So I recently purchased a Wu-Tang hoodie online and I regret to say that I had to just sit it down in a corner and just kind of glare at it for about a week before finally putting it on today. Had to put the Wu-Tang hoodie on punishment. This was brought about by Ghostface Killah’s recent appearance on VH1’s Couples Therapy. Now you’ve heard me discuss before how I feel about rappers on reality shows, but there’s a big difference between watching Consequence fall victim to the trappings of reality TV “stardom” and watching the special place that the Wu holds in my heart be diminished by having to watch key members acting a donkey on reality television. This, mind you, is after a string of disappointments…moments I felt were obvious reaches for mainstream (read: the yute’dem) relevance years after the classic Wu-Tang Forever was released.
If you’re a regular reader of Front-Free, you don’t even have to ask me how I felt about Drake’s so-called ode to the Wu-Tang Clan, which to me seemed like a ploy to attract the ire of fans of the Wu who would naturally be averse to Aubrey’s style of rap-singering. What was worse than that was the Wu’s support of the song, an obvious attempt to remain relevant and diplomatic within the current rap game, where most fans are too young to remember the significance of the classic purple tape, let alone “Protect Ya Neck”. Nobody wants to be that old rapper who seems unreceptive to the new crop of rappers, but it’s admirable when you feel the authenticity in it, as opposed to Raekwon acting as if he plays Justin Beiber music in the whip when asked about his working with the pop star. There aren’t enough woo blunts in the world to make me believe that was genuine props and not Rae trying to avoid burning any potentially lucrative bridges.
It’s a common misconception that one cannot or should not knock the hustle. I think it’s very important to knock the hustle when it conflicts with who a person or entity represents. Keeps things honest. Naturally, Wu-Tang’s first LP was a long, long time ago in hip-hop years and a group that large is certain to grow apart and begin to have their own individual goals and ways of thinking after years and years of success and experience. Method Man, for example, has been his own separate brand apart from the Wu for years, to the point his caricature-of-himself persona exists almost completely independent of his contributions to the whole. But Ghostface joining the ranks of Joe Budden, Consequence, Li’l Scrappy and Benzino on the washed-up-rapper cavalcade that is currently VH1’s prime-time programming is just the last straw…and a wake-up call to fans that the Wu will never be the same…and not in the “oh they’re evolving” sense. It could have all been so simple: build an amazing brand in hip-hop (check). Release classic group albums that are true to said brand (check). Release classic solo efforts that are also true to said brand (check). Continue on in your careers remaining true to the brand and staying true to the core fans who got you this far and other fans will come (now this is where it gets iffy).
In closing, the Wu-Tang Clan have a catalog so impressive collectively that I could never totally give up my Wu-fan roots. Raekwon and Ghostface are still both in my top five MCs list, even if one is going the VH1 route and the other may do some questionable features here and there. At the end of the day, though, a true fan doesn’t just eat up anything an artists serves them with a smile on their face. As with hip-hop itself, you’ve got to be in love with the art-form/culture enough to want better for it. I just want better for the Wu.