Review

By SUNEZ #SkillastratorLO

Too many mind.

Real too long, so sensible to me like the theory of humanity was no longer to be disproved in our controlled injustice. Another scroll I unfurl on the frivolous, silliness upon paper driven by a lettered mind.

And I wait for the devils to pay me off but it’s almost as if they understood I just want my babies’ peace. So they offer my death at a discount with the coupons of martyrdom for my moon and soul. If I reveal who done it, they say I’m a snitch of recoil, the rules they made and laid, like the songs you bitches played.

Too many mind.

As niggas submit.

The devils conquer.

The God must masta.

My words I commit.

Rise levels o’ rancor.

Sunez, I just have to…

Wu-Tang Clan, the Gods, wrote a history in advance to be supreme. The vision of THE RZA that brought three GOAT MC candidates, the GZA, Ghostface Killah and Raekwon with three more absolute greats, Method Man, Inspectah Deck and Ason Unique (#RememberedInPerfection) whilst he became the greatest composer of the most classic LPs from solos, duos and a large group in the history of the music. The Gods, brothers with knowledge of self, no mystery god in their skies, the supremacy is all in them and all things are willed righteously by the mind, there is the divine.  That’s how we see it, they were songing that epic.  And too many mind is the weight of oppression where even when these Gods rhyme their way out of hell, the works only resurface them another set of streets, the industry.  The corners of crossover records, the parks of pop personas plucked to bloom, die, bloom, die all with the bodegas where niches are made by the biting and diluting of techniques, esos malditos bronson beers gratis con cupón.

So the Wu-Tang become a cult where even the oddly worthless bears the logo. The W on beach balls and purses, trinkets and keepsakes all at the expense of Gods’ sake. The #DarkAges came, them 2000’s, and they built less. Some of them went mooslum for reasons like niggas don’t want to hear that. Or wiggers, here meaning white people that buy and overpower the directions to cream other niggas (Black and Brown–don’t get confused) take, the brothers struggling to be artists or just young seeking coolness, dreaming of scoring high on lit-ness tests. Or the Gods say other niggas ain’t God so why be that? He a savage so how is the Original man the supreme being anyway?! Like the Black Richard Dawkins, it ought not be them so no one is it and it doesn’t even exist then. Lots of bullshit. 

And Ruler Zig Zag Zig Allah still builds, and we fellow martial artists with universal flags on as he, know where his pada of dhamma is coming from. It’s all peace but it’s too yin and A Better Tomorrow are the softer hours. Experimentation from labs too clean for the MC variables to variegate in. And Raekwon, more yang than ever won’t vary the gates instead making criminology thesis papers, lyrical prose of the places that put paper to pyrex.
Even the #DarkAges dulled the shine of Wu Suns. Got you really thinking em, 50, Jay and Dre are greater than GZA, Rae, Ghost and RZA?! Now cipher. That’s no, motherfucker. The knowledge of self can’t be proven wrong. It can only be ignored or found useless by any one individual. All like when Hip Hop solves the like/dislike question with the mic having measures of skills, the beats having techniques of integrity and the words representing the fight of an oppressed peoples using any and all A-Alike peoples. So Allah’s Math still adds up and the Mastas are still Killas…if they’ll build…

Wu-wise, Masta Killa is the lining in a LO goose. Surrounded by GOAT candidates and all time great MCs, he is the first Wu MC mentioned whenever one asks if they are still God. Still the 5 percent, remember?  The rare percentage of the population that know a truth and willingly continue to teach. A poor righteous teacher willing to sacrifice his personal fiscal standing to share the truth of the knowledge of self. His verses will never be mysterious for a punchline, leave out the reference to a degree in 120 Lessons that relates or not build on the understanding of supreme mathematics with the concrete dwellers–with the babies. This truth doesn’t diminish the glory or supremacy of the rest of the Wu; rather, it’s a deserving nod to the God Jamel Arief, still willing and able to walk the streets of Medina silently and build loudly.

His solo catalog begins with a perfected portrait, 2004’s No Said Date, of the rugged rigor that defines Wu-Tang Clan at its greatest. An LP during the worst of the #DarkAges where MF Doom was the only embraced innovator and Wu-Fam excellence was buried alive (#Salute my brother Hell Razah).  Yet the solo LP is where Masta has, in short Long Players, revealed more depth to his character.  The East Medina street essence of an ital vegan G drawing the Black woman to her fullest equality, the Earth to love. While Made In Brooklyn in 2006 balanced it all with more extreme divisions, 2012’s Selling My Soul was vocalized primarily in hardcore Al Green mode. With Loyalty Is Royalty, the 2006 balance is achieved but the soulful intention of 2012 is matched once again.

Loyalty is as all Masta Killa records ought to be, overt and out front in all intentions. Planned and executed with extreme precision, the beat choices have varied tempos, differentiation in drum kick, snare and bass sounds and equalizing. The LP bookends are a soothing Chinese classical of pondering matched against piano keys diving into a beautiful isolation after a closing nightclub. Every moment in between is a thought out break text from Jamel Arief.

Lyrically, Masta Killa’s verses preserved the universal theme of the Wu on their last LP, A Better Tomorrow LP three years ago.  That theme of the brother, a streetwise righteous man of KOS, is upheld with real song concepts on Loyalty.  From the “Return of the Masta Kill,”  with wonderfully thick, clean and deeply bass pronounced drum rolling and colliding by PF Cuttin (an expert at keeping rhythm while crafting unorthodox drum patterns who does it again on “Therapy“), the battle bars commence as an accomplished warrior through “so well connected/invincibly protected/basic instinct tested/bass ripple/nipples at attention just at the mention of his name…” with drive, unique word choices and his distinct clarity. Yet battle tracks as “OGs Told Me,” we see the power and the flaws of this LP.  The production is potent even when the formula appears basic NYC Boom Bap.  Yet, the depth of Masta’s verses seem to fluctuate with the quality of his featured MCs.  Thus, when Sean P (Remembered In Perfection) delivers cleverness as, “Ruck the master, call me the fifth dan/Pop shit and chop bricks quick with his swift hand/Can’t enter the venue, the fuck is your wristband?…” Masta responds with:

See the flow is non-GMO/an orchard of Witty Unpredictable/Wise words growing organically/I spit cases of water refined, alkaline lines/Combined by design, the rhyme is now fruitful/Multiplies publishing and loyalties is royalty/And pays systematic on time/One time for your motherfucking mind/See the 22 points on my Universal Flag design/Combined with the relevance of intelligence…”

The potency of the Wu legacy is seen in verses as this where a mere extending of a metaphor, a healthy vegan lifestyle to the pure wordplay is accentuated by it being true to Arief. It also enables him to use the recall of classic lines of his crew (GZA first rhyming, “Witty Unpredictable Talent And Natural Game…” 24 years ago). Having established the expectation of a more complex vocabulary, created slang and an arcane knowledge of self many are aware of today but few understand, the intangible aura that Masta Killa taps into is funneled brilliantly on Loyalty is Royalty.  

This funneling includes a strong build from a RZA (“Wise Words”), who is vindicating himself from the bougieness he has shown in his productions and often placating in conformity to western ways (i.e. the ways of white folks as Langston wrote) as a show of universal humanity.  Diverse content from the loving of “Loyalty is Royalty” to the worsening problems on “Trouble” working extremely thick soundscapes from 9th Wonder differently. A short LP that times its songs ideally for repeat value, tracks as “Skit” where Wu-Disciple True Master gives an ideal 1,2 break with vocal woos and punctuating licks with Masta giving a brief visual of avoiding street confrontation.  On “Tiger and the Mantice” his wordplay is a stylistic display of his persona whilst GZA gives one of 2017’s best verses (“Yo, how mighty is the pen?/Powerful enough to exert strength equivalent to a forceful wind/And on another note, it’s a specialized instrument/Writing many degrees, the knowledge is infinite…”) or the addictive underground pop of “Flex With Me” from the Tony clip, the dancehall sample flip to verses that go from the lavish indiscretions to the virtuous intentions.

And The Saga Continues for a legendary crew that has to always disappoint regardless of what they do.  No large group in Hip Hop music has lasted so potently. Yet, Ason Unique (Remembered In Perfection) will always be missed too much.  RZA still creates music that is next level but his aforementioned Hollywood crossover life sees him experiment with cliched Rock, live studio musicians and excessive arrangements that lose too much grit and it even affected his own understanding on issues (i.e. police brutality) for a time.  Raekwon has never not been an exceptional writer and stylist but his more yang efforts fight to use the day’s shit wave that have actually led to misfires (though the latest, The Wild is strong). GZA becomes more the genius but only with a loose lone song he shares every year whilst Inspectah Deck dominates the flows in his Czarface group.  Ghostface Killah continues to cement himself as an absolute GOAT candidate with LPs that don’t even mine all of his skills completely. U-God over experiments and now clearly absent all lead us to his suing RZA a year ago. And then the Meth, one of the greatest live performers of all time, and a loyalist to the preservation of the Wu crew. With RZA realizing there needs to be an immediate proof of the crew’s synergy, not merely their capabilities displayed robotically (i.e. A Better Tomorrow LP), he lends the God Allah Mathematics, their DJ and Wu logo creator, the production helm to re-establish that cohesive brotherhood in verse.  Without Method Man, none of it works and The Saga Continues truly is Method Man leading. And making it work.

Allah Mathematics has the talent for the classic track as “Wu Banga 101” or “Fam Members Only” but all too often on his solo LPs, matches his drums oddly and sloppily makes new formulas that can be ill and awkward simultaneously. Here on The Saga Continues, he succeeds with his formulas in producing a score that provokes MCing though it doesn’t have the next shit highs nor the failed experimental lows that RZA’s progressive and revolutionary production offers. Saga really is a compilation, that unlike Wu-Tang Chamber Music (2009) or Legendary Weapons (2011), can work as a gauge of the unity of the crew because of their connection to their DJ who has added production to every official Wu LP released since the #DarkAges.  Allah Math’s triumph here really is in many ways due to the flaw that RZA admitted plagued A Better Tomorrow.  With some excellent complex arrangements and live orchestrations the music still became too sanitized, the grit was gone and some songs just sounded Starbucksian hipster (i.e. “Preacher’s Daughter”).  

On Saga, RZA notes that Allah Math filtered the tracks, particularly affecting the drums and the basswork, through the ASR machine he worked through. It exposes Saga’s simple musicality yet lends a spotlight to the great joy of room filling percussion. The cream of this strategy is extensive from “Lessons Learned” with a simple 1, 2 steady heartbeat break planted with a vicious short snap snare all as aesthetically clean as possible with an old Soul oompf punctuating throughout. The strings that intro the nursery’d xylophone charm tinkering by a brooding bass drum rhythm with distant digital organ keys on “If Time is Money (Fly Navigation).”  The wooing to crooning that fill out and drive the bass groove that makes up “People Say.” The light contiguous bassline and tack snare with gunshot add ons and vocal quips on “Hood Go Bang.” The 1,2,3 keys and stringed riffs that reload the slow, deep thud bass drums of “G’d Up.”  This is all an extreme simplicity that disappoints those expecting the epic nature of RZA’s work but it fuels MCing, particularly Method Man who fills tracks with cleverness (“Might even take the ‘R’ out of brother—why bother?/Mic on Halloween, I mean, I’m clearly a monster/We gathered here today so that I could dearly depart ya…” – “Hood Go Bang”; “Rhyme is tricky, who ridin’ with me/Who kinda miss me can kindly miss me, you kinda iffy/Don’t know the history? I’m from the city of stop-and-frisk me…” – “If Time Is Money”) and a continued mastery of making rhythms with deliberate overdose on one word as throughout “People Say” or altering monotone flows and vocal pitches ever so slightly as on “Pearl Harbor.”  

And Math’s beat formulas don’t mismatch drums here as on the aforementioned “Pearl Harbor” where the high horns and organ blend are Allah staples but the low tempo grooves on deep drums right. The #DarkAges R&B formula he’s used on tracks as “Stick Me For My Riches” (8 Diagrams LP, 2007) is supposed to fail but the bass dropping as low as possible, leaving almost no space and hard pounding drums groove.  The differentiation on these tracks is very slight causing a beat addiction if you are willing to listen to the point of the LP–the Wu MCs shining with synergy.

Method’s excellence stated, Redman binds much of the hooks and grit whilst the necessary vindication is the depth RZA brings lyrically from the social commentary of “Why Why Why” (We got western civilization got me fighting for my civil rights/After fighting scores of war, we still fight for our civil rights/To be equal citizens with equal opportunity”) and “Saga (skit)” (“They don’t wanna see us grow/They wanna squash us in/I travel to mountain ranges/Acknowledge the change of the climate/I think man’s the most destructive climate/But it’s another Wu saga…”) to his 98 Bobby Digital mode battle bars on “Pearl Harbor.”  The limited verses from others are hand picked to represent their major themes well enough from Ghostface’s dynamic “Pearl Harbor” chorus and stylistic charisma on “My Only One“, Deck’s on the dime flow on “People Say,” Raekwon’s detailed tale on “Fast And Furious” (“A van pulled up, with Florida tags/Three men jumped out with guns drawn and they all wore masks/Snatched me up and handcuffed me/Hit me with the butt of the gun/I’m thinkin’ to myself, ‘The war just begun’”) to GZA’s supreme build on the art of MCing on “If What You Say Is True”:

A rhyme is a struggle from conception
Series of complex maps in all directions
Totally dependent on an act of breathing
Learning, depending on an act of reading
The MC draws in a long, deep breath
Holding it until makin’ it right before it left
Extracted from it is life-giving properties
We acting from it, and control it properly.

The Wu-Tang Clan is the most prolific group of all time and arguably the greatest with classical achievements none come close to.  They will always be seen as underachievers because there is so much talent that still resides and it is their brotherly synergy, the glue to their KOS theme, that becomes their greatest problem.  On The Saga Continues, we are reminded that their spirited MCing absolutely still exists and that’s a supreme statement from the God that drew the Wu logo himself, their DJ, Allah Mathematics.

Butterfly knives are shielded forearms.

Supreme math’d lives are wielded core psalms.

I’ll disrespect the unproven and suspend belief in the regulations of the proffered manual. Cleverly krass on my cross, tear klan sheets off every man they haul and warm my home with them, the fumes causing a speaking cough we’ll homeopathically experiment against.

Now then, enter trains with only the centerline on my mind.  A trail of stops and starts in strikes and blocks where water is the way as fire is the will.

Too many mind.

As niggas submit.

The devils conquer.

The God must masta.

My words I commit.

Rise levels o’ rancor.

Sunez, I just have to…

 

Masta kill all in no mind

Four devils returned, I dine

A-Alikes, remembered in perfection,

So royal a loyalty, a saga’s resurrection

Who would not be real even longer?

Sunez Allah #SkillastratorLO of the LO LIFES

#LOVEandLOYALTY A #LoLife

The organization of these principles around a counterculture, an expressive arts of creation that uplifts the ideas and thoughts of an oppressed people, is why I’m an honored builder amongst legends, knighted by heroes of Medina (Rakim Supreme Shabazz Allah/Rudy Lo, Thirstin Howl the 3rd, Bonz Malone) to further create in my element as a Hip Hop Writer of #ArtOnArt & #ScienceOnMusic. So the world may find love that locks in with the action of loyalty though they may never find another writer with my kind of grammar…

 

Representing the pillars of:

#KnowledgeOfSelf

#LoveAndLoyalty

#OriginalCreativity

Peace, Sunez Allah

#SkillastratorLO #PowerWrite