‘Wu-Tang Forever’ Turns 25

Image by Al Pereira

When Wu-Tang Clan released their sophomore effort Wu-Tang Forever in 1997, despite the title, even they probably didn’t imagine they would still be bringing the Wu 25 years later. But Get On Down and Legacy Recordings have just announced an essential 25th anniversary edition, that is packaged with a special lyric booklet (if you don’t know the words, you don’t know the Wu), a picture-sleeved, silver 7-inch vinyl single of ‘Triumph’ backed w/ ‘Heaterz’, plus a slip-cased double cassette (for the record, a cassette “comeback” has been predicted about a half-dozen times in the last ten years).

The whole package can be pre-ordered here, and is due out in late July.

Wu-Tang Forever, of course, was a game-changing hip-hop masterstroke, in terms of its story-telling ambition (it was a sprawling double-album, at a time when double-albums weren’t really being done), and its lyrical complexity. It went straight to number one in both the US and UK, unheard of for a hip-hop album in 1997. ‘A Better Tomorrow’ in particular came off like a manifesto as much as any other statement-of-purpose track ever had:

“Straight up, you tired of waiting, go get your weight up
My peoples tired of waiting for reparations to pay us
Screaming Jesus can save us, I, I get the Bentley if I save up
But that’s just another trick to enslave us

Push the minimum wages
Put, put our fathers up in them cages
Then watch out when mother struggled to raise us
But, but my ambition won’t let me live in this poor condition”

It still feels like a powerful repudiation of the institutionalized oppression that inspired it.

But speaking of ambition, the anniversary celebration also includes a trio of digital EPs, Reunited – The Remixes, It’s Yourz, and Triumph, as well as Slowed + Reverb versions of ‘Protect Ya Neck’, ‘Uzi’ (Pinky Ring), ‘Gravel Pit’ and ‘Triumph’, and the release of a series of archived interviews from the set of the ‘Triumph’ video shoot in 1997.

Now, not that Wu-Tang Clan necessarily needed any institutional validation; but it certainly says something about the embrace of their cultural significance that just last month the Library of Congress added their debut Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) to their archives. But this year’s anniversary celebration will genuinely and fully culminate in the hotly-anticipated 25-date New York State of Mind co-headlining tour with Nas, which will take them from the Hollywood Casino Amphitheater in St. Louis on August 30, on to stops in Chicago, Toronto, Atlanta, Austin, Oakland, before finishing up at the Hollywood Bowl October 4. Miss it at your own peril.

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