Clan’s Stuck in a Holding Pattern


The Wu-Tang Clan’s 1993 debut, “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers),” was hip-hop in garish Technicolor, an urban creep show in which a large cast of brilliant rappers wended its way through producer RZA’s innovative, unsettling constructs.

It’s easily one of the best hip-hop albums of the ‘90s, but the center didn’t hold, as Wu-Tang’s large membership branched out into countless solo projects.

The 1996 two-CD opus “Wu-Tang Forever” was slack and unfocused, a tangle of ideas in search of a unifying principle. “The W,” due in stores Tuesday, is an improvement, if only because its shorter length doesn’t permit its members to stray. But if Wu-Tang’s first album was a paradigm shifter, then “The W” is merely a holding pattern. For any other band, this would be an acceptable effort, but Wu-Tang’s all-star lineup, including rappers Method Man, GZA, Raekwon and RZA--is capable of far more than the tepid retreads found on “The W.”


The requisite ingredients are all here--RZA’s pointillist keyboard swatches, Method’s intricately gruff rhyme schemes, the Hong Kong action-film mythology--but it never really achieves critical mass.

For Wu-Tang fans who have waited four years for a new album, “The W” will surely be one of the year’s biggest disappointments.


Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).